The Spirit Is Willing
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
When Adele went through the Rite of Confirmation on March 25, 1934, the Confirmation verse she received from Pastor Welp was Matthew chapter 26, verse 41, which states, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus spoke these words to Peter, James, and John in the Garden of Gethsemane when He took them aside with Him to pray before His betrayal, trial, and crucifixion. The strange thing is, He knew His disciples would, in fact, give in to temptation. He knew the disciples would flee before the mob that came to arrest Him. He knew Peter would deny Him. He knew all that was about to take place; but still He spoke those words to them.
Minutes before she heard those words, Pastor Welp asked Adele, “Do you intend faithfully to conform all your life to the rule of the divine Word, to be diligent in the use of the means of grace, to walk as it becometh the Gospel of Christ, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to the Triune God, even unto death?” He may have asked it in German; I don’t know. And Adele and her classmates, by the work of the Holy Spirit, answered by saying, “I do so intend, by the grace of God.” What a fearsome promise to extract from thirteen year-old children—or from anyone, for that matter. And as He knew with the disciples in the Garden, our Lord knows that even baptized sinners cannot perfectly keep this promise. It is as the Lord says: “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
We sadly observed the weakness of Adele’s flesh over the past few years: the day she fell in her home and hit her head; her more recent difficulties walking; her bout with pneumonia; and, finally, when we learned on Friday that she had been taken from us—that her flesh had become so weak that it could no longer house her willing spirit. And even before these ailments, Adele’s weak flesh was evident in the fact that she was a sinner, as she confessed frequently to her Lord. All of her physical ailments were evidence of the truth that “the wages of sin is death.” And yet, we also saw her willing spirit exhibited at the same time. Vivian passed along a very recent story—and I ask that you forgive my poor paraphrasing. Adele was supposed to be on oxygen after her most recent return from the hospital. She kept asking if she had to stay on the oxygen, and Vivian kept telling her, “You should at least keep it on during the night.” Then one day, Adele told her, “I was tested today, and the oxygen in my blood is fine.” Vivian asked her, “When did you last have the oxygen on?” She was thinking that maybe they had tested Adele right after she’d finished an oxygen treatment. But Adele answered, “It’s been two days!” “The spirit indeed is willing…”
Temptation stands before you this day—the temptation to grieve for Adele hopelessly. Don’t get me wrong: the woman we loved is dead, and there is no shame in honest grief. But we should not grieve as if this is the end. We should not grieve as if we have no hope; for this is not the end—not for Adele, and not for you. We confess in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in…the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” These are words which Adele confessed with confidence not seven days before her death. Beloved in Christ, these are not meaningless phrases. Jesus died bearing our sins; and He rose again to destroy the power of death. Because Adele was a baptized child of God, she will not remain dead. When Christ returns in glory, He will raise up Adele—and not only Adele, but also all those who through Holy Baptism lived by faith in Jesus Christ. We will enjoy a blessed reunion with Adele and with all those we love who have lived and died confessing the risen Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The flesh that was weak because of sin shall be restored and made perfect; the willing spirit will be reunited with that perfected body; and the resurrected faithful shall give praise and glory to God for His goodness.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” This is not the end—not for Adele, and not for you. This is your sure and certain hope: because Jesus rose from the dead, He has raised you to new life with Him in the waters of Holy Baptism; and He will raise you again through those waters to eternal life. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.