Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sermon for 4/23/12--Funeral of Karen Deppe



Grace in Affliction
John 14:1-6

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

According to human wisdom, God is cruel and uncaring. Human wisdom says that no one should ever have to struggle with a horrible disease. Human wisdom says that no one should ever have to stand by and watch a loved one die. “If God really is the loving God the Bible leads people to believe, why would He put His children through something as awful as cancer?” “If Jesus is truly all-powerful, why would He not heal the sick the way He did in the Gospels?” It’s so easy to criticize God for His seeming indifference to His children.

We think the problem is that God doesn’t work the way He should. But the real problem is that you don’t work the way God created you to work. You were created in the image of God. You were not created to sin. You were not created to die. When Adam and Eve decided in the Garden to try to become like God, they did the exact opposite: they distorted the image of God within them. The spirit that had been once been pure was now tainted by sin. The flesh that had been meant to live forever was now corrupted, diseased by sin, and became subject to death. St. Paul wrote, “The wages of sin is death.” And the ugly truth is, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” You are a sinful human being. You sin constantly in thought, word and deed, by what you do and by what you leave undone. The burden of sin builds every day, and even a horrible disease like cancer is less than you deserve from the God of righteousness. You see the wages of sin in the hundreds of little pains you experience in the flesh. You see the wages of sin in the emotional turmoil of your daily life. And you have the wages of sin all too clearly and ruthlessly demonstrated in the coffin before you this day.

If the Lord left it there, the death of your body would be the end. Your dead body would be a foretaste of the eternal torment that your sin had earned for you. Your dead body would be evidence that you would be eternally separated from the love of God. But the Lord doesn’t leave it there. Karen’s confirmation verse comes from the Gospel of St. John. You just heard these words, but listen again: Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And even those words would be a burden which the sinner could not bear on his own. The sinner has no authority to approach the Father. Sinners don’t even have the right to approach Jesus to ask Him to intercede before the Father. But St. Paul wrote, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He knew that the wages of sin were more than you could bear. He knew that sinners had no way to redeem themselves. He knew that Satan prowls around like a lion, waiting to devour sinners. And so Jesus gave Himself instead. He gave Satan a temporary victory in His own death, so that when He rose again on the third day, the devil’s teeth would be pulled, and Satan would have nothing left with which to devour you.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” I have no doubt this day that Karen Deppe is resting in the arms of her Lord Jesus Christ—not because of her love for Steve or her parents or the rest of her family and friends; not because of her kindness and many years of service and generosity to her neighbors; and not because of the fortitude and patience with which she accepted and endured her own suffering or that of her parents. All of those are wonderful traits, and we can thank God for placing Karen in our lives to share these things with us. But Karen rests in the arms of her Savior because her Savior died bearing her sins. She rests in the arms of her Savior because He rose again, destroying the power of death. And most of all, she rests in the arms of her Savior because, through the waters of Holy Baptism, the death and resurrection of Jesus became her death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit gave faith to Karen so that she could confess her own sins and her very nature as a sinner; and the Spirit gave Karen faith to confess that Jesus Christ was her Lord and Savior. He did this for her; and He does the same for you. Your body will die; but that will not be the end. Because Jesus died and rose again, and because He applies His death and resurrection to you in the waters of Holy Baptism, your body which dies because of sin will be raised and made perfect. You will no longer surrender to sin. You will no longer be prone to disease. Death has no power over you. You will be incorruptible in body and soul, reunited with those you love who have gone before you in the faith, free eternally to praise God for His goodness. By faith, you and Karen will be reunited.

One last thing: sometimes God allows His children to suffer terrible afflictions. It is not because God is cruel or uncaring. The sad reality is that sin has made you vulnerable to illness and suffering and death. But even in the midst of such suffering, He does not leave you alone. Whether you yourself are sick or you are sitting at the bedside of a loved one, your heavenly Father does not leave you to bear your afflictions alone. Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” But He comes to you in the midst of your suffering. He knows your torment because He experienced all the torments of sin and death Himself in His earthly life—especially in His suffering and death on the cross. He sustains you in the midst of your suffering. And then, in His great mercy, He calls you out of that suffering to rest from your labors. Karen is no longer in pain, no longer tormented by the ravages of the wages sin. Thanks be to God! And in His great mercy, your heavenly Father will bring an end to your grief and suffering, too. 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.

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