Friday, April 11, 2014

Sermon for 4/11/14--Funeral of Dorothy (Hornbostel) Bigham



Glory Revealed

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text is written in Chapter 8 of the Epistle to the Romans, Verse 18, in which St. Paul writes, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Cheryl and Brian, Janet and Joe, Carl and Jadae, Don and Denise, fellow children of our heavenly Father: it is never easy to accept being separated from those we love whom the Lord has called to rest from the labors of this life. Sometimes the grief is made easier to bear, the loss easier to accept, by the circumstances surrounding the final days, months, or years of their life. Certainly in the midst of today’s grief we can feel some relief that Dorothy no longer struggles with the ravages of dementia. Still, while there may be some measure of relief, there is also grief and pain and sorrow. Don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t grieve. We all loved Dorothy. She was a blessing from God in our lives, and we will miss her presence among us.

Nevertheless, we do not grieve like those who have no hope, those who do not know that Jesus died for them, those who don’t know that death is not the end. Much of this world fears death as something hateful and ugly. But the child of God knows also that death is merely the gate of eternal life which He has prepared for His beloved children from the very foundation of this world. St. Paul wrote, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” He wrote these words to strengthen our faith and to give us hope. Paul does not deny or ignore or even make light of our sufferings. He knows that all these things are very real and very troubling. But instead he seeks to raise our eyes to see the glorious future that awaits us, a sure and certain hope that overshadows even the sufferings of this present time, no matter how lengthy or severe they may be.

There is a world beyond this time of change and decay. In Revelation, St. John has told us that, in this world to come, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” It is a wonderful future that awaits us because, by faith in Jesus Christ, we will forever be called “sons of God.” And in the words that come just before our text, Paul said that if we are children of God, then we are heirs, “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” By the blood of the everlasting covenant, the blood of our dear Savior, we are heirs of the glories of heaven.

Within these words of encouragement there is also an admonition addressed to us. Though much sorrow and distress may arise to change our lives and disturb our happiness, yet we must keep our eyes and thoughts on that world to come. “Think on these things,” Paul said on another occasion. Fill up your hearts and minds with the promise of God, the promise of a better place, the promise of perfect freedom from all the ills and troubles of this life! Draw close to the Word of God, especially during these days of sorrow and distress, and you will know the comfort the Spirit brings.

The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Dorothy knew this. It was her hope, her comfort, and her joy in the midst of affliction. We all make our way in this world along a narrow and sometimes fear-filled path, often accompanied with suffering. But we need not fear, just as Dorothy did not. The Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, has gone the way of suffering and death before us, and He has made that way holy for us through the waters of Holy Baptism. And when death comes, He shows that death is merely a peaceful slumber, a rest for the weary, as we await the resurrection of all flesh. What was once dark and fearsome has become light and joy. Lift up your eyes to behold the redemption of the Lord drawing near. Sin cannot disturb your soul. Satan cannot accuse you. Death cannot end your gladness. You are a baptized child of God. Walk with Christ, for He will lead through the valley of the shadow of death and into that eternal rest which He has prepared—for Dororthy, for Eugene, for their son, for all who have gone before us in the One True Faith…and which He has prepared for you, for you also are His beloved children. 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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