Saturday, January 16, 2016

Sermon for 1/12/16: Funeral of Geraldine Mueller

Sorry. It's been a long week. After sixteen months without a funeral, I went from Gerry's funeral dinner to visit another dying member.

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Thy Will Be Done
Matthew 6:10b

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.  Our text is the Lord’s Prayer, especially the words, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

We all know what we want, and we all know how and when we want it. We live in a world of big desires and instant gratification. For people who are accustomed to getting our own way, it’s not easy to set aside our own desires and put the needs and wants of others first. We are selfish and self-serving. We’re never happier than when we’re looking out for ourselves. It should come as no surprise, then, that we’re also not that good at paying heed to the will and Word of God. We act as if what we think and believe is more important than what God says in His Word. After all, our minds tell us the Bible was written by sinful men, and humans make mistakes. So we disregard God’s holy Word: bearing false witness against our neighbor because our neighbor did so to us; reveling in the lusts of our flesh because a loving God must not condemn anything done in the name of love; killing children in the womb for the sake of convenience. We’re no better than our first parents, Adam and Eve, who set aside the Word and command of God to partake of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil just because they thought it looked tasty and it would let them know what God knows. We look at what God says in His Word, and we set aside those portions that don’t agree with our outlook or agenda. 

And yet, every time we gather as a community of believers, and often in the privacy of our own homes, we pray to our heavenly Father, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It seems rather counter-productive for us to pray for the will of God to be done at the same time that we put our trust in the imaginations of our own hearts and the treasures of this world. But God has written it into our hearts that His will is always for our good, that what He desires for us is so much better than anything we could plan on our own. For example, 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 it is made easier by the circumstances surrounding their final days. Certainly in the midst of our mourning, we can feel some relief that Gerry no longer has to fight for each breath. Nevertheless, while there may be some measure of relief, there is also sorrow. If it were up to us, Gerry would have regained a measure of health to enjoy the company of her family. This was not to be. This was certainly not the way we wanted things to turn out.  

Our God is not a cruel God. He does not desire the death of His children, nor does He cause it. But even in our grief, we can be comforted that the life and death of Geraldine Mueller happened exactly as it was meant to happen. We can be confident and sure of that. Every time I brought the Lord’s Supper to Gerry, every time I visited her in the hospital, every time she had come to God’s holy house to worship Him, she prayed, “Thy will be done.” And the Lord answered with a resounding affirmative. Why Gerry? Why now? No one can fully know the mind of God. No matter how much faith we have, no matter how much education we claim concerning God’s Word, nobody can know the full counsel of God. As St. Paul says, “The foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men.”

That’s why our Lord Jesus Christ would have us call upon the Father and say, “Thy will be done.” The great joy of that prayer is that we don’t have to understand the will of God. We can bring our petitions before the Lord. We know that He already understands what we need; He knows these things even better than we can ourselves. We bring those petitions before Him, and we leave them in His hands, knowing that He will provide for us whatever is right for us, whatever is best, whatever will answer our prayer in the most beneficial manner. His will shall be done and is done. Whatever that means, however it works out in our lives, we can trust that God has answered our prayer exactly as it should be answered. For some, that might be a miraculous cure. For some, it might be a temporary respite.

And for Geraldine, it was the Lord’s will that, eighty-five years ago yesterday, she should be washed in the waters of Holy Baptism, where God made her His own child. It meant that it was God’s will that she be loving, forgiving, generous with the talents and treasures the Lord gave her. It meant that it was God’s will that she should meet Edwin and spend 40 years as his wife. It meant that it was God’s will that she should love the three children God placed in her care. And just as it was the Lord’s will for those blessings to come to pass, we can trust that Friday night was exactly the right time for the Lord to call her home to Himself.

Asking for the will of God to be done is not an easy prayer, even in the best of circumstances. It’s never easy to set aside your own will and wait for the Lord to show you the plans He has for you. Nevertheless, it is the best path, the narrow way, for God will answer your prayers with answers far better than anything we can ask or imagine. For Geraldine, the answer that God gave is a rest in His arms that will never end. For you, while you wait for that same eventual answer, He will bless you according to His good will—with the means to support yourselves, with the love of family and friends, and with the comfort that you need and desire in your grief.

I hope that Kim and Scott will indulge me if I share a private moment they had with their mother. On Friday night at the nursing home, Kim had Scott on the phone, and they prayed with Geraldine the song of Simeon. It begins with the words, “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy Word.” Almost immediately after praying this prayer with Gerry, the Lord answered that prayer: He gave Gerry a peaceful death—the kind of peace only God can give.

Just as it was the Father’s will that Jesus should die to save us from our sin, it was the perfect will of God that Gerry come home to rest with Him. She had prayed for God’s will to be done all her life, and even in her death, God answered that prayer. As you mourn, God grant you faith to pray, “Thy will be done.” For when you pray that prayer, you know He will answer graciously. 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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