I Am Not Ashamed
ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
St. Paul writes, “The just”—that is, the righteous—“shall live by faith.” But it is not at all an easy thing to live by faith. We recently heard the account of Jesus appearing to the disciples, and Thomas refusing to accept their word of the Lord’s appearance. “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” It was not until Jesus showed Thomas those wounds that Thomas was able to confess, “My Lord and my God!” Even this follower of Jesus, having spent three years learning at His feet, could not easily live by faith; he had to see. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In other words, to be faithful means to trust the testimony of those who confess the Truth. That’s why it’s such a blessing that we have the eyewitness accounts of the Apostles. St. John the Evangelist, after giving his testimony regarding the life, teachings, miracles, death, and resurrection of Jesus, explained that he shared these things “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”
We live in a world that wants to be ruled by physical evidence. It’s not a bad thing to observe the world around you. But at the same time, not everything can be explained by the Scientific Method. Those who believe about God only what they can observe and prove would be hard-pressed to rely on such faith when things get rough. But those who believe the good news about Jesus and His life-giving work do not rely on their own reason or strength. Those who live their lives trusting in the Lord—those who cling to the Lord who bore their sins to the cross, who were raised with Him in the waters of Holy Baptism, who hunger and thirst for the Word of Holy Absolution and for our Lord’s Holy Supper, those who confess their faith in Him until their dying breath—these are not put to shame, for in these gifts, in the Gospel of Christ, salvation is given to those who believe.
It was my privilege and blessing to serve as Mildred’s pastor for nearly six years. But it did not take six years to recognize Mildred as a woman of faith. Mildred was a good woman, as the world views goodness. She was loving, compassionate, caring, generous, wise, prudent, and any number of other virtues which the world commends as good and worthy. But more than these things, Mildred was a woman who lived and walked by faith in Jesus Christ. Oh, we cannot deny that Mildred was a sinner. We cannot say that Mildred earned her way to heaven by living a good life, any more than anyone can reach heaven by the power of their own merits. She had moments of doubt and despair, moments when her willing spirit was overwhelmed by the weakness of her flesh. Those who served her in the nursing home could tell you of times when Mildred struck out in anger and frustration, attempting to do physical harm. And it was not uncommon, especially once she moved into one nursing home and then into another, to hear her groan and question God: “Why am I still here? Why hasn’t the Lord come to take me home?” But even in these moments of weakness—especially in these moments of weakness—Mildred hungered and thirsted for the Word of God, and she kept it close to her heart. She was not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. Once she was no longer able to come to church, if I hadn’t seen her in what she considered to be a reasonable period of time, she wouldn’t hesitate to call me and let me know that she wanted the body and blood of Jesus. Like Mary, who knelt at the feet of Jesus while her sister Martha fluttered about, Mildred rejoiced to hear of the one thing needful, the good news of her Lord Jesus. The faith which had been given to her in the waters of Holy Baptism cried out for her Lord, and Mildred, like all those who live by faith, was not put to shame. Just like Simeon in our Gospel, she beheld her Savior, and she was blessed to “depart in peace.”
So what about us? What about those who love Mildred and will miss her? Our Lord has good news for us, too. Our Lord Jesus Christ knows the grief we feel right now, for He felt it at the death of His friend Lazarus. But our Lord, after grieving, proceeded to raise Lazarus from the dead! And then He went on to the cross, where He died the death we deserved, carrying our sins and the sins of the whole world, bearing the righteous wrath of our Father for us. And then He rose from the dead, leaving our sins—our doubt, our despair, our weakness—buried in the tomb, destroying forever the power of death. Finally He ascended to the right hand of the Father, where His wounds plead for us. When our last hour comes, we who have been baptized, who have been fed with the flesh and blood of our Savior, who have been forgiven of all our sins, will join Mildred in a holy rest. And then, on the Last Day, we will be raised. We will be reunited in eternal life with Mildred, with Bill, with Julie, with all those we love who have gone before us in the faith, nevermore to suffer, nevermore to mourn, nevermore to die.
As we await that day, there is no shame in grief. Mildred was a good gift from God to us, and we will miss her. But we do not grieve like those who have no hope, for we know that a holy reunion awaits us on the Last Day. And as we await that eternal raising, we rejoice to receive the body and blood of Jesus, a heavenly Feast where we are reunited with Mildred along with “angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven.” Even though our weak flesh will continue to sin, our willing spirit will continue to walk by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, clinging to His Word and trusting in His work for us. And putting our trust in Him, we will never be put to shame in the eyes of the Lord. ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! 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.