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Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Our text is taken from Philippians Chapter 4. We consider these words:
I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
Thus far our text.
When death comes to the relief of one whose life was marked by sorrow and suffering, both the godless and the believers can be heard to say, “Her death was a great blessing.” For the godless, this conveys the idea that it was better for her to be dead than to be alive. But even if death were man's utter extinction, as the godless claim to believe, it would be a mockery to welcome something which has taken a loved one from a family. When a Christian says, “Her death was a great blessing,” it means something much different. In your grief, your hearts, which ache at the great loss you have sustained, yearn for a word comfort and contentment. So let me tell you this truth: Truly, Rosalie’s death was a great blessing to her; she is better off now than she was.
Among Christians, these words are flowing with comfort. We have not lost those who died, and those who died have gained great things. They are delivered from all sorrow and suffering. And that perhaps is the least gain. The most precious gain is this: by reason of the faith she was given in Holy Baptism, Rosalie now rests in the arms of her Savior. That is our comfort and our hope this day.
It is a characteristic of people to seek contentment, to desire to be satisfied with their lives. We spend a great deal of time and money and energy seeking contentment. Occasionally and for brief periods of time, we might even achieve a bit of contentment. A couple works hard to raise their children, give them an education, and send them out into the world, all the while saving enough money to retire and travel. But very quickly we realize that contentment gained through money, security, travel and the good life do not prevent sickness or tragedy from entering into our lives. What had been contentment turns quickly into confusion and restlessness. So we ask, “Where can I find contentment? Is there such a thing as being content which applies to this life and beyond?”
Paul wrote to his beloved Christian friends: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” Here was a man who had been imprisoned for his faith, felt the thirty-nine lashes of the whip on his back on five occasions, was beaten with rods three times, stoned once, shipwrecked three times, threatened by Jews and Gentiles, endangered by rivers and robbers, and was adrift at sea for a night and a day. In addition to that, he lived with the fact that he was personally responsible for the imprisonment and probably the death of the many Christians he had persecuted before his conversion. How in the world could he be content?
Rosalie experienced some tremendous disappointments and tragedies—none more painful than the death of her son. She expended a great amount of energy caring for her husband at the end of his life. And especially in the last month or so, Rosalie experienced great physical pain of her own. Even so, she was content. Where in the world can one find such contentment? Certainly, and especially at times like this, you recognize it is not in money, pleasure, material possessions, family, people, or any other thing in this world. For these all soon vanish. It is not to be found in oneself, for inside ourselves we find a guilty conscience that will not let us rest, a mind that is not always wise, a body that is getting sick and old. Even within this room today, each of us is inching closer to our own death. Who will be next? How long will it be before your mortal remains occupy a container like this? Such thoughts do not make us very content!
Where can we find contentment? It can be found only where both the Apostle Paul and Rosalie found it: in the person and work of Jesus Christ. In perfect grace, God looked upon mankind's hopelessness and eternal destruction, and He intervened. The sinless Son of God was born to suffer like a sinner, and He lived to die on the cross. He died so that we would live, so that all of God's wrath for sinners would be paid with His own blood, so that we would be totally and completely acceptable to the Almighty. If God allowed that to happen to His own Beloved Son on the cross, do you think that He doesn't want to forgive you and call you his own? The Resurrection of Christ gives us the guarantee that death is not the end. Death is where real life begins: life with God forever, where there will be no more pain or suffering, no more mourning, and especially no more death! This what Saint Paul believed, and he is eternally content. This is what Rosalie believed, and she is eternally content. And this Good News can make you content too. It doesn't matter what is in your past. It doesn't matter that you don't know what tomorrow will bring. It doesn't matter whether you are in sick or healthy, rich or poor, old or young, man or woman. Christ died and rose for you so that you would be an heir of heaven.
Rosalie is now fully content. Where she is, there is no more sorrow nor pain nor suffering nor even death, for she is forever with her Lord. And on top of that, she is reunited with Bill and Don and all those she loved who had gone before her in the faith. Knowing that, you and I can say by faith that her death was a great blessing. Knowing that, you and I as believers are able to look forward to a heavenly reunion with Rosalie, with Don, with Bill, and with all those who have departed this life as children of God. And knowing that, you and I, like Rosalie, can be content, both now and forever. 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.