Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
It’s hard to imagine a time where we might feel a greater sense of sorrow than when someone we love passes away. At such a time, we reflect on the happy memories, the lessons learned and shared, and the blessings God has given us through our departed loved one. And in doing so, we hope to ease the sadness and sorrow we feel. I was fortunate to share in that experience on Friday when Don’s wife, mother, kids and their spouses, and grandchildren gathered around the table in the very room where Don’s earthly life ended. As relatives, as friends, we may comfort each other and share our sorrow, and in doing so we might ease the sense of loss we feel. This is a blessing of God; we call it the communion of saints.
But in addition to that comfort which friends and family members seek to share with you, we also consider that comfort which we receive from our Lord. This comfort goes above and beyond anything we might receive from our fellow man. And it is this divine comfort which it is my privilege and pleasure to deliver to you this day.
The Bible tells us that death is the punishment for our sins; death is all we deserve. We see that demonstrated all too clearly in the coffin before us. Scripture teaches us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Only the sinless can enter into eternal life. Our sin bars the gates through which we would enter the kingdom of heaven. It should be impossible that anyone would enter into everlasting life—not Don, not any of us. If that is our last thought on the matter, there would certainly be no comfort.
But that is not God’s last word. In our text, our Lord tells us that there will be no more death. “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” God has made us perfect in the blood of Christ. The death and resurrection of Jesus have restored to us the righteousness which was ours in creation. Jesus did not go through suffering and death for His own sake; our Lord shed His holy, innocent blood, and He died that sinless death, so that we would be saved from the power of death, so that, even though we die, death will not have the victory. We will not die the eternal death we deserve because of sin, for our Lord has taken that sin from us. He has carried that sin to the cross, and He has left that sin buried in His otherwise empty tomb. He has applied that work to us, marking us as His own, marking us as forgiven children of God in the waters of Holy Baptism. As St. Paul tells us, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” This is God’s promise to you. All those who believe that Jesus died for the sake of their forgiveness will have eternal life.
And to all those who believe this, God gives comfort. “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” God has taken away from Don the physical pain and suffering he experienced especially in the last decade of his life. God has taken away Don’s grief in losing a father, a brother, and a son, and what’s more, our Lord has reunited them in a rest that will last forever. This is already a reality for Don, and it is both a present reality and a promise for your future too. Even now He brings you comfort in His Word. He is wiping away your tears of sorrow, so that you do not grieve as do those who have no hope. He has prepared a place for you in the Kingdom, and that eternal reunion with your departed loved ones awaits you, as well. We will stand together before the throne of God forever, praising Him for His marvelous work. 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.