Out of the Depths
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text is Psalm 130.
Imagine being in a small boat on the ocean in a storm, and the waves swallow the boat in an instant. One minute you are safe inside the boat, and the next moment you are swept away. While drowning is not a pleasant death, you usually don't have a whole lot of time to worry about it. But what if your boat is sinking slowly over the period of years? The water slowly creeps up from ankles to knees. After a year it gets to be waist deep, then slowly rises to the chest. Then it reaches the neck. Any higher and the mouth will have to be closed. But as long as one's nose is in the air, one can stay alive. That’s the kind of experience the Psalmist describes.
That's what it must have been like for Barb in the last years of her life—only instead of it being water that rose up to overwhelm her, it was Alzheimer's. Alzheimer’s is a disease which takes away your memory. It affects language skills and decision-making ability. It impairs judgment, attention, and other related areas of mental function and personality. Eventually your body even forgets how to breathe.
Perhaps the greatest frustration for those who spend time with an Alzheimer’s patient comes from trying to make a connection with them. You know that this is the person you love, but they often don’t recognize even their own children of spouse. But Barb was a Christian, made a child of God through Holy Baptism. God had made a connection with her through His Son in those holy waters. He placed on Barb the spotless white robe of His perfect righteousness, and nothing could take that away from her: not Satan, not the disease which took so much else from her, and certainly not death itself. While Satan used this illness to take from Barb’s mind the knowledge of the Lord, nothing could remove from her soul the washing of Baptism and the mark of one who has been redeemed by Jesus Christ. All along, even when she knew nothing else, Barb’s soul cried out, “Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD; Lord, hear my voice!” Lord, my mind has been taken from me, but I belong to you.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, hear the Good News: Jesus, the Son of God, your Savior, takes the guilt, the shame, and the punishment of all your sins of thought, word, and deed, and He carries them to the cross. He pays the eternal price for them. The wrath of God is released upon Jesus instead of on you. His blood cries out for your pardon: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” This is the price of your sins. This is what your salvation is worth to the Father. He marks you as His own and makes you His child in Holy Baptism. And He sends His Word and His messengers to proclaim it. When the pastor, speaking for Jesus, says to you, “I forgive you all your sins,” Jesus cleanses your soul. Jesus announced your complete forgiveness when He said, "It is finished!" And like He did for Barb and for all who know Jesus as their Savior, He has given His life to you so that you will live with Him forever.
The strength to remain faithful unto death is the strength that the Lord gives through His Word and Sacraments. The Psalmist prays, “O Israel, hope in the Lord. For with the LORD there is mercy, And with Him is abundant redemption. And He shall redeem Israel From all his iniquities.” This is the promise Barb clung to when she knew so little else. This is the promise which has been fulfilled for her as she rests from her labors. And this promise is also for you as you await the reunion with Barb and with all those you love who have gone before us in the faith. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.