Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, February 17, 2008

In Memoriam +Lina Lissy VanderBaan+

In Memoriam +Lina Lissy VanderBaan 1920-2008+
February 16, 2008
Text: Isaiah 40:1-2

Dear Jack, Jane, family members, friends, and members of our church family, grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Hear again the Word of the Lord from the prophet Isaiah (40:1-2; ESV):

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

It was almost three weeks ago now that Jack called me late in the night to tell me that Lissy was in the hospital and that there was little hope for recovery. After I hung up the phone, as is my custom when encountering such news, I prayed for Lissy and for Jack and for their family, commending them to the Lord for comfort and strength, for healing according to God’s will, and for a blessed death if healing is not His will. Then later that night as I lay awake in bed, thinking and praying, I turned on my mp3 player (Lissy probably never knew what an mp3 player is!) and I turned to the music of the Church, this time the cream of the crop, Handel’s Messiah, as the tenor heralded the Word of the Lord recorded in the prophet Isaiah, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God; speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem; and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned.”[1] And I thought at that moment how appropriate this verse is as the earthly life of a saint in Christ Jesus comes to an end and she is born into heaven to await the resurrection with Jesus.

For Jesus was Lissy’s comfort throughout her earthly life, and she is even now beholding the face of her Savior and singing with the choir of saints and angels, music beyond anything Handel ever could have imagined. Lissy is comforted, for her warfare is ended and her iniquity is pardoned. Her Lord Jesus paid the awful penalty for Lissy’s sin, and for yours and mine, with His holy, precious blood, and by His innocent suffering and death on the cross.

Yes, Lissy was a sinner in need of redemption. She would be the first to tell you that. We sometimes think we should only say good things about a person at their memorial service. But that is not the case at a Christian memorial service. Christians are blunt about the human condition. All mankind fell in Adam’s fall in the Garden of Eden, and ever since, Adam’s children have been infected by original sin, which produces all manner of actual sins. Lissy was no exception. She was a sinner. And the wages of sin is death. But she was also baptized. The Holy Spirit had called her to faith in Christ by the Gospel, enlightened her with His gifts, sanctified her, and now He has completed His work in her by keeping her in the one true faith unto everlasting life. Lissy was baptized into Christ. Or better, she is baptized into Christ. She is baptized into His sin atoning death. And she is baptized into His victorious resurrection from the dead. So she has the full and free forgiveness of all her sins, she lives with Jesus in heaven, and she has the sure and certain promise of her own resurrection from the dead to come. “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his,” writes St. Paul (Rom. 6:5). “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” (v. 8). As a baptized child of God our heavenly Father, Lissy has given all of her sin to her Lord Jesus Christ to be punished on the cross, and she has received all of Christ’s perfect righteousness, so that when she stands before the Father, He only sees the righteousness of His Son. That is how she is able to stand before the Father today in heaven. The Father loves her as He loves Christ, His Son. Lissy’s warfare is ended. Her iniquity is pardoned. She is comforted.

Lissy would speak this comfort to you as well. She would tell you that you are a sinner in need of a Savior, too. You are Adam’s children, and Adam’s children cannot free themselves from their bondage to sin. The wages of that sin is death. But Lissy would remind you that Christ can free you from that bondage. He is faithful, and has forgiven your sins. You, too, can take comfort in Christ’s death and resurrection. For you who are baptized into Christ, His death and resurrection are yours as well, just as they are Lissy’s. And if you have not been baptized, why delay? Take this comfort upon yourself that Christ has died for you and wishes to bring you into His holy Church through Holy Baptism and give you the sure hope of eternal life through His blood and the resurrection from the dead. Lissy would be the first to tell you that there is no comfort like that which Jesus gives. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” says Jesus. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29).

Jesus Christ is your only comfort in life and in death. And the comfort He gives is not just a platitude. He gives you the real and certain comfort of a physical resurrection from the dead. I can say this with absolute certainty that the body of Lissy VanderBaan, the body we laid to rest in the cemetery this morning, will physically rise again. Jesus Christ will call Lissy, body and soul, forth from the grave on the last day. This is how it will happen according to St. Paul: “we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage,” comfort “one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:15-18). Yes, comfort one another with these words from the Lord God. We who are baptized into Christ will see Lissy again! She will rise from the dead. And we who are left will be caught up together with Jesus and Lissy and all the saints in the clouds to meet the Lord, and be eternally with Him and with Lissy and with the saints in our new, physical, resurrection bodies… these very same bodies, but made perfect, without sin and without pain and without death… living in a new heaven and a new earth. For the Christian weighed down in grief at the death of a loved one, these are comforting words indeed.

“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God; speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem; and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned.” In Christ, Lissy’s warfare is accomplished, finished, completed, and she is at peace. And so also your warfare is accomplished. In Christ, Lissy’s iniquities have been pardoned, forgiven, wiped out and separated from her as far as the east is from the west. And so also your sin is pardoned. In Christ, though Lissy has died, she lives. And in Christ, you also join her in eternal life. In the sad days ahead as we grieve our temporary separation from Lissy, may our Lord Jesus comfort us with His life, His death, His resurrection for us, and the forgiveness of sins that He has won for us. May He sustain us in the faith of our Baptism by His Word and Sacrament. May He keep us in the one true faith, just as He kept Lissy, until the day we, too, are born into His heavenly mansions. Our Lord is faithful, and He will do it. Therefore even in the face of death, comfort one another with these words. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Liner notes, Sir Thomas Beecham: Handel Messiah (BMG Classics, 1992) p. 9.

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