Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Saturday, November 07, 2009

In Memoriam +Bernice Mary Brunner Hills+

In Memoriam +Bernice Mary Brunner Hills+
November 6, 2009
Texts: Psalm 23; Job 19:21-27; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; John 11:17-45

Dear family and friends of Bernice, brothers and sisters in Christ, beloved in the Lord: Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

This body will rise from the dead! We can be confident of this because our Lord Jesus, who died on the cross as the sacrificial Lamb of God for our sins, who is also risen from the dead, has promised it! And the Word of Jesus Christ, the Word of God, cannot be broken. Jesus once said to a grieving sister, and He says to us this morning: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26; ESV). How can we know that Jesus’ Words are trustworthy? Because He Himself is risen from the death. Death could not hold Him in captivity. He burst the bonds of death. He has all the power over death. So when Jesus says that whoever lives and believes in Him will live even though he die; when Jesus says that whoever believes in Him will never die; He has the power to deliver. Death has no mastery over Him. Bernice is baptized into Christ! She is baptized into His death, and therefore baptized into His resurrection. She is God’s own child. She is marked, sealed, for the Day of Resurrection. Beloved in the Lord, this body will rise from the dead!

Do not be deceived. I would not have you be ignorant, dear brothers and sisters. Some say that death is the end of the body. First, there are the well-meaning Christians who confess that the souls of the dearly departed in Christ are in heaven, which is true enough, and very comforting to us. But then these same well-meaning Christians neglect to confess the resurrection of the dead, the re-unification of body and soul when our risen Lord Jesus calls all the bodies of the dead forth from the grave, and gives eternal life, body and soul, to all believers in Christ, including dear Bernice. Then there are those who deny the afterlife altogether. These, sadly, live without hope, for this life only. God grant that by His Holy Spirit, they come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. And finally, there are those who believe in some sort of afterlife, but do not know the Lord who alone can give them eternal life. Jesus says: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Those who, like Bernice, are united to the risen Lord Jesus by baptism and by faith know the way. They know the truth. And they have the eternal life of Jesus Christ. They confess with Job: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:25-27). Job and Bernice and those who believe in Jesus base their confidence in the bodily resurrection of the dead in the risen body of Jesus Christ, who is Himself the way, the truth, and the life. But there is no other way to the Father. There is no other truth. There is no other life.

Bernice knew the way. She knew the truth. And she lives in the life of Jesus Christ and knows Him even now. She lives, even now, in heaven, as her body rests peacefully on earth. And she will live in the resurrection also in this body. What a comfort! You, who are in Christ, who believe in Him, will see Bernice again! In her body! You will see her when Jesus comes again. Beloved, there is nothing Bernice wants you to know more than her Savior, and your Savior, Jesus Christ. Why do you need to know Him? Why do you need a Savior? Because, beloved, we are all, every last one of us, conceived and born in sin, and we are all, every last one of us, sinners. Oh, I know, it isn’t a pleasant topic to dwell on, especially on an occasion like this. But without sin, there wouldn’t be death. The wages of sin is death. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Bernice would be the first to tell you that she was a sinner. But she would also be the first to tell you that she has been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. And she would be the first to tell you how important it is that you, also, know Christ by faith. Because knowing Him, you, too, will have the full and free forgiveness of all your sins, salvation, eternal life, and the sure and certain hope of the resurrection.

It sounds unbelievable, this resurrection stuff. And yet it is a reality beyond any which you have as yet experienced in this fallen, earthly existence. It is, of course, a matter of faith, not of sight. And so the Holy Spirit must grant you the faith that He gave Bernice, to see things that are beyond reason and experience. The Holy Spirit creates this faith in you as He reveals the truth of the resurrection to you in His Word. The Word of God, which cannot be broken, reveals precisely how the Day of Resurrection will proceed. We heard it this morning in our second Scripture lesson, St. Paul writing to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Again, grounding his certainty in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, St. Paul boldly declares that when Jesus descends from heaven with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God, He will command the dead to rise. And they will. Because the Word of Jesus Christ always accomplishes what it says. The dead in Christ will rise first. And then every believer who is left on earth, who is still alive, will be caught up together with the risen Christ and His risen Christians in the clouds. And we will always be with the Lord. Behold, Jesus, our crucified and risen Lord, is making all things new. The old order of things has passed away. The new has come. Christ Jesus is the death of death, and the resurrection and the life of all who believe in Him.

And so, dear friends, this body shall rise from the dead! Let this be your confession. Let this be your comfort. Let this be your joy even in the face of death, even in grief and sadness. For our Lord Jesus Christ has promised it. And His promise is the very breath of life. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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