Saturday, December 7, 2013

"I go to prepare a place for you."

This is a funeral sermon I delivered at my congregation on December 6, 2013. The text was John 14:1-6. I like to respect individual's privacy to a very reasonable extent and so I've eliminated specific names. If you find these words to be helpful or comforting please feel free to pass them on.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, peace be with you, Amen.

When a loved one falls asleep, it hurts. This person whom we had known and loved for days and months and years is no longer with us, and of course, we miss them. Our heart pains us to look ahead to each day that they won't be by our side on this earth. This is just a glimpse of what we experience today as we remember our departed sister, mother, grandmother, [Deceased's name].

And even though we knew this day was eventually coming, it doesn't make the hurt or the pain simply go away. As [Deceased's name]'s body withered away day after day over the last few months it seemed as though this day was taking its time in coming. I know you found yourselves torn wanting to keep mom with us awhile longer, and yet also to see her go and be free of this body that had nothing left to offer.

When we look at this whole process, of aging, of bodies failing, of death's approach, we can say one thing for sure: death stinks. There's no two ways about it. This just isn't a good thing. It isn't natural. It isn't fun. It just isn't welcome. And we each know this truth in the back of our mind, that what happened to [Deceased's name], will someday happen to us as well, one way or another.

This is why we gather here today. When you think about it, you must conclude that today isn't really for [Deceased's name]. She has no more needs, because she is with her Lord and Savior Jesus, and she is in good hands, to say the least. This means, today is for us. To mourn, to share our grief, yet also to listen, to hear, to receive, and to be lifted up by the Words that our Lord Jesus has to share.

Praise be to Him that on days like this, we have hope, we have a joyful word to share. And it goes like this: "Let not your hearts be troubled." We have made for ourselves so many things to be worried about in this life. Indeed, we are experts at creating worries. Yet, here today, our Lord Jesus is saying, when it comes to death, when it comes to life, cross that off your list of worries, because,as He says, I've taken care of it. Let not your hearts be troubled.

Jesus says after, "believe in God, believe also in me." And this we should. You see when He calms us and tells us not to be troubled He doesn't do this without good reason. It isn't a fool's hope for care-free living without anything to back it up. We have good reason to hear what Jesus has to say and it starts with our belief in Him. The belief that He is Lord. The belief that He is our Savior. The belief that He is our only hope.

It may also help us today to understand why Jesus was saying these words, why He was telling his disciples "let not your hearts be troubled." Jesus was sharing these words just after He had told His disciples He was leaving them. His disciples were nearly in the same position as we find ourselves today. We've lost a dear friend and family member to death. Jesus was preparing His disciples to lose Him as well.

And this must have been ever so difficult for them. He had been their leader, their teacher, even their friend. They had walked mile after mile with him from town to town. They had seen great wonders from Jesus' own hands. And now they are being told that He is going to a place in which they cannot go, at least not yet. Its no wonder they are feeling loss. Its no wonder their hearts are troubled. For us, it is much of the same.

[Deceased's name] was there for so many of us. Mother to four and she sure did put in the hours over the years. Now she has gone on to a place in which we cannot follow, at least not yet. We can't just hop in the car over to her house or over to the IHM e-wing to say hi or hold her hand or to give her a hug.

So again, we must turn to and cling to Jesus’ words for comfort. As Jesus prepared to leave His disciples He gave them the comfort and the hope they needed. He said "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (Jn 14:2-3)"

Without these words, we would have nothing. There would be no hope, no confidence, and no reason to think we have anything else to look forward to. So thanks be to God, Jesus has said it, He has promised it, and it is ours to receive. A place is prepared for you, Jesus says!

Now, I have to share this thought. I was privileged to see [Deceased's name] one last time the day before she was called to rest. And [Daughter of the deceased] and I were talking about how [Deceased's name] was hanging on to her last moments of life, frail though her body was. Somehow [Daughter of the deceased] and I got talking about these very words of Jesus, and how He prepares a place for us with him in heaven. And I believe it was [Daughter of the deceased] who came to the conclusion that [Deceased's name] must still be with us on earth for these last hours because God just doesn't have that place ready yet, and He knows how [Deceased's name] will want everything to be just right.

And it seems, God did have everything just right, at the right time, to bring [Deceased's name] home with Him. This is the joy, the rest that [Deceased's name] has because she trusted in it by faith. She knew the promise and the salvation we have in Jesus Christ and she believed it. And her Savior has now brought her to be with Him, as promised.

To be with Jesus, that's what rests at the center of our all hopes as well. To be in the place that He has promised to prepare for us. We like to think about how wonderful that will be. A place without tears, without suffering, without grief, without death itself. No more separation like we feel when we lose a loved one. None of it. In that place, that place with Jesus, these former things will have passed away.

This is all now true for [Deceased's name]. She has left this vale of tears, her suffering is over. Her soul rests with the Lord to await that final day, when her body, yes her body, and all of creation will be restored. All on that day we look forward to in this Advent season, when Christ returns. So take comfort today that [Deceased's name] is at peace. And cling to that same hope for yourself. Not because of yourself, not because of anything else in this world, but Jesus Christ alone. For He said it "I am the way, the truth, and the life." And indeed He is, the way, the only way. Let not your hearts be troubled. Amen.

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