+ In Memoriam - Elle Ehinger +
Beautiful Savior Lutheran, Milton
Graveside at Sumner Cemetery
1 Corinthians 15
In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.
Life in this fallen world has a peculiar way of being dependably undependable. The trusty family car breaks down. The old faithful freezer gives out. The once strong company suffers mass layoffs. Sooner or later, we find ourselves sighing, “They sure don’t make ‘em like they used to.” Even our own bodies, once healthy and active, get sick, grow old, and die.
We often find ourselves singing or praying the words of the old hymn:
Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
Earth's joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
I imagine that in the 98 years of life God gave to Ellen, she saw her fair share of disappointments, struggles, and suffering too. But Ellen also knew that even though life in this fallen world is full of undependable things and people, the love of God in Christ Jesus is far greater and more certain than all the uncertainties of life.
She knew and heard Jesus’ Word of truth and life which was a lamp to her feet and a light to her path. She knew that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow for her and for you. She knew that the love of God in Christ crucified and risen is the one thing that is truly and perfectly and unfailingly dependable. She knew that she was baptized into the most dependable, trustworthy, and reliable person there is - Jesus in his death and resurrection for her and for you.
Several months ago, during one of our visits, we were reading the Scriptures before receiving Holy Communion. And though I don’t remember which passage I was reading, I do remember something remarkable Ellen said about the passage we had just read: “Jesus’ resurrection,” she declared, “that...you can depend on.”
You see, Ellen believed and confessed that in this topsy-turvy world, Jesus crucified and risen is our constant. Our north star in the night. Our anchor in the maelstrom. Our compass in our earthly pilgrimage. Reminds me of an old saying from the Carthusian monks of the 11th Century: Stat Crux Dum Volvitur Orbis. The Cross stays steady while the world turns.
“Jesus’ resurrection. That...you can depend on.”
In those brief but beautiful words, Ellen confessed what St. Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 15:
For if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hopein this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
St. Paul reminds us that Ellen’s life - and our lives as God’s baptized, beloved children - is a life lived in God’s gracious, merciful, loving dependability towards us. Though we are faithless, Jesus is faithful. Though our life twists and turns, and is full of ups and downs, the love of Jesus crucified and risen is changeless and unchanging. Even today, in the middle of a cemetery, in our grief and tears, Jesus is and always shall be the dependable one for us.
In Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Last Enemy of Death has been defeated, for Ellen and for you.
In Jesus’ death and resurrection, we receive a true and trustworthy hope of the resurrection of our own bodies and life everlasting. A physical, real resurrection for Ellen and for you. A joyful reunion with those we love who have died in the faith. But we also receive strength, mercy, and every good thing in life today because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
In Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have received Him who is truly, eternally, and daily dependable for you, just as he was for Ellen throughout her life.
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ resurrection and Ellen’s and yours. That...you can depend on.
In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.