Monday, October 24, 2011

A Funeral Sermon: Christ's Table Reserved For You

+ In Memoriam – Barbara Koijane – October 22, 2011 +
Isaiah 25:6-9

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

            Whether you knew her for years or just a few minutes, anyone who knew Barbara knew she loved food. She’s in good company. For no one loves food more than our Heavenly Father:

Upon this mountain
      The LORD of hosts will make for all people
      A feast of rich food,
      A feast of well-aged wines,
      Of fat things full of marrow,
      Of aged wine, well-refined.
 And He will destroy on this mountain
      The covering cast over all people,
      And the veil that is spread over all nations.
       8 He will swallow up death forever,
      And the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces;
      The rebuke of His people
      He will take away from all the earth;
      For the LORD has spoken.
       9 And it will be said in that day:
      “ Behold, this is our God;
      We have waited for Him, and He will save us.
      This is the LORD;
      We have waited for Him;
      We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”

            According to Isaiah God loves a good feast. Jesus is no different. That’s what he does best: he feeds his sheep now and forever. Sheep like Barbara. Sheep like you and me. Let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. For God so loved the world that He sent his only Son to die on the cross for Barbara and for you.
            Yes, Barbara loved food. But even her love of chocolate was surpassed by her greater love for hospitality, family, neighbors named and unnamed, but above all, her God-given love for Jesus, her Savior. Yes, Barbara loved many people. But as much as Barbara loved, Christ our Savior loves much more, infinitely more.
            That’s why out of all the things that we could say about Barbara – undoubtedly there are many – the best and surest thing we could say about her is that Christ died for her. That’s really the best thing you can say about any Christian after all: when you think of them, they point you to Jesus. Barbara would not have us look to herself, but to Jesus who gave His life for her on the cross. Jesus who gave, sustained and nourished her faith even in death. Jesus who fed her with His own life-giving body and blood, holy food for a holy saint Baptized into His holy death and resurrection. Even when her memory failed toward the end of her life – Christ, her Savior had not forgotten her. He never forgets His promises, not to Barbara or to you. Barbara’s Shepherd is our Shepherd. Christ’s love for Barbara is also given to you. On the cross God displays the greatest love of all: Jesus’ love poured out for sinners like Barbara, like you and I.
            This is where her love came from in the first place. As loving and caring as she was, Barbara’s love and care didn’t come from Barbara. She was born into sin and death just like you and I. That’s what our first birth brings – life perishable, defiled and dead in sin, always an expiration date. It’s our second birth – Baptism – that bails us out of our first birth. In Christ, she was born again to a living hope through the living waters of Baptism. In Baptism Christ put His name upon Barbara– you are my own dear child. As he does for all you who are baptized.
            That’s how our Heavenly Father cares for all his children. He clothes us in His Son’s death and resurrection and then he feeds us now and forever. Just as He fed and nourished Barbara with Jesus’ body and blood placed into her mouth for the forgiveness of sins. Barbara’s hope is your hope. And in this you rejoice, though now for a little while you have been grieved by various trials, by sin and death.
            But death is not the end for Barbara. Just as it was not the end for Jesus. It all happened on a mountain, just as Isaiah prophesied. A table was spread in the presence of his enemies. God’s cup of wrath overflowed. Christ drank the bitter wine; He tasted the sourness of suffering, sin and death. And there on Calvary, he swallowed up death forever. Barbara’s death. Your death. Not a drop left. Death had its way with Jesus that He might have His way with death. And so Jesus is not dead but lives. The tomb could not hold the Lord of Life. The earth spat him out three days later. Death does not get the last word. Jesus does.
            Death does not get the last word over Barbara or you, his saints. Jesus does. And that is the comfort today: in Jesus, Barbara lives. She rests from her labors until that Last Day when Christ will come again to call her out from the dust of the ground to a resurrected, glorified body. So it will be for all the dead in Christ. In Jesus, you live for he who believes in Christ will live even though he dies.  The grave can’t hold your body down. There’s a feast to attend. Rich food to dine on. High cholesterol forgiveness. The trumpets will ring out like a joyous dinner bell. Come, Lord Jesus!
            And Christ will gather us, along with Barbara and the saints in heaven and earth, around His heavenly banquet table for a meal spread out by loving, pierced hands. Yes, God loves a feast. This is what he does best. He feeds his sheep now and forever. Because even more than the feast, he loves his guests. Barbara’s place is set and so is yours. All is ready.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.