Monday, February 1, 2016

Funeral Sermon for JoAnn Staggs: “Christ our Caretaker”

+ In Memoriam – JoAnn Staggs +
January 17th, 1935 – December 30th, 2015
Psalm 116:1-9; Isaiah 35:3-10; Revelation 22:1-5; Matthew 25:31-46

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

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 

JoAnn’s family chose this Gospel reading because it her faith and life in Christ. And from what I’ve come to know about JoAnn, it’s well chosen.

Jesus’ Words in this parable paint a beautiful, yet humble portrait of JoAnn. When her friends or family were hungry, she fed them, even if there were a lot of mouths to feed. When someone she knew needed clothing, she was quick to provide them with a timely – and of course, fashionable – gift. When someone was sick she took care of them revealing the same loving kindness that would be given to her by family and friends in her last days. Though she was queen of everything, she ruled with a compassionate, caring hand. JoAnn was a caretaker.

And in the compassionate love of JoAnn’s care-giving, we see reflected the greater compassion and love of Christ our caretaker.

JoAnn’s care for others, like the righteous sheep caring for the hungry, naked, stranger, and prisoners in Jesus’ parable, is God’s gift. JoAnn’s faith – like that of all are baptized sheep in Christ’s flock – is an inheritance, prepared by the Good Shepherd before the foundation of the world. And an inheritance by definition is a gift, something we don’t earn. Jesus bestows it upon us freely by his death on the cross, just as he did for JoAnn.

After all, the righteous sheep in Jesus’ parable have no idea when they cared for Jesus.

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Yes, JoAnn was a caretaker. JoAnn was well known for doing anything for anyone at any time, and without a thought for herself. And this is a fitting passage of Scripture for her life and faith in Christ. But it is also a fitting passage that reveals for us the greatest caretaker of all, Christ our Lord.

It was Christ who took care of JoAnn giving her life through her parents.

It was Christ who took care of her and gave her new birth by water, Word, and the Holy Spirit in the waters of Holy Baptism.

It was Christ who took care of her and Gene as they were married and started a family of their own.

It was Christ who took care of her as she moved from Oklahoma to Texas to California.

It was Christ who took care of her throughout her 80 years of caring for others.

It was Christ who took care of her in her last days.

And it is Christ who continues to care for her, and all the faithful departed who rest from their labors, asleep in Jesus. With JoAnn and the faithful, we await the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting.

After all, Jesus is the greatest caretaker of all for JoAnn and for you. He would do anything for anyone at any time without a thought for himself. And he did. That is why he was born, naked and wrapped in swaddling clothes for you. Laid in the manger for you. Took on human flesh for you. And then on to the cross for you to die in naked humiliation that you might be clothed in his righteousness and holiness. He thought only of calling you his beloved sheep, just as he did JoAnn.

Jesus hungered and thirsted in the wilderness and then finally on the cross… for you, so that he might give his own flesh to feed you and fill you with his promises in his own body and blood.

Jesus became the stranger who received no welcome, no hospitality, and nowhere to rest his head so that we who were exiles of heaven might find in him our eternal rest and welcome, just as JoAnn did.

Jesus became captive to our sin and a prisoner of death for to come to us and rescue us.

Jesus cares for you by the greatest act of compassion, mercy, and grace that ever was or will be: Jesus crucified for you. Christ our caregiver trades his death to give us life, his righteousness in exchange for our sin, and his grave and resurrection for ours.

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 

And so today we cast our cares, our burdens, our grief, our sin and death all upon Jesus. For Christ is and always shall be your caretaker in the cross.

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

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