Trading a Burlap Sack for a Clean White Robe–Funeral Sermon
D Funeral Chapel, Joliet
St. John 14:1-6
In the Name of Jesus
B, R, T, L, D,
Family and Friends,
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The words of Jesus for our comfort today are from St. John’s Gospel:
Jesus said, “I am the Way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
In Wheaton, Illinois, there is a park called Cantigny. It used to be the estate of a man named Robert McCormick, who owned the Chicago Tribune. Out in the back of the huge brick mansion on the property is the place where he and his wife are buried. There is a marble monument there that stretches around the two graves with the words of St. John’s Gospel written in foot high letters: “In My Father’s House are many mansions.” That’s an alternate way of translating the words we heard: “In my Father’s house are many rooms.”
My grandparents took us there a lot as a kid, and as I got older I remember thinking, “What, this mansion wasn’t enough for you?”
Your mom and grandma didn’t grow up in a mansion. She grew up poor in Mississippi, knew what it was like to wear clothes made out of burlap sacks, and what it was like to work all your life. But now she is rich. Her soul rests in one of the rooms in God the Father’s house. One day, when Jesus comes back to call her and all the dead, her body will rise and live in the Father’s house forever.
It’s not that being poor made her worthy to be in God’s house. Before God, being rich or poor, being strong or weak, beautiful or ugly, smart or dumb, educated or ignorant, or somewhere in between, doesn’t matter. God judges us based on our deeds. What we do shows what we are. And God is concerned with what we are, with our hearts. Are we righteous? Do we love Him above all things? Or do we love ourselves?
When I spoke to Mary, we talked a little about death. No one wants to die. And no one really wants to talk about it, either.
I asked her if she was ready to die. She said no. She didn’t want to leave her family. Who can blame her for that? She loved you.
I asked her if she was afraid to go stand before God’s judgment throne. She said, “No; I have lived a clean life, even though I didn’t go to church like I should have.”
I told her something like: I have no doubt that you have lived a clean life. But notice what Jesus says in the Gospel reading: I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Living a clean life as human beings measure it is not the way to the Father. Jesus is the only way to the Father.
That is because the way to the Father is perfect obedience to the commandments of God. The way to the Father is perfect righteousness, holiness. The wages of sin is death, says the Bible. And we not only do sins—sin lives in us. We are born sinful and unclean.
But Jesus is the way to the Father. He is God’s Son who became a human being in order to fulfill the law of God in our place. He lived as a human being who obeyed the Father perfectly. And then He was nailed to a cross outside of Jerusalem 2000 years ago. When He died, He was judged by God the Father for all the sins human beings have ever committed, from the first man to the last man. He was judged as a sinner, so that we who have sinned and are born in sin would be judged righteous and not guilty by God.
He is the way to the Father. For after He died for sins, the Father raised Him from the dead. He opened the way through death into resurrection and life.
He is the only way to the Father. No one can come to God in any other way. We cannot deal with death and sin on our own. Attempting to explain our sins or ignore them won’t take them away. We can’t take away death either.
But Jesus has taken away our guilt, and sin, and death. And He did this not because we deserved it in any way. He did it out of pure mercy and grace.
After talking about it awhile, Mary confessed her sins, including the sin of not going to church, and was forgiven by God. So when she stands before God, she stands before Him not in the tattered clothes of her own attempts to be good and clean, but in the perfect, spotless robes of Jesus’ cleanness and righteousness. She stands washed in the blood that He shed to take away sin, death, and hell on the cross.
When Jesus was getting ready to leave His disciples, He said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
Today you are troubled. You hurt today. But maybe that hurt is a good hurt. It’s a hurt that tells you things are not as they should be. The world is not as it should be. Separation from our loved ones, death—that’s not how God created the world to be. The world is broken. And we are broken too.
But Mary’s brokenness is almost completely healed. It was healed through the death of Jesus, which was given to her when she heard the good news of His salvation and when she was baptized. And when she died she was set free from this body of sin and death in which we live. Now her soul rests with Jesus.
But the day is coming when she will be completely healed, when God will raise this body that we bury. He will raise it from the dead, completely healed of sin and death. And in this body, Mary will see Jesus and all her loved ones who have believed in Him, and will live forever.
Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you.” He didn’t mean, “I am going to heaven to make the beds and vacuum.” He meant, “I am going to prepare a place for you by shedding my blood to cover your sins.” He did that not only for Mary, but also for each one of you.
And He says, “If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you also may be with me where I am.” Since Jesus paid such a great price to have us as His own, the price of suffering hell and God’s anger for us, He cannot forget about you or abandon you. He promises to come back and take all who cling to His forgiveness to be with Him in the new heavens and the new earth.
In the meantime, He does not leave us alone either. He is with us, speaking words of life to us in the Scriptures and the preaching of His Word. He is with us, feeding us His own body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins. He is with us as His little flock gathers together to hear Him and receive Him. And where He is, all of heaven is also—including all the saints, including Mary, who rests with the Lord. He is with us, giving us life and comfort and healing, until we come to live in the Father’s house forever.
Mary is with the Lord Jesus Christ, the one who became poor that she might become rich and live in His heavenly mansions. May the same Lord grant us always to cling to Him alone and dwell with Mary in the house of the Lord forever.
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit.
- I am the stench of death (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- Your Father is Merciful – trinity 4 sermon – presentation of augsburg confession (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)