All Things New. Funeral Sermon Jan. 9 2015
In Memoriam + Coletta L. Holder
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Matthew 9:18-26; Revelation 21: 1-17; Isaiah 25: 6-9
January 9, 2015
Elizabeth and Jason,
Emily and Devin,
Leslie and Paul,
Coletta’s family and friends,
Members of St. Peter:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
God’s word for our comfort this morning is from the Epistle, the 21st chapter of Revelation: “And He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”
Beloved in Christ,
Coletta touched many lives in many ways.
First and foremost she loved her kids and her husband and was always telling people about them. She gave them life and love and now leaves behind a family that loves each other and is rich in happy memories, and a family that sorely misses her.
She touched St. Peter too, both the school and the congregation. Hundreds of kids now grown into adults who passed through the halls of this school will always remember Mrs. Holder.
And those who gather here to listen to God’s Word have had their lives touched by Coletta too. She touched us with the adornment of the altar, bringing out Mary and Joseph and the shepherds and the baby Jesus each Christmas. She brought flowers to the altar, pointsettias and lights at Christmas, the lilies and hyacinths at Easter that filled the sanctuary with the fragrance of resurrection. She touched us with her unforgettable laugh, with her jokes, with those little firecrackers at Mardi Gras. She touched us with her service—on the council, in the financial office, on the board of Christian Education, and in other capacities too numerous to mention. Coletta served the Lord and this church.
She loved us, and we felt it.
Now she leaves behind the many lives she’s touched.
She also touched Jesus. She trusted in Him. She took hold of Him. And see how Jesus in the Gospel reading does not disappoint those who trust in Him. The ruler trusts that if Jesus only lays His hand on his daughter, who has died, she will live again. And so Jesus goes with him. He goes to do what the man’s faith expects; He will not let him be disappointed. And while He is on the way there a lady touches His garment, believing that she will be made well if she only touches his clothes. Jesus does not ignore her because He’s previously engaged or because He’s occupied with an important person. He stops, notices her, speaks courage and comfort to her, and heals her.
We read this today from Matthew chapter 9 because Coletta read it for hope and comfort during her struggle with cancer. She had it marked in her bible.
Notice that with all her years of serving Christ Coletta put herself in the place of that woman with the chronic bleeding. That woman didn’t come striding up to Jesus with her list of accomplishments. She didn’t even ask to be noticed. She just came and touched His robe, like a beggar seeking a crumb.
That’s the way Coletta saw herself coming to Jesus. Not with a list of achievements but as a broken person needing mercy. Confident not in herself but in the mercy of Jesus.
That is the only way to come to Jesus. We come to Jesus broken. Whether we have cancer or a flow of blood or are healthy, we are all dying. We need His help as desperately as dying people, because that is what we are.
And Jesus—He doesn’t ignore anyone’s desperation. He doesn’t get tired or too busy. He has come into the world for this purpose—to do nothing but serve sinners. To serve those who are broken by death. He has come to rescue and save them.
But if that is how Jesus is, why didn’t He listen to the prayers of so many of His people who prayed earnestly for Coletta’s healing? Why didn’t He heal Coletta like He did the woman who came and touched His garment?
Did we not pray right? Did we not have the right kind of faith? Or not enough?
No. There is only one kind of faith that saves. It is faith that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of sinners, their helper in every kind of distress. Whoever believes that Jesus died to save us from our sins has the right kind of faith.
And it’s not a question of having enough faith. Jesus says faith like a grain of mustard seed is enough to uproot a mountain. The tiniest spark of faith in Christ is enough to save.
Coletta trusted Jesus just like the woman in the Gospel. That’s why she marked the story in her bible and told other people about it.
It was a beautiful thing, this trust that Coletta had. It was just like a child’s trust. If I touch Jesus’ garment I will be made whole.
Can you imagine having that kind of faith in a human being? Jesus was and is a human being. And human beings, normally, no matter what kind of power they have—there is a point at which it runs out, whether it’s political power, physical strength, knowledge of the natural worl, even miraculous power. Our doctors today are like gods. They know so much about the human body and how to cure it. But there is a limit to their power. The hour comes when they say, “We can’t do anything else except make them comfortable.”
But the woman in the Gospel believed that such power to give life exudes from Jesus that if she would just touch the clothes that hung from His body she would be cured of a twelve-year-long torment.
Coletta had the same faith. If she touched Jesus she would be cured of cancer.
Her faith was not misplaced, because Jesus is God and man.
He has the power to create out of nothing, to speak the universe into existence. He surely has the power to restore life to the dying and health to the sick.
And He can do what is even greater than these things.
He has the power to make a new creation and bring us out of the old into the new. As mighty as the power is to create, the power to re-create what has been corrupted by sin and death is still greater. To bring us from the old into the new God has to destroy sin without utterly destroying us, who are sinful. That is the miracle Jesus had come to do. The miracle of healing the woman with chronic bleeding, even the miracle of raising the ruler’s daughter from the dead were just a prologue to this greatest of miracles.
It is this greatest of miracles Jesus gave to Coletta when she touched Him.
He came to lay aside the garment that the woman in our Gospel touched, to lay it aside for the soldiers as He was lifted up to wear the shroud that Isaiah says covers all nations. He came to wear nakedness and shame, bruises and wounds. He came to wear the wrath of God and the curse that covered the whole world. That is the garment and shroud that covered all nations that resulted in mourning, cries, eyes red with tears, pain, and finally death.
He took off the garment that had healed the woman and put on the garment of sin, death, and God’s wrath. He separated us from our sin by taking it on Himself and putting it away, nailing it to the cross. “On this mountain,” Isaiah says, “the Lord will take away the covering that is over all the nations…He will swallow up death forever.”
In His death Jesus swallowed up death, sin, and God’s judgment against sinners. He opened up a new creation for us and showed that that new creation had begun when He rose from the dead.
John heard a great voice from the throne say, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And then, to emphasize the point and certify it, the voice of God said, “Write this down, for these words are faithful and true.” What? That He is making everything new. That He is bringing the world where there is no more mourning and pain, where God dwells with us and we are His own people. He is bringing the work He did on the cross to its conclusion in the new heavens and earth.
It is impossible that someone should trust in Jesus with the faith of a child and Jesus disappoint them. See how tender and compassionate Jesus si with those who come to Him for help. He hurries to the place where the ruler’s daughter lies. He speaks with strength to give heart to the woman who touches His garment. “Be courageous, daughter, your faith has made you well.”
He did not disappoint Coletta either.
“Made you well” is one way to translate the word used in Matthew’s Gospel, but the literal meaning is, “saved you.” “Your faith has saved you,” Jesus says. The woman thought, “If I only touch His garment, I will be saved.”
Coletta touched Jesus, and her faith saved her. She didn’t touch His robe. She tool hold of Jesus Himself and made Him her own by faith.
Not that that faith was her own doing. It was the gift of God, worked by God through His word and sacraments. He worked faith in Jesus in Coletta when she was baptized. He sustained and nourished her faith by His Word when it was read to her from the Scriptures, taught her in school, preached to her by her pastors. There Jesus spoke His true and faithful word that John wrote down. There Jesus assured her that He had made all things new in His death and resurrection, and that this salvation was for her also.
He confirmed her faith by giving her His crucified body to eat and His blood to drink. He spoke with His strong voice when she confessed her sins and pronounced her absolved of them before the throne of God. ”Take courage, daughter. Your sins are forgiven.”
This faith saved Coletta. She didn’t take hold of His robe and receive a temporary, earthly healing. She took hold of Jesus and received a new creation. All things were made new for her. Her sins were forgiven. God was well-pleased with her. In place of eternal death she received everlasting life with Christ where there is no mourning, no cries, no pain, no tears, no death.
And all Christians who believe in Jesus take hold of Him and receive this same gift—a new creation. We receive the forgiveness of sins from God in Him and everything is new for us.
Coletta took hold of Jesus and received more and better than anyone was hoping for. That’s how it is for everyone who trusts in Christ. When we ask Him for what is good, He never refuses or disappoints us. He always gives us what we ask for or something better.
In the midst of our fear and grief it’s easy to forget that to be with the Lord Jesus is better than to be in this old creation that is passing away. Jesus told the thief on the cross that he would be with Jesus the same day in “paradise.” If it is paradise to rest with Jesus—to have one’s soul with him while the body sleeps in the grave–what will it be like when Jesus returns and the dead are raised to live with Him forever in the new heavens and the new earth?
Then there will be joy and gladness like the reading from Isaiah says. “This is the Lord—we have waited for Him. Let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” That is what we will say on that day. But for Coletta the joy is beginning today and the mourning and crying and pain has ended forever.
Who says this? Our God and Savior Jesus Christ, our brother Jesus Christ. He spoke with a strong voice to the woman in the Gospel: “Take courage, daughter. Your faith has saved you.” He said the same thing to Coletta as she trusted in Jesus to save her. Now the great and mighty voice of the Lord speaks to us what is sure and certain to give us courage.
“He will swallow up death forever, and the reproach of His people He will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.”
And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Your faith has saved you. The Lord Jesus will not disappoint any who trust in Him. Go in peace.
Soli Deo Gloria