Home > Funerals > Boasting in Christ. Funeral Sermon, March 24, 2015

Boasting in Christ. Funeral Sermon, March 24, 2015


the-good-shepherd-by-philippe-de-champaigne-691259In Memoriam + Leona B. Meyer

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Romans 5:1-11

March 24, 2015

“Boasting in Christ”

Iesu Iuva

Dearly beloved in Christ:

Nancy and Rich,

Bruce and Diane,

Brian, Stephen, Lisa, and Carolyn,

Leona’s family and friends,

Members of St. Peter Lutheran Church:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

God’s Word for our comfort this morning is taken from the 5th chapter of Romans, especially these words: “Christ died for the ungodly.”

Oh may Thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold

Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old

And win with them the victor’s crown of gold!

Alleluia! Alleluia!

 

Oh, blest communion, fellowship divine!

We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;

Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine!

Alleluia! Alleluia!

 

These are words from our final hymn for this morning, which was one of Leona’s favorites. And they are so appropriate for this morning, because in the midst of our tears and our fears this morning we are -celebrating, boasting in a victory.

 

It is Leona’s victory, but it is one that she shares with everyone here who believes in her Lord Jesus Christ. For it is His victory, the victory that He won over sin and death and the grave, and which He shares with all who believe in Him, living and departed. And it is necessary that we remember this and make our boast in Christ’s victory, even as we grieve over our loss for a time of one of Christ’s faithful, bold and true soldiers.

We have not lost her. We have only lost her visible presence for a time, fighting alongside of us, just as surely as we have not lost our Lord Jesus. He is surely present with us to the end of the age, even though we can’t see Him. And Leona is with Him today. The hymn goes on:

And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long

Steals on the ear the distant triumph song

And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

 

The golden evening brightens in the west

Soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest.

Sweet is the calm of paradise the blest.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

 

This morning with God’s help I want to sing you that “distant triumph song”, so that the hearts of you who believe in Leona’s Lord Jesus Christ may be bold and strong and fight the good fight of faith until you also share in the sweet calm of paradise the blest. And if there are those this morning who do not believe or are in doubt, I want to sing these words of Jesus Christ’s triumph song to you especially, so that you may share in the rest that Leona now enjoys.

But Leona had rest when she was on earth too. Didn’t she? Not that she didn’t work. She worked constantly in her home to serve others. We know that. And it wasn’t that she didn’t have pain and trouble. She had her share, as everyone does in this vale of tears. But Leona always gave the impression of someone who came from a place of peace and rest. She was gentle, calm, gracious. Where did this peace come from? It came from an unfeigned, strong trust in her Lord Jesus Christ. The first verse of our reading from Romans 5 tells us about this peace. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Leona’s personal peace rested on a peace that was outside of her, the peace that Jesus made for her and the whole world with God.

Peace with God is not something natural, something people are born with. In fact just the opposite is true. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son…” says the tenth verse. Verse 9 speaks of the wrath or anger of God which Christians are saved from. By nature we are not basically good with nothing standing between us and our God. By nature we are enemies of God and subject to His anger. We don’t naturally trust God—we naturally run away from Him and look to false gods to help us instead, gods of our own invention. The true God does not require that we basically be decent people and then He will be pleased with us. He demands that we be righteous, which means that we fulfill His holy ten commandments not only outwardly, with our actions and words, but also inwardly, with our thoughts and emotions.

That means that it isn’t enough that we partly trust God, but that we love and trust in Him with all our hearts. It’s not enough that we go to church occasionally or even often, but God requires that we hold His word sacred and gladly hear and learn it. God doesn’t require simply that we don’t commit murder, but that we love our neighbor as ourselves, that we are free from anger. He doesn’t simply require that we don’t commit adultery, but that we don’t even look at another person with lust. He doesn’t simply command that we not tell lies about our neighbor, but that we speak well of him and defend his reputation. God’s anger and wrath is coming on the world not only because people do sinful deeds and speak sinful words, but because they think sinful thoughts and feel sinful feelings. And His wrath means eternal punishment, eternal torment in hell. That is what is coming for everyone who is not righteous in the sight of God.

According to this standard, the standard of God’s law, no one is righteous. No one has peace with God according to the law of God. According to God’s law no one can be assured of eternal life, but only wrath and judgment. And this was true of Leona, too, as good and gentle as she was. She would have been the first to tell you that she was a sinner before God, as good as her life was before people.

Yet despite being a sinner, she had peace with God. She was “justified by faith…through [her] Lord Jesus Christ.” That means that though she was a sinner God counted her to be righteous on account of her faith in His Son Jesus. Why did He do that? Paul tells us in verse 6: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Let those words linger in your ears and on your heart. Those are the words of the distant triumph song sung by all the saints who rest from their labors. “Christ died for the ungodly.” It doesn’t say that Jesus Christ died for the worthy, for those who had tried hard to keep God’s commandments. It says He died for the ungodly, for those who had not kept God’s commandments at all. It says He died for us while we were still weak, while we were still powerless to do anything pleasing in God’s sight. While there was nothing good whatsoever in us, Christ died for us.

He died and took the punishment and penalty for all our sins of thought, word, and deed. He died, the righteous for the unrighteous, that our sins might be covered and we might be reconciled to God. He died for our sins and turned away God’s wrath against us. He made peace with God for us by shedding His blood on our behalf. By His death He blotted out the judgment that was against us and made us to be accounted not guilty of any of our sins. Instead, by His sinless death for us, we are declared righteous before God.

All this happens without any works on our part, only and solely by Jesus’ work for us. That is why it says, “Christ died for the ungodly,” and “while we were still sinners for us.” And this is our victory song when the fight is fierce and the warfare long, when we are tempted by the devil, when our sins accuse us, when our loved ones die, when people persecute us. “For very rarely for a righteous man will someone die, though perhaps for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God shows His own love to us in this—while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Our victory song that strengthens us to continue and not give up is that the holy son of God died for us while we were still ungodly, and our sins are forgiven for His sake. Jesus has blotted out our sins, turned God’s face toward us in favor, and won eternal life for us. And if He did this for us when there was nothing good in us at all, when we were still sinners and ungodly, how much more now will He help us and see us through to eternal life now that He has caused us to believe this?

Believing that Jesus has done this, we are “justified.” It means that God counts the righteousness of His Son to us. We stand before God as if we were Jesus, as if we had never sinned. All that Jesus is and has done is counted to us.

This is what Leona believed. Because she believed it, she had peace with God. If you believe it you too have peace with God. It is not a peace anchored in our feelings and circumstances, because our feelings shift like the waves of the sea, and our fortunes change like the tides. It is a peace that has been accomplished by Jesus, as surely as He shed His blood and died. He atoned for our sins, turned away God’s anger, and turned His face toward us. It is an unchanging peace; it is the rock on which lasting peace in our hearts is grounded.

And we should make our boast about this. Paul says this several times in the reading from Romans chapter 5. We have something to boast about in this world where we are given over to suffering, weakness, and death. The world thinks Christians are crazy and pitiful. We suffer often more than other people, and yet all our hope is in something neither they nor we can see with our eyes. All the world sees in us is a gathering of weak, all-too-human people telling one another that we will have glory and eternal life when this world is over. But Paul says that we Christians in the face of all this “boast.” In our version of the bible the word used is “rejoice” but the literal word in the original language is “boast.” “We boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” That means we boast and brag not of ourselves, but of our God who has reconciled us to Him through the death of His Son. And it says, “We boast of the hope of the glory of God.” That means we dare to boast that we will surely see God’s glory and stand before Him as righteous and have eternal life. How can sinful people who are dying like everyone else make such a boast? Because our salvation does not depend on ourselves and what we have done, but on Christ and what He has done. It has been accomplished by Jesus, who died for us while we were yet ungodly and sinners and justified us.

And Paul says we boast in one other thing. “We boast in our sufferings.” Today we are suffering. We say goodbye to a mother and grandmother, a kind friend and mentor, a Christian example and witness, and a faithful soldier of Christ and His church which is in the midst of a war with the devil and his hosts. Why would we brag in the midst of our sufferings? Paul says because we know that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”

We boast in God who has justified us with the blood of His Son. And we can also boast when our Father in heaven lets us experience suffering, because our Father doesn’t let us suffer to no purpose. Suffering produces endurance, perseverance. Through suffering we learn to hold on to Christ and what He has done for us no matter what. And perseverance produces character. As we persevere in trusting in Christ we develop a holy character, like Leona had, which trusts the Lord in hardship and doesn’t give up. Finally character produces hope—not hope that everything will turn out as we would like it in this world, but hope for that heavenly inheritance Christ purchased for us with His blood. Hope for eternal life and seeing the glory of God. Hope of the day when we are at rest, our battles are finished, and every tear is wiped from our eyes by the hand of God. And this hope does not put us to shame. It’s not a vain hope, like so many of the hopes of the world. The hopes of the world apart from Christ are destined to perish in the wrath of God that is coming on the world. But our hope is a living hope. It does not perish, spoil, or fade. It is stored up in heaven for us where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

Jesus is our hope. We boast that He died for us because He died to justify the ungodly. We boast that because He died for us and rose again He will raise these bodies from the dead to live with Him forever when the world with its false hopes perishes. We make our boast that even in our sufferings He is preparing us for that day.

That is our hope and our boast for Leona, that through the blood of Jesus she now rests and is at peace with God forever. The peace which began for her in this life through faith in Christ she now enjoys more perfectly.

And on this day of mixed sadness and joy when we commend her to the Lord and say goodbye, we also make our boast in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not all Leonas. We do not all have her strength of faith, her wealth of love, her gentleness, her sanctification. But we have Jesus who died for the ungodly, the same Jesus she had, the same Jesus who has made peace with God for us and who justifies us. And so we boast in Him that we will share everlasting life with Leona through His blood.

But lo there breaks a yet more glorious day

The saints triumphant rise in bright array

The king of glory passes on His way.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

 

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast

Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host.

Singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

 

The peace of God which passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

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