Sunday, February 21, 2010

Christian Funeral for Jean Bieber

St. John 3:16-21


Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

You’ve heard it said that it is better to give than to receive. But it’s not always easy to give, is it? It goes against our nature, which we have to admit, tends to be more than a little self-serving. And let’s face it, we like to receive. We like to get stuff. We crave attention, admiration, and respect.

It’s somewhat easier to give to people that are nice to us, that like us, people that might give to us in return. But what about giving to people who don’t like us, people that hate us, and hurt us, and speak evil of us?

And yet, that is exactly how we are in relation to God. We disobey His commandments. We disrespect His honor. We curse His Name. We blame Him for our problems. We accuse Him of not being there for us. We take for granted the gifts that He gives us and still we complain that we don’t have enough. And still He loves us, still He gives to us.

Nine weeks ago we celebrated Christmas. What we celebrated was the precious, holy gift that God in His love gave to the world – His only begotten son, born as a man, Emmanuel, God with us. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

God gave to us this most precious gift because He loves us, poor, miserable sinners that we are. He loves us, rebellious, prodigal sons and daughters who treat Him with contempt and squander His grace. He loves us, stubborn, near-sighted sheep who love to wander. He loves us with the gift of His Son, the gift of Himself, laid down in death that we might not perish but have eternal life.

God gave the world the gift of His Son that by His perishing we might have eternal life. And that’s what Lent and Holy Week are all about , the pilgrimage of Jesus to the cross of Good Friday, for us. For this is how God loved the world, with selfless, self-sacrificial love. The Father sent His Son to die. The Son willingly laid aside His life so that sinners could live. The Holy Spirit delivers that gift to sinful men, turning their hearts in repentance, creating faith that clings to the precious life-giving gift of Jesus, won for us in His death and resurrection.

And this is how God loved Jean. He sent His Son to die for her sins. He purchased her in Jesus’ blood. He made her new. And this was a gift, a pure, holy, and perfect gift. For God so loved the world, God so loved Jean, that He gave… He gave His only begotten Son.

Now, what do you say when you receive a gift? You say “Thank you.” If there was anyone I have been privileged to know who was thankful for the gift of forgiveness, life, and salvation she had received in Christ Jesus, it was Jean Bieber. When we would pray together she would softly say “Thank You, Jesus.” When she received communion she would softly say “Thank You, Jesus.” When people were less than kind to her and spoke evil things about her she would softly say “Thank You, Jesus.” And even when her feet were swollen and sore and she couldn’t walk she would softly say “Thank You, Jesus.”

Jean’s life was one of thankfulness and praise to God the Father for the gift of God the Son given to her by God the Holy Spirit. Jean waited for the LORD all her life and she rejoiced in His salvation. She has passed through the valley of the shadow of death and dwells in the house of the LORD forever. For the dwelling place of God is now and forever with man. He wipes every tear from her eyes, there is no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain – these former things are what has passed away. For Jean, and for all who receive the free gift of Jesus’ death and resurrection, all things are new.

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

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