Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Homily for the Funeral of Joyce Kullman


John 15:1-17; Romans 8:31-39; Isaiah 40:1-11

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

All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass.

But you did not need to be reminded of that fact today. For, each of you gathered here this day knows this to be true. Today you are only too familiar with frailty of your own flesh and of how each of your lives is but a breath in the sweeping history of this world. For, you are here this day because your beloved wife and mother, your cherished sister, and your dear nana, and a sister in Christ to us all, has been struck down in shocking suddenness so that we have all been reminded that our flesh is surely grass that is here today and gone tomorrow.

But I would have you know today this truth as well: Though you are grass, you are God’s grass, sown by His own gracious will and hand. He has planted each and every one of you in a family, in a community, in a nation, in this world of His making, that you would grow and mature and bear much, and good fruit. For, God is a gardener and He is a farmer, He is a shepherd, and He is a father and a husband. He tills the rocky soil your hearts, He prunes your gangly, fruitless branches, he leads and chastens you, His wayward sheep and children, and He forgives you and redeems His oft adulterous Bride. For, He is a God of life and He is a God of love, and you are His precious planting in which He delights.

Moreover, God did not create you to die, but He created you to live for Him, in Him and with Him. Your God is not a god of the dead but the true and only God of the living. Death is but the fruit of disobedience and rebellion against His will and Law, against God Himself. It began with Adam and Eve, but it continues through all of us sons and daughters of Adam, and it brings us much heartache and pain, suffering and sorrow. For, death is not natural and it is not God’s will, but death now belongs to God and it is not outside of His will and His power.

This is because God so loved the world, God so loved you His precious planting, that He planted His Son Jesus into this world as a grain of wheat that would die and bear much fruit. He made Him to be sin that knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. Then God raised Jesus from the dead, the first fruits of those who die in Him. And because He lives, we will also live. And even though we die, death has lost its sting and we shall never die.

This truth is what drives St. Paul to write in boldness: I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor power, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. He also puts it this way: If God is for us, who can be against us? And this way: For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Remembering that all flesh is grass is good for you! It helps you to put things into their proper perspective. It helps you to put your life into the proper perspective. You are a precious planting of the LORD, sown to bear good and much fruit. And, through Holy Baptism you have been grafted into the True Vine Jesus Christ so that His death is your death and His life is your life. Likewise, His fruit is your fruit; if you abide in Him He will abide in you and you will bear much fruit. And the fruit of Jesus Christ is love.

God is love. In love, God sent His Son to die that you might live. In love, Jesus laid down His life in death for your sin. In love, God raised Jesus up so that you might be raised from the dead and live eternally in His love. God is love. Greater love is not possible than this: that a man should lay down His life for His friends. Jesus has laid down His life for you. Now He commands you and empowers you to love one another as He has loved you. You are a precious planting of the LORD, sown to bear good and much fruit – and the fruit you bear is love, that your joy may be full.

Dear Russ, Tracie, Jen, Ken, Chris, and Maria; dear Karen, Eric, and Nina; dear family and friends, brothers and sisters Christ, our sister in Christ Joyce was and is a precious planting of the LORD, sown to bear good and much fruit – and the fruit that she has borne is love, and her joy was and is and ever shall be full.

True, God-given love is not so much an emotion as it is an action or a deed. Love is self-sacrifice, and that is why no greater love is possible than to lay down one’s life for another. But selfless, sacrificial love need not only be borne in such a final way, but the love of God is made manifest in us whenever we sacrifice our own personal, material, financial, and emotional needs to help with the needs of another.

Such selfless and sacrificial love marked every facet of Joyce’s life and deeds. Joyce lived to help others because she long ago had died to her self and lived her life for Christ. She was and is a gleaming example of Jesus’ teaching, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Joyce showed love for all people regardless of age, gender, race, financial status, or creed. She was a loving and patient teacher of children and youth with special needs, learning, and behavioral disorders. Kids that others would right off as unteachable, Joyce taught and loved. She helped senior citizens, going well beyond just checking in, taking them to doctor appointments, sometimes in Manhattan (!) and spending her own money, time, and self with no concern. She and Russ adopted you five grown children as infants and gave you a loving home, a good education, and set you on the path to self-sufficient adulthood you each enjoy now. And Joyce was absolutely a pillar in this little church, teaching Sunday School, Confirmation, and countless other things for countless years, serving on the Church Council, and ministering to church members and families in their times of need. All of this she did without a hint of self-concern or self-interest out love for her Lord and for the people He died to redeem.

Joyce is a precious planting of the LORD, sown to bear good and much fruit. She has abided in Jesus throughout her life and He has abided in her. She knew that her flesh was grass, therefore she trusted in her Lord. Though today we will commit her body to the earth, we take comfort that her soul is with Jesus and that her joy is full. On the Last Day she will be raised with a new body like the resurrected body of Jesus and we with her will behold Him with our own eyes face to face. For, our victory over death is secured in Christ’s victory over death and our resurrection is secured in Christ’s resurrection.

Now we walk through the valley of the shadow of death surrounded by enemies and we are comforted, for our LORD goes with us to guide, feed, refresh, and protect us. But Joyce, she has passed through that valley and now dwells in the house of the LORD.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

No comments: