Thursday, October 9, 2014
Homily for the Christian Funeral of Katharina Rosa-Marie Elizabeth Drensek
John 14:1-6; Romans 8:31-39; Job 19:21-27
Dearly beloved family and friends of our departed sister in Christ Katharina Drensek, brother Paul, niece Krista, nephews Paul and Robert, grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We are gathered here today to remember, to celebrate, and to give thanks for the faith and life our Lord granted to His servant and His child Katharina. Listen again to the loving and comforting words our Lord Jesus has for Katharina, and also for you: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
God’s Son came as a man to redeem Katharina, and to redeem you, from sin and death. Jesus rose from the dead that Katharina, and you, will also rise. Jesus ascended to His Father in heaven that Katharina, and you, will one day join Him there. And Jesus is coming again to take Katharina, and you, to be with Him in the holy presence of God just as He has promised.
Thus, we must never forget of what our lives consist, and of what is their purpose, their end and goal. We came from God and, we will return to God. We were created for communion with God. It was because of pride, discontent, anger, and hatred that we fell into sin, and that we must now bear the fruit of sin, which is death. But God in His mercy and love could not, did not, leave us in that sorry state, but He did what was necessary to redeem us and to restore us to full communion with Him once again. God became one of us. Our Creator became as one of His creatures, and He obeyed the Law perfectly and fulfilled it for us. He even did the unthinkable – though He was innocent and without sin, He willingly took our sin, your sin, my sin, Katharina’s sin, the sin of the whole world, upon Himself and He suffered the punishment for sin and its fruit, death, in our place, for us, for Katharina, for you. In exchange for our sin and death, we now receive Christ’s forgiveness and eternal life. O blessed exchange!
While, undoubtedly, we believe that Katharina was called home too soon, we take comfort that Katharina is with her Jesus. We take comfort that each of us who trust in Jesus are guaranteed the same when we die. As Jesus said to the repentant thief on the cross, “This day you will be with me in paradise,” so each Christian soul goes to Jesus upon death. And yet, this is not the end state, or even the best state, but the Lord has something better still in store for us – the resurrection of our bodies and the reunification of our eternal souls with our glorified bodies. This is what Jesus means when He says, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” The Lord will return to take Katharina, body and soul, to Himself. The Lord will return to take you, body and soul, to Himself. This means that you have so much more than happy memories to hold on to. This means that you have so much more than a voice and a smile to remember. This means that, one day, you will get to see your loved ones again with your own eyes. You will get to wrap your flesh and blood arms around your loved ones again and hug them and hold them. You will get to hear their voice again, not in a memory or in a vision, but with your own ears. Indeed, this is what Job, trusting in the LORD’s promise, confessed two thousand years before Jesus’ birth: “I know that my Redeemer lives…. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” Therefore, let us find comfort now, not in mere platitudes, but in the eternal, true, and living Word of God which cannot be moved and cannot pass away, but will be fulfilled, for it is the eternal and unchangeable, holy Word of the living God Himself, and it brings into being what it says.
“What shall we say to these things?” asks St. Paul. “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His won Son by gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” Indeed, there is nothing for you to fear. Grief and mourning are but for a while. We are not like those without hope. Our hope comes from the certainty and the assurance of God’s Word of promise. That He sent His only-begotten Son into our flesh to suffer and die for us is His pledge and promise kept for you. Truly, in all things, even in suffering, grief, sorrow, and death, we are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” You can be certain of this: “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 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.” Or, as Martin Luther put it in his great hymn: “Take they our life, goods, fame, child, and wife; though these all be gone our victory has been won. The Kingdom ours remaineth.”
This is the Truth. And Jesus is “the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.” Sadly, we have an enemy who wants nothing more than for you to not believe it, or to believe that it’s not for you. But the Truth is that Jesus is for you. Jesus is for Katharina. Jesus is for everyone, of every time, and of every place: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but will have eternal life.” Satan will try to get you to believe that’s just too easy. Surely you have to do something, contribute something, earn something. Surely you have to meet God half-way. After all, God helps those who help themselves, right? If you’re a good person He’ll accept you, right? Wrong! Absolutely, completely wrong! God has done all that is necessary in the gift of His Son Jesus Christ. Nothing you can do will help, but God has done it all for you. You need only to receive His gift and trust in His gift. Then it is yours, no strings attached. But His gift will change you. His gift will change you, the way a seed planted in the earth sprouts and grows and bears fruit, so will you bear the fruit of His love. The way an apple tree bears apples, so will you bear good fruits that serve your neighbor and that are pleasing to the LORD. Your works are fruit; they come after the LORD’s gracious gift. Jesus is the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life; no one comes to the Father except through Him.
And that is precisely why we can take comfort today, and find hope today, and even give thanks to God today. For, like Job, we know that our Redeemer lives. And, we know that Katharina lives, even though she has died. We know that she is with Jesus right now. And, we know that, on the Last Day, when our Lord returns, He will raise Katharina, along with you and me and all the faithful, with glorified bodies, reunited with our eternal souls, to live in heaven with God and all His children forever. We know that we will see, hear, touch, hug, and hold our beloved sister in Christ again. Does not your heart faint within you?
Tante Kea (Aunt Katharina) believed in this. Tante Kea was ready for this. Tante Kea has received the first part of the LORD’s promise already. Tante Kea is with Jesus. Still, Tante Kea is waiting and looking forward to the fulfillment of the fullness of the LORD’s promise, when Jesus returns. Then she will see, hear, touch, hug, and hold you once again. Then her, and your, joy will be complete. But, for now, we take great comfort in knowing that Tante Kea is with Jesus. To be with Jesus, our Good Shepherd, is to experience no want, no lack of anything needful at all – no suffering, no hunger, no thirst, no sorrow, no tears, no death. “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Our Good Shepherd has blazed a trail through the valley of the shadow of death and has knocked down the door that would keep us in our graves. Now that door has become an open passageway to the house of the LORD, and Jesus is the way. Do not be afraid. We are not like those without hope. You will see Tante Kea again in the house of the LORD.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.