Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Homily for the Christian Funeral of Raeann Rosenbergen
John 6:27-40; Romans 8:14-23; Ecclesiastes 12:1-7
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Chris, Charlie, Sheryl, family and friends of our departed sister in Christ Raeann, grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
To say that the past several years have been difficult for the Rosenbergen family would be a gross understatement, I suspect. Dear Fred, husband and patriarch, died in the Lord just three years ago after several years of decline and struggle, the last couple requiring Raeann to serve as nursemaid in the home. And then, not long after Fred’s passing, Raeann’s own health began to deteriorate, and cancer returned and began to claim her. Understandably, there have been struggles with grief, maybe even depression. There have also been struggles with loneliness and fear. And, there may even have been struggles with medications and other treatments taken to alleviate the feelings of grief, depression, loneliness, and fear. Some of these struggles simply come with age and are natural to the course of our lives ever since man’s fall into sin. Indeed, our Old Testament lesson today from Ecclesiastes describes these days as “evil days” and years of which we say “I have pleasure in them.” However, the fact that both Fred and Raeann struggled with cancer can surely be seen to be exceptionally difficult and out of proportion within the general populace for two souls to bear. Indeed, the lesson from Ecclesiastes describes it well: “the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, […], and those who look through the windows are dimmed and the doors on the street are shut.”
Indeed, these are bleak words, and I only share them with you today in order that you may view your life within its proper context, between conception and death. For, death, and all its corollaries – aging, decline, and disease – are the result of sin – not of any one’s sin in particular, but of sin in general, what we call original sin – the “In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” kind of sin. And so, we all die. We know that well enough. But, better that we take heed of that fact when we are young and vital, and not only when pleasureless days come upon us. And yet, we need not be gloomy or negative, for we are not like those without hope. Indeed, we, like faithful Job, know that our Redeemer lives, and that, even in the midst of struggle, and suffering, grief, depression, loneliness, fear, and even death itself, we will persevere and will emerge victorious through the victory that is ours, even now, through Jesus Christ our Lord. For, Christ has won the victory for us over sin and Satan, death, and the grave. And, that is what we are here today to remember and to celebrate as we struggle and grieve and mourn our dear departed sister in Christ, Raeann. The LORD has made a promise to Raeann, even as He has promised you: He will never leave you or forsake you. And, nothing can separate you from His love in Jesus Christ. Christ has died, and Christ has risen; and, Christ will raise up Raeann, and you, and all the faithful on the Last Day, and they will live with Him in His Father’s house forevermore, where there is no struggle, suffering, grief, depression, loneliness, fear, and where there is no death any longer.
You see, it is all too easy to take these things for granted when you are young and vital and death seems a long way off. The LORD actually permits trial and tribulation and suffering to come our way so that our hearts are turned back to him in faith and trust. The LORD would have you see that, even in the midst of life, we are dying, that we would not so cling to the things of this world and the pleasures of life, but see this life as preparation for the next. Our Lord Jesus teaches, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on Him God the Father has set His seal.” Your LORD would have you know that you are His children now through baptism into Christ and faith, even though what we will be in the resurrection has not yet appeared. This should be a source of great hope for you, even as you face trial and tribulation, suffering, and even death. St. Paul exhorts you saying, “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us,” and, “The whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now,” “ever longing for the revealing of the sons of God.”
We have a common enemy, even the Enemy of God Himself, who eagerly desires for you to fall out of faith, to become irrepressibly angry and full of hatred towards God because of trials, tribulations, suffering, and death, or to become the opposite, and fall into hopelessness or despair. Either way, he wins. Your enemy would have you focus only on the bad times and on the sorrow and grief, pain and misery, and believe that is all there is. But, you know that is not true. You know that there have been many good times, happy times, and blessings. And, if you look at your life, and the lives of those you love, with the eyes of faith, you will see and remember that even in the hard times, and even in the dark times, there is a peace which passes our human understanding, even comfort, and hope, for He who created you has promised never to leave you or forsake you, and nothing can separate you from His love which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
I’ve known the Rosenbergen family the entire twelve years I’ve served as Pastor of The Lutheran Church of Christ the King. Sheryl and Michael, yours was the first wedding I was blessed to solemnize as a newly ordained Pastor. I’ve baptized your children, and I’ve ministered to your family through your Father’s illness and death, and now your Mother’s. I’ve seen the hard times you’ve been through, but I’ve also seen the closeness and love you’ve shown for each other. I saw all those photos last night at the funeral home, and I noticed that there were a lot of smiles; they were all photos of joy and celebration and life. You have been richly blessed with loving parents and loving siblings, with faithful spouses and beautiful children. It is clear that Fred and Raeann gave you everything they could because they loved you and wanted the best for you. And, it is clear that you have loved them and cared for them in their weakness and remained vigilant by them even through death. You were a blessing to them, and a comfort and joy, even as they were a blessing, comfort, and joy to you.
I know that in these last months, Raeann shut a lot of people out. Her home was like the one described in Ecclesiastes: “The windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut.” She was under attack by an Enemy – your Enemy, and God’s Enemy. But, you refused to leave her alone and let him win. Even through the last days and hours, you were with her, and that was a source of great comfort and peace for her. In truth, I believe that Raeann was more confidant and at peace these past two or three weeks than I had seen her in the last year. I believe that it was family and faith that carried her through, and I believe that she died in peace, and I know that she is with Jesus, and with Fred, where there is no struggle or suffering, no grief, depression, loneliness, fear, and no death. And, that is not the end of the story, for that is not the end of your story. For, there will come a day when you will see them again, with your own eyes, and touch and hug them again, with your own arms, and hear them and speak to them again with your own ears and mouth. Though you have grief and sorrow and sadness now, though you miss them now, if you reflect on things with the eyes of faith, you would not wish them back, but your only wish will be to be with them where they are. Take heart, find comfort, and be at peace in the sure and certain promise “that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and [the LORD] will raise him up on the Last Day.”
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.