Saturday, September 17, 2016

Christian Funeral for Virginia Mikalsen

John 14:1-6; Revelation 21:1-7; Isaiah 25:6-9

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Kristine and Kevin, Thomas and Caroline, Barbara and Joseph, Ryan, Connor, Kayla, and Alex, and all of Granny’s beloved grandchildren, and extended family, neighbors, and friends of our departed sister in Christ, Virginia Mikalsen: Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to remember and to give thanks for the life and faith of our sister Virginia, and to give thanks to our Lord and God who purchased Virginia from sin and death in the holy, innocent shed blood of His Son Jesus Christ, and has promised forgiveness and life everlasting to all who trust in Him: “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 redeemed Virginia from sin and death when Jesus died on the cross for her sins, and for the sins of all people. But, Virginia received that forgiveness and life personally when she was baptized seventy-five years ago. Then the old evil nature she was conceived and born with was drowned in those cleansing and purifying waters and the Holy Spirit took up residence in Virginia and created and sustained faith in her throughout her life until the day her soul was taken to Jesus. In Holy Baptism, God made His covenant with Virginia personal, and He named her and claimed her as His own daughter with the promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you. I am with you always, even unto the end of the age. And, nothing can separate you from my love which is in Jesus Christ.” Therefore, you who grieve and mourn, take comfort and find peace, not in empty platitudes like, “Virginia was a good woman,” but in the rock-solid, objective love, mercy, grace, compassion, and forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ. God made a promise to Virginia, even as He has promised you, that even a mustard seed of faith will receive sonship to the Father, the entirety of the Kingdom of Heaven, and life everlasting in Jesus Christ. God is good. God is love. God is truth. And, God is unchanging. Therefore, do not fear, but give thanks to the LORD and glorify His Name by trusting in Him and clinging to Jesus in faith for forgiveness, life, and salvation, and show and share His love, mercy, grace, compassion, and forgiveness to others to the glory of His Most Holy Name.
Listen again to the words of the Prophet Isaiah from the Old Testament reading you heard just a moment ago: “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces.” This is true now for you in Jesus Christ, and yet the fullness of this truth you do not yet experience. But, Virginia does. Likewise, when St. John proclaims in the Revelation, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away,” this promise is both now, and not yet, for you, but Virginia is experiencing this peace and comfort right now. As Jesus promised the repentant thief who was crucified with Him saying, “Truly, this day you will be with me in paradise,” even so Virginia, and you, and all who die in the Lord, are with Jesus in paradise.
The Lord is your Shepherd as you make your way through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. That valley is not something you pass through only when you die, but it is your life, right now. From conception to death, you traverse through that valley. And, as you make your pilgrim way, you are not alone, for your Lord Jesus is with you caring for you, guiding you, and protecting you, feeding you with His body and His blood, leading you where He Himself has already trod, out of death and into life everlasting in His Father’s house. What comfort and peace this Word and Promise should bring you even now, even as you grieve and mourn the death of Virginia.
Therefore, let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in your Lord and Savior Jesus. In His Father’s house are many rooms. Jesus has gone before you to prepare a place for you there. And, one day, He will come again to take you to be with Him forever, to be with Virginia forever. Until then, be comforted in the assurance that Virginia is with Jesus. However, even more, rejoice, that one day, you will see her again. You will see your mother and grandmother, your friend and your sister in Christ once again, with your own eyes. You will hear her voice with your own ears. You will hold her real flesh and blood hands and throw your real flesh and blood arms around her real flesh and blood shoulders. The way it was once is the way it will be, only forever, and without cancer, without pain, without suffering, sorrow, grief, or tears, but only perfect peace, contentment, happiness, and joy. You can scarcely imagine, now, what it would feel like to have no want. But, Virginia knows. Virginia feels. Virginia experiences, now, that perfect fulfillment that comes only from being in the presence of Jesus without any dimness, darkness, or impediment.
The selfless love that Virginia showed to you and to others throughout her life is now being showered upon her in the fullness of God’s grace without any impediment of sin. Truly Virginia was concerned more about others than herself. She would do anything for anyone, but especially for her children and grandchildren. Virginia loved and cared with a seemingly boundless love and care. Truly it was boundless, for she shared with you what she herself had received from the Lord: Grace, mercy, love, compassion, and forgiveness. Virginia loved and cared for her husband Arthur, visiting him daily at the nursing home, bringing him his favorite strawberry milkshake. Virginia loved and cared for her grandchildren with whom she lived this past decade. She was such an irreplaceable part of that family that, now, no one can find anything anymore! Granny always knew. And, Virginia loved all of her grandchildren the same. She would, literally, give you the food off of her plate if you needed it, if you wanted it. And, if you were a furry, four-footed creature, well, you held a special place in her heart. If an animal was injured or in need, she could not let it suffer or go unaided. And, dear Lucy, surely there was never a dog so adored and pampered and spoiled. Even the neighbor’s pets were cared for by Virginia. And you, you wanted to help her, and God knows you tried. But Virginia wouldn’t hear of it. She would find some way to turn it around, and there she was loving you, and serving you, and caring for you, and providing for you. Just like Jesus.
However, none of that is surprising. That was Virginia. And Virginia was that way because she had received such blessings herself from the Lord. Virginia loved with Jesus’ love. She gave with Jesus’ gifts. She forgave with Jesus’ forgiveness. And, she served in Jesus’ selflessness and sacrifice. And that is what we are all called to do, to share the love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness we ourselves have received from the Lord with others, without feeling slighted, without resentment, without counting the cost, and without any sense of loss. No, that wasn’t surprising at all, for you could see Christ in her – you knew that she was Christ’s disciple by her love. Perhaps the best way that you can honor Virginia and remember her is by extending the love that she showed you to others. You know how that would make her feel. She was so very proud of you. She loved you. And you loved her. And, that is why her death hurts so very much.
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Jesus. You will see Virginia again and your hearts will rejoice. And no one will be able to take away your joy.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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