Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Christian Funeral for Lola Ann Keith

Mark 10:13-16; 1 John 3:1-2; Jeremiah 31:15-17

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Do you believe in unicorns? Lola did. Now, you might expect that from a four-year-old girl, but, it might surprise you to learn that, in fact, unicorns are real. Unicorns are mentioned in the Bible no fewer than nine times (!), but you’ll have to go to the King James translation in order to find them; more modern translations typically say “wild oxen” or something similar. In the Bible, unicorns are wild, undomesticated, powerful, and dangerous animals; therefore, unicorns are to be feared. But, unicorns are real. And, there’s a great big, wild, undomesticated, powerful, and dangerous unicorn right here in this sacred space, right now. Of course, I am playing off of the saying, “There’s an elephant in the room,” by stating that there is a unicorn in this room. What I mean is that there is something that everyone of us is thinking, but that no one is talking about. For, the unicorn in this room is the desperate question, “Why?” Why did God allow this to happen to sweet, precious, little Lola?
Now, there is an answer to that question, but I’ll be honest with you, it’s probably not what you want to hear at a time like this. Why did God allow this to happen to sweet, precious, little Lola? Well, that question is bound up in and with a bigger question, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people at all?” The answer to that question is sin – not any specific sin, and certainly not any sin specific to Lola, but sin in general. From the original sin committed by our First Parents in the Garden to the latest sin of thought, word, or deed you or I committed even this morning. And, the wages of sin – that is, what we deserve and earn for our sin – is always, and only, death. God is not the author or the creator of death, but He is in control of it. Not a sparrow falls the ground apart from His knowledge and will. So, while we cannot blame God for illness, suffering, tragedy, or death, for these are the fruit of our sin and our sinful rebellion, nevertheless, it is most certainly true that God does permit suffering and death to befall us, His children.
But, why? Strangely, from our perspective, it is because He loves us: For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and chastens every son or daughter whom He receives. Those of you who are parents know that this is true. You discipline your children because you love them, not because you hate them. Sometimes you cause them pain, sometimes you make them to drink medicine that tastes bitter, not because you hate them and want to hurt them, but because you love them and want only what is best for them and to protect them from true danger and harm. So, the LORD uses the sinful brokenness in this world, and that which we ourselves contribute daily to it, ultimately, to undo the devil’s schemes and to deliver His children, not around death, but rather through it, into life that cannot die.
In order to do this, God had to become one of us and suffer and die as one of us. God so loved the world in this way: He gave His only Son into death on the cross so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. Because His children share in flesh and blood, God Himself became flesh and blood, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. Because there is no way around sin and its wage of death, the sinless one Jesus died for all, thus destroying the power of death. Now, for all who believe in Him, who trust in Him for forgiveness and salvation, death cannot hold them, but Jesus will raise them up to everlasting life on the Last Day.
The Lord has seen fit to call precious Lola home. We do not, we cannot, know why. But, we trust in Him and in His love and in His word of promise that He will raise her up on the Last Day, and that we will see her again with our own flesh and blood eyes, hear her voice with our own flesh and blood ears, and hug her with our own flesh and blood arms. And, even now, in the midst of grief, sorrow, and tears, we are comforted that Lola is with Jesus, safe from sorrow, pain, suffering, and death, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as Lola, says Jesus, for she received it freely, as a child, in childlike faith, as a free and perfect gift of God’s grace, and grace alone. Indeed, Jesus says, all who would enter His kingdom must have faith like that of a little child like Lola. What kind of faith is that? Simple trust. That is it. Childlike faith trusts Jesus and His Word, even when eyes and ears and human reason suggest otherwise. I am trusting Thee, Lord Jesus, trusting only Thee; trusting Thee for full salvation great and free. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones, to Him belong; they are weak, but He is strong.
Precious Lola learned about Jesus from Mom, Sarah, and from Grandma, Kathy, and many others, but she also learned about Jesus from brother, Lucas, who loved to give her advice about how to act in preschool chapel: “Now, you have to behave. Be quiet. Sit still.” Lucas would sing out, “Who built the ark?” to which Lola would sing in response, “Noah! Noah!” And Lucas would tell Lola stories from the Bible. At chapel, all the preschool children sit in that first pew right over there. There Lola sat quietly and learned about the life, teaching, and miracles of Jesus, the Lord’s Prayer, Luther’s Morning Prayer, how to live as a child of God, and several simple hymns about God and Jesus, three of which we are singing this morning. Let us give thanks to God for all the Christian people He put in Lola’s young life. And, thanks be to God for St. John Lutheran Preschool and Miss Melissa and Miss Lisa and chapel, through whom Lola learned and came to know her Lord Jesus even more fully. Lola believed and confessed Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Lola told others about Jesus. Lola, a precious little child had her childlike faith in Jesus, and now Lola is with Jesus in His kingdom. Thanks be to God for His love and mercy to Lola, that He keeps His promises in and because of His Son Jesus, Lola’s Savior, and the Savior of us all.
We know where Lola is. We know that she is safe. We know that we will see her again. We know this, not because we can see it, explain it, or understand it, but we know this because the Lord has promised it, and He who has died and has risen victorious over death and the devil keeps His promises. Yet, still, we miss Lola desperately. We miss her beautiful face, her sweet smile, and her sparkling eyes. We miss her painted nails, braided hair, and ballerina dresses which she wore as she mucked horse stalls and cared for her pony Beauty Girl, her stallion Henry Unicorn, and as she fed Peppa Pig. Lola was a little redneck farm girl hiding a diva underneath, and a saint underneath that. And we will miss her when we celebrate her favorite holiday Christmas, with all its sparkling lights, and when we eat cupcakes with shiny sprinkles or chocolate of any kind.
The LORD knew Lola when He knit her together in her mother’s womb. The LORD wrote Lola’s name in His Book of Life, which is Jesus. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, called His little lamb Lola by name. Lola believed in Jesus and trusted in Jesus. Jesus knew the number of Lola’s days when there were yet none of them – days she now enjoys without number, that have no end. As hard as it may be to say in our time of grief, we must confess, we should not so much want Lola back as to be with her where she is. That, too, our LORD has promised in Jesus Christ, who loved His Father so much that He loved Lola, and He loved you, and He loved all the world that He laid down His own sinless, holy, righteous, and innocent life into death to have you as His own. Jesus loves you, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. He will never leave you or forsake you. He is with you always, and nothing can separate you from His love.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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