Saturday, July 21, 2018

Christian Funeral for Marlys Ann Ellison

John 14:1-6; Revelation 7:9-17; Lamentations 3:22-33

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” Now, what is a saint but one who has been made to be holy in the blood of Jesus Christ our Savior and Redeemer? Our sister in Christ, Marlys, was made to be a saint when she was claimed and named by Jesus in Holy Baptism so many years ago. In Baptism, Jesus’ death and resurrection became her very own, as St. Paul has written, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” and “If we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.” Likewise, Jesus Himself did say of His saints, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
Our sister Marlys died in the LORD Wednesday morning, and her death was precious in our LORD’s sight. However, the truth is that Marlys died in the LORD many years ago, when her old sinful flesh was drowned in Holy Baptism into Jesus’ death, and was raised with Jesus in His resurrection to a new life that can never die. In Holy Baptism, Marlys was marked and sealed in Jesus’ Name and with the Spirit of God, along with His unbreakable promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you,” “I am with you always,” and “Nothing can separate you from My love in Jesus Christ.” Marlys did not become a saint of God on Wednesday morning, but she was made to be a saint long ago in Holy Baptism when she passed over from death to life.
That is why she was not afraid to die. Marlys believed and confessed that Jesus Christ was her Lord and Savior who had died for her sins and had been raised for her justification. She believed and confessed that Jesus’ death and resurrection became her own in Holy Baptism through faith. And, she believed and confessed that death would be like sleep, as Jesus teaches, from which she fully expected to wake unto a day upon which the sun will never set. And, that is why those of you who knew Marlys knew her to be a woman of great faith. Most important to her was to be in church every Sunday, (and at the Waverly Veteran’s Post every evening). And, next to her faith came her family. Daily she prayed for her children and grandchildren. She kept her grandchildren’s faith statements from their confirmations on her refrigerator as a reminder to herself and to them of the promises God had made to them in Jesus. Those who have known Marlys for a long time saw her faith in her words and deeds, but even those who knew her only a short while could say the same. Marlys’ cleaning lady in Waverly, for example, and a nurse at the assisted living home in Des Moines that she had only been at for a short while, each acknowledged that, in Marlys, they had found an affirmation of their own faith, and they believed that God had brought them together for that purpose. Someone described Marlys as an iconin the family. I like that term “icon.” It’s from a Greek word that means image. St. Paul used that word to describe Jesus saying, “He is the icon (or image) of the invisible God.” That is why Jesus could say, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” Well, in a very real sense, he who has seen Marlys has seen Jesus, for she was an icon and an image of Jesus’ love, compassion, mercy, and grace to others, as all the LORD’s saints are called to be.
I think that a lot of people today, even a lot of Christians, believe that Christianity is about obeying strict rules, not having any fun, and judging people. That likely is the result of the fact that many who claim to be Christian practice a Christianity of words, but not deeds. Isaiah spoke of such people long ago saying, “These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” But, that’s what made Marlys so special; she didn’t simply pay lip service to her faith, but she lived her faith every day in countless ways. And, most of those ways were not flashy and impressive, but they were the simple, ordinary, humble, loving, and serving things that she did for others simply because that’s who she was in Jesus Christ. She baked a world famous chocolate cake and loved to share them and give them as gifts. She could drive a combine all day and still come home and cook a wonderful meal for her family. She believed that good food could heal all ailments and she readily applied her remedies to her children and grandchildren. She loved to have fun with her family and friends, playing cards, bridge, cribbage, hearts, and schaafskompf, and cheering on the Hawkeyes and the Cubs. She enjoyed quilting, but she refused to mend socks. She never smoked, but she kept a drawer full of candy and would regularly have a glass of wine, a margarita, or whatever, “for medicinal purposes,” a Platte trait, or so I’m told. When Milan passed away twelve years ago, Marlys assumed the role of matriarch and guided the family in the straight and narrow way. She was a treasure and an inspiration to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren who called her “G.G.” – Great Grandma! Yes, in these simply, ordinary, humble, loving, and serving ways, Marlys was the hands, heart, feet, and voice of Jesus to countless many. She was one of the LORD’s saints, and she was, and she is, precious in His sight.
Therefore, let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in His Son Jesus, your Savior. For, He has prepared a place in His Father’s house for Marlys, and now He has taken her there. And, He has prepared a place in His Father’s house for you as well. Marlys followed her Lord Jesus along the Way. And now, you may follow her along the same Way, for the Way is Jesus, and there is no other way. And now that great multitude of saints in white robes has grown by one more, even as more continually are being ransomed out of this great tribulation, having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. They hunger and thirst no more. They suffer pain, sorrow, and grief no more. They die no more. And, the Lamb Jesus Christ is their Shepherd, and God His Father wipes every tear from their eyes. Those who die in the LORD are not dead, for indeed, they died in Holy Baptism long ago, and they lived their lives to the LORD. Moreover, we will see them again, not merely as disembodied souls, but in glorified flesh and blood bodies, just as you knew them in this life, but perfected and glorified in Jesus Christ. You will see G.G. with your own eyes. You will hear her with your own ears. You will touch her with your own hands. And you will hug her with your own arms yet again, and not with those of another. And, no one will take from you your joy ever again. This is the wonderful, joyous comfort and hope we enjoy in Jesus Christ so that we do not grieve as those who have no hope. May the God of all hope and comfort sustain you in your sorrow and fill you with His Peace which passes our human understanding until the day He raises your bodies to be like unto Jesus’ glorified body and you see Him face to face with G.G. and all the saints who now rest in Him.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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