Sunday, June 6, 2010

“Forever Connected” (Philippians 1:6)

S-1192 3SAP/3C Hymns 6/05/10, (O) #801; S #461; Solo: #744; (C) TLH #533

Texts: Job 19:21-27; Psalm 23; Romans 8:31-39: John 14:1-6

Theme: “Forever Connected” (Philippians 1:6)

Celebration of the New Life for Virginia Peiman (Dallas, TX) daughter of Erv Knodel


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the celebration of the new life promised to our departed sister in the faith Virginia is from St. Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi: “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ’” (Philippians 1:6).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

Family and friends, especially you Don, Gregory and James, we gather today in the Lord’s house to take comfort in His Word and His promise given to us who trust and believe in Him. His Words are hope and help in the hour of sorrow. His Words of promise are a great comfort and consolation even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

We all cherish being connected. It is normal and natural. It is healthy and wholesome. But because of sin and selfishness this connectedness breaks down and at times destroyed. You know of incidents when friendships break down. Children leave their parents and have nothing to do with them. Some get disconnected through divorce; and then something like death intrudes into our lives. It tears asunder. It leaves us disjointed, bereft, and wondering about our own mortality.

God never intended for us to be alone or disconnected. Even from the beginning of time, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone I shall make him a help meet” (Genesis 2:18). Indeed, along life’s journey God fills our lives with friends, family and church family to help us in our walk of faith.

But things happen in life that rips our comfort zone. Events that are out of our control that shakes us to the core. Similar to what happened to your family this past Friday. When your wife, mother, and grandmother you love and cherish was called home to her eternal rest.

Events like these cause us to feel disconnected from loved ones and even from God. And we wonder where is God in all of this, and why does He permit me it. When you are in pain and anguish you begin to doubt God’s promises. Of course, Satan would have you think that God doesn’t CARE about you, nor LOVES you. But that is not true. All of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation is God’s love story for man. Listen again to the Apostle Paul’s words of comfort: “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ’” These words assure us that we are not disconnected but connected to the One who began the good work in us.

That good work was begun in Virginia on February 26, 1933. On that day her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ attached her to Him through the majestic waters of Holy Baptism. From that day forward she became His precious, beloved, and beautiful daughter robed with His righteousness. From that day forward this royal daughter of the King of kings and Lord of lords, demonstrated that the faith God granted unto her at Baptism was watered and nurtured throughout her life. This daughter of the faith grew under faithful parents and fine gospel centered pastors who proclaimed faithfully the soul-sustaining, faith preserving in her convictions that Holy Spirit first germinated. By His grace alone Virginia professed and confessed the faith in worship from the creed to the hymns to prayers and more.

Ever since she was a child, she learned what it means to be in the Lord’s house. Her parents, led by the Hoy Spirit brought her to God’s Holy House, where she was taught the faith, confessed the faith and grew in the faith around Word and Sacraments. Through these Means she trusted in Her ONLY Savior Jesus Christ as Her Lord and God. And when she become a wife and then a mother, she too, carried on humbly walking to the Lord’s house to be fed at the gracious Table of Her Lord as He gave her His life-giving body and blood for the forgiveness of her sins and strengthening of her faith.

As you know I was not Virginia’s pastor, so I was not privileged to minister to her or watch her grow in the grace of the Lord. However, I did visit with her Pastor Stephen Wagner and this is what he wrote: “It was a privilege of serving Don and Virginia as their pastor? I remember Virginia and Don as active and faithful in worship and Bible study. I remember them as active in a home group.  I believe she sang in the choir.  They were very supportive of me personally as well as the ministry of POP”. This was all mercy and grace because of Her good, gracious and faithful God. PAUSE.

But when pain fills our homes, when suffering fills our heads, when sorrow fills our hearts we begin to feel disconnected from God’s love. But that is NOT TRUE. Listen to this grand and glorious promise of the God of Love as Paul describes it: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that 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” (Romans 8:37-39). Here it is in black and white, there is nothing that can separate you or your loved ones from the loving and gracious God.

However, sometimes we need to have things removed from us, to truly receive them back as the gift we had neglected. But can anything or anyone ever be lost - lost to God? Of course not! The Lord, in giving us His Only-Begotten Son has given us a Son into death, so that death would never be the last word for any of us, period! Elemental teaching! NEVER!!! Comforting, assuring, life giving - yup, you bettcha!

In our Gospel reading for tomorrow (Luke 7:11-17) we meet an event just like yours today—people gathered for a funeral. We see Jesus coming into Nain and witness the sadness of a funeral procession, made sadder still by the fact that this widow had also lost her only son. How would her grief ever be lessened? How would she survive? Death was so final. Or so it seemed. Death is NOT final, it never will be FINAL - Life is! A procession of death is crossed by a procession of life. The widow was taking her son, her only son, the son she loved, to the Cemetery. But even that place, its name, should be a place of hope, for Cemetery is from the Greek for “a resting place.” Tell me, is there any better place to rest than in the pierced arms of the Savior? Is there any more comforting place to rest, than in the bosom of the Lord? The Resurrection shouts that the grave is sealed, death is smothered, and hell stopped for Jesus burst, busted and broken its iron fetters. Now the church by the Holy Spirit’s power grows and lives and moves. Yes, today, in the midst of sorrow and suffering, tears and troubles, gloom and grief we rejoice now and always! Death is not final – LIFE IS! Life in the presence of Him who made, and restores Life, Jesus Christ.

Today, I want you to know that God knows your pain and suffering. He too lost someone He loves—His ONLY begotten Son, Jesus Christ. But God didn’t only know pain and suffering He did something about it—He gave us life as He gave it to the world.

Since death could not hold Him, God the Father now holds us and those we love, with the certainty of the Resurrection. This is not man’s gospel, but God’s Gospel. And the True Gospel is the only answer to our pain, and punishment; death and defeat; loss and life.

How about when we experience loss, even of the life of those we love? The Cross of Jesus and His empty tomb declare that our loved ones rest in the nail-pierced hands of His Son, the One who rose to give life and light to all. He rose to give your life its light and purpose, its meaning and joy.

Therefore, today, as you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, rejoice and celebrate that your wife, mother and grandmother is resting in the loving arms of her Savior, Jesus Christ. She is forever in His presence and connected to Him without any disconnectedness. She is basking in His goodness and grace in the new life He gave her and in the mansion He prepared for her. This past Friday the Lord who connected Himself to this royal princess, welcomed her home to be with Him for an eternity of joy. Amen.



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