THIS SERMON WAS PREACHED IN GREGORY SOUTH DAKOTA FOR THE FUNERAL OF ONE OF MY COLLEAGUES WHO LOST HIS INFANT DAUGHER AFTER ONLY LIVING FOR LESS THAN TWO DAYS. PLEASE REMEMBER THIS FAMILY IN YOUR PRAYERS!!!
S-1320 P/3B 6/02/12 Hymns: (O) #740; #465; 709; (S) #594; #566; (C) # 490
Text: Psalm 139:13-18; Isaiah 49:13-16; 1 Peter 1:3-9; 2:9-10; John 10:11-18; 14:1-6
Theme: “Princess in God’s Garden” (Isaiah 55:8-12)
Funeral for Evelyn Ameera Nies” St. John Gregory, SD
My dear, dear brother Jared, Sister Sarah, family, friends, members of St. John and you fellow colleagues in the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! (3x). The text for the celebration of the New Life granted to our departed sister in the faith Evelyn Ameera Nies is from Isaiah 55 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My Word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands” (8-13).
You who are loved by the Father of all mercy and compassion, by His Son, Jesus, who paid the penalty of our sins and by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit; who consoles and comforts us by His Word.
What might I say to bring healing to your wounded hearts? How shall I comfort you as you weep the death of your little princess? With what eloquent words may I fill your heart with peace as you walk through this terrible tragedy that came upon you like a tsunami?
Jared and Sarah, there are no human words that I can use to take your pain away. There are no human thoughts that I might share with you, that will remove the tears running down your cheeks. And there is nothing that I or anyone else can say or do to remove this heavy load from your hearts, heads and home. But wait; there is one thing that I can share with you. It is the Living WORD of Christ. The WORD that is strong, solid, stable, sturdy and sound. I point you to the Word that speaks of Christ’s mighty victory over sin, death and the grave.
It is that WORD, that I give to you and all who have gathered in this place, that we may know with certainty and confidence that this WORD IS LIVING and ACTIVE and brings about healing, restoration and fills our hearts with peace; and even causes our lips to sing His praises in spite of the circumstances that brought us here in the first place. Hear now the very WORD that will strengthen and sustain you every day until you join your sweet princess in eternity! PAUSE.
There is a unique story in the O.T. book of 2 Kings. The prophet Elisha had often stayed as a guest at the house of a Shunammite woman. This woman was barren until Elisha prayed to God on her behalf and blessed her with a son. One day the child died and she went to see the man of God. When Elisha saw her, he asked her “…Is all well with the child?’” And she answered, “All is well.” Though her son was dead, yet by faith working through the Holy Spirit she recognized what could have been and what is and thus with resounding confidence she declares, “ALL IS WELL.” Her response should be your comfort now beloved children of the heavenly Father. And we can say with boldness and confidence that all is well with Evelyn Ameera—this little Princess too.
We can say that all is well with her because she is a baptized CHILD of God. All is well with her because her heavenly Father has made it possible for her to spend eternity with Him in His Garden. All is well with her, because Jesus Himself said, “I Am the Resurrection and the Life He who believes Me though He die, yet shall he live.” Evelyn is not dead, but is alive and is in the Garden of God even today.
Please know this is not just wishful thinking, this is not a platitude of a pie in the sky. NO this is a fact based on a concrete event in the past, that hold us fast for the present and guarantees our future—the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—God’s Son. Because of Him we can say with joy in our hearts and praise on our lips that this Princess is in God’s Garden now and forever. PAUSE.
Today, in the midst of your sorrow, suffering and sadness, I point you to Your Savior who walks with you every moment of your life; for He promised us saying: “I Am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” And again, “I Am with you always, to the end of the age” (John 10:11; Matthew 28:20b). Indeed, this little Princess is God’s own CHILD, made His own on Friday May 25th @ 5:34 when you, my dear brother, poured upon her the water and baptized her in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We were reminded of this blessed gift again today, when we sung the sermon Hymn, “God’s own CHILD, I gladly say it.” (LSB 594).
Yes, by all means our departed sister Evelyn is now and forever in the Garden of God. You may have had her and held her for a brief time of 35 hours and 47 minutes. But these hours and minutes are measured by earthly time and not heavenly. She is now and ever will be in the presence of Her great, merciful and compassionate Father.
Jared and Sarah, at a moment like this, we question God. We doubt His love. We wonder what we have done to deserve this. And it doesn’t help when people who mean well say something like, “God only takes the very best of us! Or God loved her so much that He wanted her with him more than with you! Or this is God’s will.” I know they mean well, but that is not the case. This is theologically incorrect and proves that salvation is by works rather than by grace.
It is ok to question God. It is ok to pour your heart to Him with tears and ask why oh God, why? It is ok to feel the pain and anguish. But don’t let the devil or anyone to cause you to doubt the love of God and feel He has abandoned and forsaken you. BUT that that is not the case. Don’t let your sorrow drown the image of your loving and merciful Father who grants us by faith to see His compassion streaming from the cross.
To be sure God DIDN’T cause or brought this about, but God is using it for your good and His glory. I have no clear idea how our good and gracious Lord will use this time of sorrow in your life for the extension of the kingdom. Indeed, no good parent will do anything that is hurtful to their child. And neither will God. Yet, God sees things we can’t see. He is loving and gracious and uses every event and circumstance in our lives to bring us to a closer walk with Him.
Certainly no father or mother would ever want to experience or go through what you are going through right now. This grief is too heavy to bear. This is a heavy cross to carry, the heaviest to shoulder. Indeed, you would have never chosen it for yourself or others; but God’s ways are not like our ways and His thoughts are not like our thoughts because we can’t see into the future and how this event will be used by both of you to minister to others.
Study the Living Word of God, and dig deep into the goldmine of His strength and you will see how God takes something so terrible and makes it sooo good to spread His salvation message. King David lost a son, but through that death God comforted him personally and David became great man of compassion and a great king of Israel.
Think of the Apostle Paul who on many occasions was beaten, flogged and thrown into prison. Certainly He wouldn’t have chosen that. But because of his imprisonment salvation was brought about to the jailer and many others. God takes that which is evil, painful, hurtful and disastrous and turns it into good.
You know all too well of that kind of pain, you have tasted the bitterness of a life cut short-death that seems so senseless. And it is natural for you to cry out in grief and anger when you see such things happen. But in this understandable grief and anger, we don’t turn away from our Lord. No, instead we turn toward the One who holds His people safely in His loving hands, no matter what happens. Living or dying, they are the Lord’s and even our death can’t separate us from the love of God the Father in Christ our Savior. PAUSE.
Who knows how God will use both of you as you rely more and more upon Him to do the work of the ministry. Who knows how God will lead you in the future to minister to many who will walk in your shoes some day. What if this death were to give birth to a ministry where a dozen children who might have been lost are saved? Remember my dear brother and sister in Christ this golden nugget: “Faith draws the poison from every grief, takes the sting from every loss, and quenches the fire of every pain; and only faith can do it.” Josiah Gilbert Holland (1819–1881).
Having said the above statements, I don’t make light of the situation or disregard your pain and sorrow. Of course this a difficult time in your life, of course there is anguish in your heart, of course there is sadness in your home, of course there is an emptiness in your life. Of course this is a heavy cross, BUT it is not as heavy cross as the Savior carried on His shoulders as He trekked up Calvary’s Holy Mountain. That is the heaviest cross the world has ever seen. And it is from that Cross that Christ, the loving Savior looked down upon her and loved that child more than you, her parents could or ever would.
This precious Child of God is today in His tender nail pierced hands. Death makes no sense, especially of an infant. That is why the Cross of Christ means so very much. He has taken this broken, sinful world with all its horror and has set it aright. Evelyn Ameera is today and forever in the Garden of God walking with Him, talking to Him and listening to Him. She needs no doctor to care for her, no nurse to check her monitor, no tubes or ventilators or anything else, because she has the Great Physician Jesus Christ who has made her whole and complete and blessed.
Evelyn Ameera now has gone out with joy and has been led forth with singing, all because the Resurrection has made all that sin has destroyed - brand new! That is why in the midst of walking in the Valley of the Shadow of death, we can rejoice in the hope of the Resurrection. That is why in the midst of our grief that is too heavy to bear, we look up to the One who invites us saying: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mt. 11:28-30). In Jesus, rest is yours because He knows what you are going through. Rest is yours because we know that those mighty outstretched arms have carried your little Princess with Him to His Garden to eternity. Rest is yours, even now in your grief, in your sorrow, in your pain and in your sadness; because you know His comfort and His consolation. You know this because you have Hope in Him who is the Resurrection and the Life—even Jesus Christ!
To that end, by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, continue to hold on and rest in the arms of Him who loved you to the end and gave His life for you. What a blessing to be here today, in His presence around His WORD that guides us to look with faith to the future and say ALL IS WELL WITH EVELYN! Therefore, with confidence and certainty, I say to you “Evelyn Ameera Nies is walking in the Garden of God for now and forever. Amen and Amen”
CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA! (3X) AMEN!!!