S-1361-Easter Season/C 5/08/2013 Hymns: (O) #457; (S) #200; (C) #533
Texts: Psalm 23; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; John 10:11-18
Theme: “Peace In Spite Of…” (1 Peter 5:7)
Celebration of the New Life for Irene Lenora Gjoraas, Armour, SD
Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for the celebration of the New Life granted to our departed sister in the faith—Irene, is her confirmation text: “Casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Beloved in the Lord, today is a day of rejoicing and celebration amidst sadness and sorrow. PAUSE. Today, we give thanks to the Lord for the gift of life He earned for our departed sister Irene. Today, as we are gathered in His house to commend this precious child into the hands of our Lord, we lift our voices heavenward in praise for ALL He has done for us—His suffering, death and glorious resurrection. On account of His mighty act of love on Calvary’s cross, Jesus gives us peace in spite of our situations of grief, suffering and sadness. Today, Jesus reminds you and me to cast all of our cares on Him because He cares for YOU.
As People of the Resurrection, we are attacked daily by so many forces that it can rob us of the peace that Christ has earned for us. We are attacked by fear. We are attacked by the adversary-the devil who doesn’t want us to have peace or joy or happiness. But remember People of the Resurrection that God is greater and stronger than our attacks, says St. Peter in this concluding portion of his letter. It ends on an upbeat but practical note. He tells us how to face life, how to face our spiritual enemy, how to face suffering, and how to face God.
Peter instructs us to face life by trusting God saying: “Casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” And today, in this place, Peter reminds each and every one of you to put all of your hopes and dreams in the One who answers every prayer. Place your whole life in the hands of the Carpenter, because those are the tender, loving hands that bring peace and joy.
But when death comes knocking on our door, it disturbs our life. It knocks us and turns our world upside down. Even when we know it is coming it can spin us around and even lead us to doubt the care our Lord has for us. We begin to question God saying, “Why did you have to take my mother from us so quickly? Lord, this is my grandma; couldn’t You have kept her just a little longer with us? Besides, she was in Church this past Sunday, and quickly her life began to spiral out of control and by Friday she left us and went to be with you. God, don’t you care about me?!”
But sin puts a damper on things and our eyes are distracted from God as they gaze upon the one who die d. Sin clouds our eyes and tears begin to fall down our cheeks. Sin troubles our hearts and causes us to wonder does God really care. Does He even know what pain I am going through? Sin plays games with our minds and puts us at odds with our family and loved ones but especially the peace we have with God. And we all face the heartaches, difficulties, testing—and even death. All these events cause us stress. We worry, we fret, and we forget to trust God who is our only source for life and salvation. Left in sin, we have no peace; our lot would be only God’s eternal judgment. PAUSE.
But the good news is we are not left in sin. Peter speaks from personal experience exhorting us to: “Cast all of our anxieties on Jesus, because He cares for you” (5:7). More than likely the Holy Spirit brought to mind the similar words of the Psalmist who also wrote: “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22).
But oh, People of the Resurrection. God does care about you. God loves you unconditionally. God desires for you to have the peace that surpasses all understanding because He has earned that peace for you through His shed blood. God wants to comfort you even now as you taste the bitter pill of death. God wants to still the storm raging in your heart and head and home. God wants you to know that YOU matter to Him.
Irene mattered to the Lord. She mattered enough to Him that He was willing to go to the cross for her. That trip to the cross and empty tomb was one that He made willingly. On that journey, He suffered greatly. He knew what was coming. He knew the pain, suffering, anguish, affliction and humiliation. And He still faced it FOR HER! And with that comes the promise not only of HIS presence but HER resurrection. Irene still matters to Jesus because as she rests from her labors in this life, she rests in the great comfort of the nail scarred hands of Jesus!
And those same nail scarred hands reach out to you this day. YOU matter to Jesus! YES YOU DO! That cross of Christ is for you too. It is cross that calls you to lay down all of the harm and hurt that the sins of others and your sins have earned. Jesus calls you to peace this day. Peace in the midst of death. Peace with the Lord rooted in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Peace in the relationships you share within your family. He wants this for YOU! That’s how much He cares for you EVEN NOW!
In the opening portion of Peter’s letter we read these words: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” (1 Peter 1:3-6).
We believers in Christ have a lively hope through a living Savior of an inheritance that fades not away but also reserved for you in heaven...This moves us to cast all our cares upon Jesus...this lively hope, this glorious future, this certainty which for Irene has become a wonderful reality as she beholds the Savior face to face. PAUSE.
Irene, whose name in Greek means peace, knew that peace personally because she had a personal relationship with the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. Though she was a sinner and had hardships and difficulties all of her life—lost two husbands, had many surgeries, suffered a lot, she was found faithful being in His house often to hear His Word that brings hope, joy and eternal peace. Even a week ago Sunday, 5 days before she was called home, she sat in this house of worship, heard the Good News again, that her sins are forgiven her on account of Christ her Savior, and dined with Him at His table and had peace with God.
But of more importance it is not that Irene knew the Prince of Peace, but that the Prince of Peace knew her and called her by name in the waters of Baptism on February 1st, 1931 and nurtured her through His ever living Word and Sacrament. The Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ came into the room where the Disciples where huddled behind closed doors on that first Easter Sunday because they were afraid and their hearts were broken at His death. Into that room He stepped, calmed their spirits and said: in Hebrew Shalom alechem, and in Greek, Εἰρήνη ὑμῖν “Peace be upon you”. (John 20:19b).
Those words spoken by the Prince of Peace so long ago to the Disciples are not just empty words or spoken to them, but they are spoken to you as well even now in the midst of your broken hearts at the death of your mother, sister, aunt, mother-in-law, and grandmother. Into this room Jesus enters and calms your spirit and assures you that He is indeed the PEACE GIVER. He is the forgiver of all of your sins. He is the One who blesses you, enriches your life and guarantees your future with Him in heaven.
Yes, indeed, His peace be upon you here and now and always. The Prince of Peace, Jesus has done away with sin and took upon Himself God’s eternal judgment so that we might be judged righteous and holy not because of what we have done, but because of what He has done for us.
Today, rejoice and celebrate life, because He cares for you. Today, know with certainty, you need not be anxious about anything, but rather, led by the Holy Spirit take Jesus at His Word, hold unto His tender, loving, and pierced hands and walk with Him as our beloved sister Irene had done for the past 82 years, and you will have peace in spite of. Amen.
CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!!! AMEN!!!