Saturday, November 17, 2012

Jan Manuel Funeral

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: John 14:2-3
Theme: A Place…In His House

Dear family, friends, and loved ones of Jan; Nicolle, Deb, Kerri; and especially you, John,

Here we are at a time we never thought could come so soon. But we are naïve to speculate about things which are the jurisdiction of the Almighty alone. Today we are witnesses to the power of death but He bids us to believe what we cannot yet see. Jan Manuel has been freed from the tyranny of death. She has been released from the cruelty of decay. She participates in the victory over sin. Love has conquered. Christ has triumphed. The resurrection of Christ is the bedrock of truth. Jan has crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land. She has entered the heavenly Jerusalem. She has gone to the Father. She has come home. She is at rest.

It is no overstatement to call death a tyranny. It seeks total domination. The journey to life is hazardous. Sometimes death creeps in gradually, hardly noticeable; barely perceptible. For others death descends darkly and swiftly overcoming its victim. For Jan there wasn’t even time to come to terms with the shock of a terminal diagnosis. Her farewells to loved ones and friends were limited by the severity of her decline. No one should carry guilt for having missed the opportunity to give her a personal good-bye.

The suddenness with which she was afflicted is a warning to us all. Life is fragile. There are no guarantees. Each day is a gift. Ageing, decline, and decay; tragedy, disease and calamity are not the natural risks of human existence, they are the consequence of sin’s power. The world in which we live is not idyllic; it is fallen. It is not in jest that the Bible warns so many times and in so many ways to flee from the temptations and unbelief of the world and humbly repent before the Almighty God. We can be saved by His grace alone. There are no alternatives.

Following her initial diagnosis Jan was too shaken to attend church that Sunday. Human capacity has its limits. But God has His resources. He turns tragedy into opportunity. He sends aid to the afflicted. Ten year-old granddaughter Brailey came to her bedside with a printed copy of the sermon. Proficiently pushing through the big words she read to Jan the message of the day. It was no small example of how to order one’s priorities when facing mortality. God has something to say about death. No human opinions really matter.

The words of the most eloquent orator, the most experienced counselor, or the closest of friends cannot give comfort to the one who grieves bitterly at the time of tragic loss. Human speech, though well-intended and sincere- is hollow in the face of such anguish. But we are not here to politely tolerate the clichés of mere mortals. We are here to be comforted and carried by the voice of the Holy Spirit and the decrees of the Son of God. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies.”1 He said, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”2 Only He was nailed to a cross and breached the vault of death. Easter sunrise revealed the Son of God had risen.

Now either we stake our confidence on these truths or we are just playing games, going through religious rituals and formalities. The Scripture says, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angles nor demons, neither the present nor the future, not any powers, neither height nor depth, neither anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”3

Jan knew His love and she expressed it to others. Jan was a wife to one, a mother to three (and their spouses), a grandmother to eight, and a beloved friend to too many to name. She fulfilled all these vocations and many more in life and in death remains honoured by those she served. She served graciously, eloquently, patiently, sacrificially, and always humbly- forever putting others first. She loved her family unconditionally. She was gracious to all. Even more significantly, Jan was baptized as God’s child. She was found regularly in His house. She lived her faith.

It was a faith she held in common with many here today. With Christians throughout the centuries we confess that we believe in the resurrection of the body. Jan’s body, attacked and decimated by the evil of cancer and the power of sin, will nevertheless be resurrected – perfected in glory. Job makes the bold profession, “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes.”4 St Paul says it with equal conviction stating that the Lord Jesus Christ, “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”5

Grief is inevitable for those who live on. Yet Scripture reminds us that believers do not “grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.”6 The Christ, in whose unveiled presence Jan now resides, is the same Lord who meets us in this place. John, here, at the altar, you will celebrate with the most certainty Jan’s life and anticipate your reunion with her. Your memories of her will always be cherished. You will visit her grave and there you will reminisce, reflect, and grieve. But here at this altar you will remember her not just as she was; you will participate in a preview of what she now enjoys. In heaven there will be no need for memories for life will be complete and perfect in a timeless existence of joy that does not end.

Too soon departed, Jan would nevertheless not have us weep long at her grave. The coffin contains only her shell, Jan lives immortally. The love, acceptance, peace, and joy she now experiences we can only imagine. Jesus said on the way to the cross, “Do not weep for Me.”7 Now from the throne, He has wiped the tears from Jan’s eyes. God grant that our tears of sorrow would be mixed with tears of joy trusting that all that we have lost has been more than compensated for in what Jan has gained. In the name of Christ whose mercy is inexhaustible, Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Janice Lorraine Manuel
12 November 2012
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 11:25
2 Revelation 1:17-18
3 Romans 8:38-39
4 Job 19:25-26
5 Philippians 3:21
6 1 Thessalonians 4:13
7 Luke 23:28

Monday, November 12, 2012

Twenty-Fourth Sunday After Pentecost (B) 2012

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: Mark 12:42
Theme: Two Sacred Mites

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

God has His eye on those in need. They never escape His notice. Widows and orphans are special cases. They give the most despondent souls reason to hope. About this widow we know nothing at all. What as her history? Was she stricken with grief? Was she overcome with desperation? Had she endured many years of poverty and hardship? We know nothing of her particulars but we know a great deal about the general status of widows in ancient times. There was no government welfare. Widows depended up male relatives for their livelihood. When that support was not available their situation could become dire. The bible makes many references to the care of widows by believers.

So what was the crux of the issue in today’s gospel account? It was not the quantity of her gift, it was the quality. Her two small coins were nothing in and of themselves but what they represented was an enormous treasury of trust. Possessing nothing she gave everything and in so doing she cast herself completely on the mercy of God. Vulnerable to the world as a result of her circumstance she made it clear she wished to be vulnerable to God as an expression of her faith. Having nothing to offer God faith receives the righteousness of Christ.

If we read this account of the widow’s offering only as an example of comparative generosity we miss the point almost entirely. The wealthy were giving far more but needed not to rely on God’s grace. Proud of their earthly riches they were missing out on heavenly treasures. But this widow entrusted her whole livelihood to God. Materially poor, she was spiritually rich.

Now here is where the rub is: Our sinful nature will not allow us to entrust our livelihood to someone we do not fully trust. And so we turn to other sources of security. Sin, by definition, means the sinner doesn’t fully believe he or she is in God’s good graces. We doubt God’s intentions or His capabilities. God becomes an enemy, or at best is kept at a distance. In fact we can’t even believe God is trustworthy on our own. The Holy Spirit must break our hardened hearts. He points us to the cross. And there we see that the equality with and independence from God that we seek by nature is an illusion and a dead end. Yet we doubt the integrity of His forgiveness because it leaves us indebted to His mercy.

Forgiveness always involves unequal partners. By its very definition it involves a willingness and capacity to forgive on the one side and a desire for forgiveness on the other. At the heart and centre is the reality of an undeserved favour. God’s forgiveness towards us in Christ is not conditioned by our value, worth or efforts. We have no right to it. We can make no claims on it. Christ’s forgiveness is not even predicated on our repentance. It is by grace. It is available to all. “[Christ] died for all.”1 Repentant souls will never fail to find it. The beauty of forgiveness is that it gives all repentant souls equal standing in God’s sight.

Forgiveness is by grace. It sets us free. But do not abuse it for something it is not. Do not trivialize it. Repent honestly. Rejoice confidently. And resist sin steadfastly. Forgiveness does not equal tolerance. Love does not mean tolerance. God forgives the repentant sinner; he does not tolerate the sin. God absolves the person who repents; He doesn’t give him permission to go on sinning. When forgiveness is equated with tolerance and love is equated with license then the church becomes an enabling institution in the worst sense of the term.

We may hear much about being forgiven in God’s sight for our sins, and as well we should. If we do not hear about forgiveness the gospel is not being proclaimed. But we may not hear as much about forgiving those who sin against us. Though we find this imperative is at the heart of the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”2 how often do we take this to heart? How easy it is to hold grudges! How easy it is to want satisfaction or revenge on those who have wronged us! But to withhold forgiveness from those who seek it is not a right we possess. Even when we are painfully hurt we do not have authority to deny pardon to others. In fact, it is a sacred privilege to grant to others freedom of conscience by assuring them they are forgiven.

The forgiveness of God is not pie-in-the-sky, wishful thinking. Jesus Christ assumed our humanity so that we could have the favour of the Deity. He was crucified in the flesh. He rose in the power of the Holy Spirit. His forgiveness is offered to you in the concrete means of bread and wine. The body and blood of Christ imparts to believers pardon, peace, and strength. At His altar you have exactly what He promises to give- the food of immortality.

The baptized are consequently no longer ruled by fear. We have had the threat of condemnation removed by the blood of Christ. The baptized have citizenship in His kingdom. In baptism we go from being vulnerable to the accusations of Satan and chaos of the world to the protection and stability gained for us by the cross. This is a communal reality shared by the fellowship of believers. We do not live an abstract faith. We live in real time and space interacting with real people in our lives. We share joys and sorrows. We have a purpose in God’s kingdom; vocations in which we embody the love of Christ to the world.

We may wonder if we are cut out for the task or if it really makes a difference. But think of this widow. And never underestimate what God can do. God sometimes uses the most unlikely people for the most important tasks. Moses never thought he could lead the Israelites out of Egypt. And today we heard of another widow. Ruth was the daughter-in-law of an important biblical widow named Naomi. Ruth was the great-grandmother of David and David was an ancestor of Christ.

Dear friends, the church- the bride- will never be left widowed. She will never be abandoned. She will never be forsaken. The only-begotten Son has sacrificed everything for her well-being. He lives to give her life. Widows were examples of vulnerability. As such they were illustrative of all sinners. At the mercy of those who had the means and willingness to show compassion they were dependant on benefactors. And so too, we who are lost apart from the mercy of God in Christ Jesus can be confident we are never overlooked or forsaken. The Bible says, “He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself…He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”3

Our livelihoods are in God’s hands. And that’s exactly where we want them to be. He never fails to come to the aide of those who are vulnerable. He seeks those who are lost. He comes for sinners and He welcomes them into His eternal kingdom. May the Holy Spirit clothe our hearts with those sacred wedding garments that transform His church from spiritual widow to cherished bride. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Twenty Fourth Sunday After Pentecost
11 November 2012
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 2 Corinthians 5:15
2 Matthew 6:12
3 Hebrews 9:26-28