Thursday, January 17, 2013

Christian Burial of Edna Nitschke (17 Jan 2013)

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

Text: John 14:3
Theme: A Place Prepared

Dear family, friends, and loved ones of Edna, and especially Robert and Ken,

It’s not what you know but who you know. Edna knows Him who is the way and the truth and the life.1 More importantly, He knows her- elected in eternity, called in time through baptismal waters, sainted according to His good pleasure. Christ, before whom death itself is dissolved, has received the soul of Edna into her eternal rest. The company of heaven rejoices and we add our glad hallelujahs to that celestial strain. The weight of mortality has been lifted. The temptation to doubt has been resolved. The power of sin has been broken. Edna has been received. She is at peace. Thanks be to God for His benevolent love!

Grieving is always easier when we’ve already given our emotional consent. If we believe the person’s death- due to age or circumstance- is fair and reasonable it makes acceptance less stressful. We’re less likely to be bitter or resentful. Of course in some sense this is stating the obvious. Separation is less painful if we are already prepared for someone to die. Yet there is often lost in this consolation an appreciation of the fact that death is not natural.

The Scriptures do not allow us to overlook this truth. Christians should understand it well. Drawing of the last breath is not a natural conclusion to a life of planned obsolescence. Rather death, in its stark and foreboding reality is the full maturing of sin in the individual. Therefore, the death of a loved one is an opportunity for serious reflection. We all must face it. No one gets a free pass. No one is overlooked. No one has merited entrance into the next life. It doesn’t just happen. Dare we think we are an exception to the power and condemnation of sin? Can we claim exemption from accountability before God?

Oh yes, God has heard all the arguments before. You are young, you are healthy, you are in the prime of your life. It would be unfair, unnatural, unreasonable, and unexpected if you were to suddenly face death. You have a spouse. You have a family. You have a career. You have goals and aspirations. You may get sick- but surely you won’t die! So put the possibility right out of your head and assume you’ll live to something near the age of Edna.

This world will never offer an approximation of Utopia. Though we may seek to lavish ourselves with every indulgence and material blessing it can all come crumbling down in an instant. What are we building our foundations on? Is there a gaping chasm of emptiness beneath the veneer of our prosperous and orderly looking lives? How long can our brokenness be medicated with material anesthetics that don’t really heal? Human beings have a tremendous capacity for self-deception. Some can convince themselves life will go on indefinitely.

But no one makes peace with God on their own terms. That was the unique task of the Son of God. He alone was worthy to offer His life for the sins of the world. His death was a sufficient ransom for my transgressions and yours. It is through grace alone that we enter His kingdom. Christian truth may not be in vogue with the rich and powerful of modern society. It was never intended to be. Yet it’s a small price to bear the ridicule of the secular world in order that we might keep company with the One who taught humility and sacrifice.

The apostle Paul, who knew a thing or two about it says, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor 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.”2 This was Edna’s conviction too. Jesus said, “Whoever hears My word and believes…has eternal life; he has crossed over from death to life.”3 This truth alters our perspective and lifts our hope.

The biblical witness is clear: If your grief is obsessed exclusively with past memories of the deceased, then your grief is not centred in Christ. This is not to say the grief-stricken person must play some type of radical religious mind game, thinking only about Jesus and blocking out all thoughts of the loved one who has died. It does mean that mourning for what was is not being properly balanced by hope in what will be. A Christian’s grieving is mitigated by its temporal nature. We believe in the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come. The relatively brief time of intense mourning is tempered by the promise of eternal reunion.

Edna Nitschke was a veteran of the Christian life. Claimed as God’s child in baptism she was a faithful and active disciple from the very beginning. She leaned on God’s promises in prosperity and adversity. Church life was her priority. She sat at the Master’s feet. She ate and drank from His holy table. She kept in step with the Spirit. She understood what it meant to be part of the body of Christ. And she lived her faith in her daily vocation. She knew hard manual labour on the farm. She attended diligently to raising the family. She participated in activities for the betterment of the community.

Edna saw more change in her generation than any before her. She was granted a strong mind and a spritely body well into her later years. These are truly blessings from God not to be taken for granted. If you would like to test your agility against that of Edna’s we can organize some skip rope competitions after the committal. She set the bar pretty high at age 92.

Yet with all her experience and experiences Edna knew the gracious hand of God was carrying her. The Good Shepherd kept her close to His heart. Recently she expressed her readiness to depart from this decaying existence. She knew her place was almost prepared. She knew these words of the Lord were about to be fulfilled, “In My Father’s house there are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you.”4 Those preparations are finished. What Edna looked forward to in hope she now experiences in actuality. Here she knew Him by faith; now face to face. To Christ be the glory! Amen!

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Edna Clara Nitschke
17 January 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 See John 14:6
2 Romans 8:38-39
3 John 5:24
4 John 14:2

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