Friday, May 10, 2013

Christian Burial for Joyce Braun

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

Text: John 14:6
Theme: Truth and Life

Dear family, friends and loved ones of Joyce, and especially you, Dean,

Joyce is now privy to the mysteries of God in Christ. She is home. She is embraced in His mercy. We lack the capacity to raise enough alleluias to sufficiently thank God for the unconditional love that has carried Joyce through prosperity and adversity in her earthly journey to her final destination. Her struggles have ended. Joyce Braun has been clothed with incorruptible life.

So another failure of Satan has been recorded. Still, he remains undaunted. And that leaves us no room for apathy. Satan’s most successful strategy is the “God-illusion”. It is the deception that God is an automatically accessible commodity. It is the falsehood that God works according to our terms and our conditions. God is nothing more than a do-as-you-please; I’ll overlook all of your transgressions, kindly grandfather figure. And so we go on our merry way constructing our own kingdoms all the while thinking we have God in our back pocket. We forget the words of the Master who warned, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven…I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.’”1

Then when we recognize that need for change Satan tells us it’s too late. We’re too involved in our schedules now. We’re too committed! Too many people are depending on us. There’s too much pride and accomplishment at risk to make a change of direction now. But the Scripture says, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”2 God knows the requirements of this bodily life and He will not forsake us. We should never leave to our deathbed what should be addressed today.

The question then becomes: Can we face sin for what it is? More than the sum total of all the evil perpetrated throughout history- this is clear enough. It is the power which condemns us before the Almighty and to which we can give no answer. The question is one of our own sinfulness, our own mortality. Every sinner is silenced in the heavenly throne room.

But there is One who has authority to speak. He speaks from a cross, soaked in blood, crushed under the enormous weight of the world’s sins. He said, “It is finished!”3 This is the One who speaks on our behalf: The immortal Son of the Father, the Lamb of God, the Crucified, the Servant King. He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”4 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness.”5 “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies.”6 “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.”7

Who will gainsay what the Almighty has decreed! His is not a religious opinion; an ethical suggestion to be considered or disregarded. He offers no theory to be debated. He utters truth- infallible, incontestable, incorruptible. He speaks to you in the person of His Son who strides atop the hierarchies of evil that are determined to destroy the kingdom of God. Before His face earth and sky flee away and yet nursing children are gathered into His arms like precious lambs. Christ has spoken on Joyce’s behalf. He has named her as His own. And for this she was grateful.

No one can say that Joyce didn’t make industrious use of the physical strength and mental abilities God gave her. She engaged life to the full. She did it with gusto and she did it with joy. Farming, baking, gardening, show entries and countless family meals- Joyce was pleased to serve and be a blessing to others. She understood and cherished her vocation and her place in God’s kingdom. Joyce was never found killing time; she was killing dinner! Just ask Peg.

Underpinning it all was her steadfast Christian devotion. Her commitment to God’s truth in Christ was no secret. God’s house- this place in particular- was her spiritual home. And it was so not just for sentimental or social reasons but because here she drew on the source of divine strength. Here she received forgiveness through the promise of His word. Here she was nourished by His sacred body and blood. Here she knew she was at the threshold- the entrance to God’s dwelling in eternity. Here she found security and peace that passes all understanding.

If you are seeking security; if you are looking for peace of mind; if you want assurance that you are freed from the penetrating judgment of God; search no further than the One who was willing to bleed for you. He has borne your transgressions so that you might own His holiness. The sinner stands or falls on the righteousness of Christ. Joyce stands in His righteousness.

Joyce has done her hard yards. But as we shed tears of sorrow and tears of joy our task is not finished. We only truly grieve when we lose something- someone- irreplaceable. And this makes the task of grieving irreducible. You can attempt to reduce the poignancy of grief by grasping for hollow substitutes. You can medicate it, deny it or withdraw into isolation. But you cannot escape from facing a true loss. Grief will demand its pound of flesh. This is true even when you know in your mind that the deceased was a believer and is at peace. Grief is guttural. It is a scream of angst against God.

Yet God knows something more. He embraces our fragility with compassion. The Holy Spirit enters the darkness of grief and there He kindles a light. That light is sourced from the eternal flame- Jesus Christ- the Light of the World. Christ shoulders our loss and buoys us with hope. He directs us for comfort to those promises which seal us with His ownership and inheritance.

It may seem a small thing that Joyce was baptized. Yet nothing could be more central to life in Christ. The faith once given in baptism- that faith so precious and then just beginning to bloom- is now perfected. It has yielded a harvest far more than a hundredfold. Indeed, for Joyce, faith is now unnecessary altogether. Her faith has no more tasks. No more challenges. No more doubts. Joyce exists in the presence of the triune God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the saints and angels- and dare we speculate- surrounded with flowers and fragrances that far exceed even those she was involved with during her earthly life. Joyce lives. She still awaits the bodily resurrection, yes, but she is already at the destination. She has been given the crown of life. Thanks be to God! Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Joyce Braun
9 May 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Matthew 7:21-23
2 Matthew 6:33
3 John 19:30
4 John 10:7
5 John 8:12
6 John 11:25
7 Revelation 1:17

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