Sunday, September 6, 2015

Christian Burial of Margaret Nickolai 3 September 2015

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

Text: John 14:2
Theme: Now Occupied

Dear family, friends and loved ones of Margaret; Lisa, John, and especially you, Eric,

When the body of a believer on earth falls silent, the angelic spirits in heaven commence their celebrations. With song and chant and rejoicing a believer is received into the heavenly realms with revelry beyond comprehension. The place prepared for Margaret is now occupied. Death is a transition from life to life. It is a transition from a decaying, corrupted, weakening life; to a restored, perfected, and strengthened life. Death is a transition from doubt to certainty, from fear to security, from hope to attainment, from the temporary to the eternal. These truths are so because Jesus Christ was not given to speculation or philosophy or mere theoretical propositions. He is “the resurrection and the Life.”1 He has faced death and overcome it. He has now done this for Margaret Nickolai. Margaret has transitioned from a fragile life here, to a glorified life there.

In her last years Margaret suffered from a serious decline in her mental and physical faculties. It was a situation that contrasted with the vibrancy of most of her days. She had lived a full life. She courageously and patiently made the transition from city life to life on a Mallee farm. Though challenged in many ways she learned to be content. She adjusted to her new circumstances cheerfully. Margaret’s contentment was evidence of her faith. St. Paul says, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”2 And so too Margaret. The only true contentment in this life and the life to come is to rest securely in the care of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd; the Light of the world; the Living Water; the resurrection and the Life!

How desperately the world needs such contentment! The curse of living in this fallen world; the reality of lives ruled by sin; the struggle of hearts and minds absorbed in selfish pre-occupation is that one can never be truly content. The claim of contentment apart from faith in Christ is nothing but a mirage and illusion. Of course, there is always a worldly sort of contentment- enjoyment in accomplishments and participation in the things we love.

But this life is just a short dash. There are bigger issues that we must face. How will we stand at the judgment and still be content? People can be defiant or in denial or ignorant, but that in no way changes the outcome. When sin is left unaddressed and unresolved there can be no contentment and Margaret wanted people to know that. As we celebrate her life and recognize her death, we also reflect on our own mortality. No one can atone for their own sins. Only in Christ is there forgiveness that opens the gates of heaven. Thanks be to God that His Son has granted immortality to mere mortals! Christ is crucified and He is living and the Scripture says He “Abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”3 Immortality is eternal life.

The death of a Christian always involves the fulfillment of God’s promises. Margaret was called through the gospel. She was baptized into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In baptism she received the forgiveness of her sins, the Holy Spirit, and the promised inheritance of eternal life. She gave public testimony to her faith through the Rite of Confirmation and was a faithful hearer of the Word in God’s house. She regularly received Holy Communion, being blessed with the very body and blood of Him in whose presence she now resides. Her faithfulness was evidenced in her devotion as a wife, mother, grandmother, and Christian friend. Always hospitable she welcomed people cheerfully.

Margaret was never a person who wanted a big deal made over her. She was humble in heart and spirit. But to God every soul that is saved is a big deal. If Jesus said, “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent,”4 imagine how much joy there is when that repentant sinner actually reaches heaven! The salvation of souls is such a big deal that the Son of God assumed our human nature, fulfilled the Law to perfection, conquered the power and temptations of Satan, bore the burden of our transgressions, and endured the suffering of the cross to cover the debt of our sin. It is such a big deal that He died so we could live eternally.

Dear friends, eternal life is a big deal. It is beyond compare. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.”5 He says, “In My Father’s house are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you.”6Today we may mourn the loss of a beloved sister, relative and friend; but we celebrate life. Not only is Margaret’s battle with frailty done; her battle with sin and death itself is over. She has received her crown. She participates in Christ’s victory. The Bible’s words of acclamation ring out, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”6 Margaret’s earthly life is over, but her eternal life has just begun! Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Margaret Catherine Nickolai
3 September 2015
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 11:25
2 Philippians 4:11
3 2 Timothy 1:10
4 Luke 15:7
5 John 11:25-26
6 John 14:2
7 1 Corinthians 15:54-55

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