Grace to you, and peace, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The prophet Isaiah wrote God’s Word, as the Holy Spirit guided him:
Rain and snow come down from the sky. They do not go back again until they water the earth. They make it sprout and grow so that it produces seed for farmers and food for people to eat.
My word, which comes from my mouth, is like the rain and snow. It will not come back to me without results. It will accomplish whatever I want, and achieve whatever I send it to do.1
The Apostle Paul wrote God’s Word, as the Holy Spirit guided him:
If you declare that Jesus is Lord, and believe that God brought him back to life, you will be saved. By believing you receive God’s approval, and by declaring your faith you are saved. Scripture says, ’Whoever believes in him will not be ashamed.’
So then, Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can people call on him if they have not believed in him? How can they believe in him if they have not heard his message? How can they hear if no one tells the Good News? How can people tell the Good News if no one sends them?
Faith comes by hearing, and hear by the words of Christ.2
These verses, and all of Holy Scripture, teach us perhaps the single most important thing that any true Christian needs to know. Faith, true faith that leads to eternal life in Heaven, comes through God’s Word.
In the Lutheran Church there are three things we refer to as, “The Means of Grace.” These are the means by which we receive God’s grace, the means through which we come into contact with God Himself. The first is Holy Baptism through which the Holy Spirit comes to us and dwells, not just with us but within us. Our body become a temple of the Holy Spirit.3 The Baptism you received, you received with Christ, so that you could die with Him, and rise with Him.4
The Father, in your Baptism, expresses His love over you, just as He did His Son, at His Son’s baptism.5 The reason we Baptize infants, as the Church has done from its own infancy, is because we do not go to find God, God comes to find us. Where we could do nothing to go find God, God could and did, come to find, and save, us. In Baptism we are helpless to do anything but receive God’s divine grace. Lucille Wollenberg was Baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. In that Baptism she received the gift of faith from God Almighty. A faith she carried with her to her final days.
The second “Means of Grace” is the Lord’s Supper. Here again we receive God’s grace. Here again we come into contact with God Himself. Here in, with, and under, the bread and wine, we receive Jesus’ very real, and very present, body and blood, through which He gives us forgiveness of our sins and eternal life.6 Through Jesus’ sacrifice the Father looks down on us with His favor, the debt for our sins having been paid. The Holy Spirit holds and sustains us in that faith throughout our years on this Earth.
The third, and perhaps most important “Means of Grace” is that through which the Sacraments have been brought to us. It is that through which all of our knowledge of God, and God’s will, has come to us. It is that through which we know all of God’s truths and promises. It is that through which we know, all there is to know, about the God we worship and praise, the God who has saved us. This “Means of Grace” is called the Holy Word of God, the Bible.
Here again, through God’s Word, we receive God’s grace, and come into contact with God Himself. Contained in the pages of this book, a book that has withstood the test of time, not for tens, or hundreds of years, but has remained in tact, consistent, and unchanged for thousands of years, are the very words of God. Each and every page holds the message from our God that salvation has come, and His name is Jesus. Every word of this Book teaches us how God, in spite of our own failing and shortcomings, did all that was necessary to save us.
Each time Lucille heard God’s Word she heard the truths and promises of God and she was held in the faith which God had given her. In Lucille’s life we see so very clearly the wonder of the God who loves us. As Lucille approached the end of her life the affects of sin waged its toll on her. Her mind and body began to fail her. Not because of her sin,7 but because of sin and sin affect on all of creation.8 There were days when she struggled to remember so many things. Yet though her body and mind began to fail her God never did.
What could she do to keep herself in God’s grace? What could she do to keep herself in the one true Christian faith that brought her to eternal life? What can she do right now to obtain the physical resurrection God has promised?9 The answer of course is, ’Nothing.’ Yet where she could do nothing God could, and did, do everything because God works through His Word and that is why He has given us His Word, so that we could be saved.
Through His Holy Word God came to Lucille in the Scriptures, devotions and sermons she heard. Through these gifts of God she was held and sustained in faith. Not faith in herself, not faith in me, or in her family or her friends, but in the saving faith of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. The Holy Spirit cared for her and protected her from every effort of Satan to pull her away from the salvation Jesus earned for her.
Now, right now, she is free. Free of everything that plagued her in this life. Never again will she know anything about sin or sins affect. Never again will she know sorrow or tears.10 Never again will she know separation from the God who loves her.11 She now has realized the promise we all have been given. She knows paradise. She has seen the face of God and He was smiling as He welcomed her safety home.
That is the wonder of our God. All of us will someday come to that place where we are utterly helpless. As our final breath approaches and we are left with no choice but to place our whole and complete trust in Jesus our Lord, that gift of faith, given to us by God Himself, through His Word, carries us home.
Now, Lucille waits. She waits with the anticipation that a child has waiting for Christmas Day. She waits for that Last Day, the day we call Judgment Day. The day when Christ Himself will come. On that day He will call this body from its resting place and Lucille’s soul and body will be restored forever to live in the perfect relationship that God had intended from the beginning.
What message is there in this for all of us? The same message brought to Lucille. The same message received in every faithful church all over this planet. The message of forgiveness and salvation though Jesus Christ our Lord. It is important to remain in His Word because it is through His Word that God comes to us.
That is the reason the author of the book of Hebrews says:
We must consider how to encourage each other to show love and to do good things. We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other, even more as we see the day of the Lord coming.12
The Holy Christian Church has a goal and purpose in our lives. To bring God’s “Means of Grace” to us. We are called to remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy13 because God has given us His Word to hold us and keep us safe in that faith that saves us. Without faith there is no salvation.14
What could be more important? What should be the highest priority? Is anything in this world worth eternal separation from the God who has given us such gifts of grace? Not one of us here knows the day of our death. We do not know when that final hour will come but we can always rest assured that when it does come those who remain in the one true Christian faith will be saved.
We know that because God cannot lie15 and He has promised us that He will save us. You see this is not the end. Lucille’s life has not come to its end, her body will not go to its final resting place. This is not the end, it is the beginning. The next time Lucille opens her eyes everything will be, and will remain forever, perfect. That is God’s promise to us.
We messed this place up. We brought sin and sins affect into this creation. That sin separated us from God. It brought pain, struggle, and death into all that is in this world, but the Father would not endure being separated from His children forever. So He sent His only-begotten Son to pay the debt we owed.
Now though we must still pass through this death,16 it is not a death that brings and end, but rather a beginning. For the faithful we receive a beginning of a life that God has promised cannot ever be touched by sin again. As we gather here to say our goodbye’s to Lucille, for a time, we must also use this opportunity to renew in ourselves the desire to hear and learn from God’s Word, receive His Sacraments, and not reject the free gift of faith that will not only allow us to see Lucille again, but to also see the face of the God who has saved us.
May God in His mercy grant this to us all.
2Romans 10:8-17 (Adapted)
31 Corinthians 6:19 – Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?
4Romans 6:8 – Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
5Matthew 3:17 – … a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
61 Corinthians 11:23-26 – I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
7John 9:2-3 – His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
8Romans 8:22 – We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
9Romans 6:5 – If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
10Revelation 21:4 – He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
11John 10:28 – I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
14John 3:18 – Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
15Titus 1:2 – … in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began …
16Genesis 3:22 – Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever…