Thursday, October 11, 2012

Funeral of Olive Beierle

Sermon on John 14:1-6
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
October 11, 2012 (Funeral of Olive Beierle)

Olive became a shut-in not long after I began serving Holy Cross as vacancy pastor, almost two years ago.  Her circulation had been steadily deteriorating, and her heart could no longer supply blood to her extremities well enough to heal wounds, such as the scrape she suffered on her leg Thanksgiving Day that year while visiting her grandchildren.  Over the last couple of years the problem has grown steadily worse, until she could no longer live by herself in her longtime home in Elmwood Park and had to move to a care facility for her final days.  The last time I was able to give her Jesus’ body and blood was at the hospital in West Allis, not long after having moved out of her old home here.  At that time she expressed to me that she really did not want to leave her house.  It was familiar to her.  She and her husband had spent many happy years there.  In fact, many times while her health was deteriorating and I would visit her every few months she would admit to me that she probably shouldn’t be living at home any more, but she couldn’t bring herself to leave her house behind until it became absolutely necessary.

As I told her many times during my visits with her, including the very last one at the hospital in West Allis, she has a home that can never be taken from her.  Her house here in Elmwood Park is, of course, no longer hers since her death, and it will be sold to someone else who will live there at some point.  Eventually it will be destroyed or torn down, whether at the day of Jesus’ return in glory or before that, as will everything we have in this old world.  The world itself is temporary, as is everything we have in it, because everything has been corrupted by sin, and therefore things deteriorate, accidents, fires, and floods happen, and people die.  None of that would happen were it not for the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, whose sin has been passed down to us, along with the death that entered this world because of sin.

But, as I said, she has a home that can never be taken from her.  She has a place where she belongs that will never be torn down, where no one will break in, where no fire will destroy, and no accidents or trips and falls will ever happen.  That home is the place prepared for her by our Lord Jesus Christ in His Father’s house.  He became homeless so that we who believe in Him will have an eternal home.  He who knew no sin became sin for us in order that we might share in His righteousness.  He suffered death in order that we might have eternal life.  He gave up everything so that we could have everything.

And so Olive is finally in her true home, the one we too will inherit as believers in Jesus Christ.  We will join her there at the end of our lives, or when Christ comes again, whichever comes first, so long as we trust His promises that His Son’s death has paid for our sins and that our fellowship with Him is restored.  In the meantime, of course, we mourn the fact that we are separated from her for a time.  We can no longer talk with her or see her as we did before her passing.  Death was never supposed to be part of God’s creation, and so it’s natural that when it afflicts those we love, we mourn.

But we don’t mourn as those who have no hope.  Because the home Christ has prepared for Olive, and for each of us who believe, is a home that is ours even now while we continue on in this old world.  After all, Olive is with Jesus.  And Jesus is present wherever two or three are gathered together to hear His Word and receive His body and blood.  There is only one Jesus, after all.  And the Jesus with whom Olive now dwells in her true home, is the same Jesus who visits us every Sunday in His body and blood.  That’s why the Lutheran Church’s liturgy confesses, “therefore with angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name . . .”  Olive is included in the whole company of heaven who are present with us, worshiping the Lamb who was slain as He gives us His body to eat and His blood to drink.  Our heavenly home, and Olive’s, comes down to earth and dwells with us wherever and whenever we celebrate the Sacrament of the Altar.  The same feast of victory, the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom which has no end, in which Olive now partakes eternally, is the feast we share as we gather around His body broken and His blood shed for us.  Our heavenly home, and Olive’s, is not so far away as we might think.  Christ dwells with us, and He gathers us all together with Him.  He will return in glory, and we will experience that glorious reality fully at a later date, but it belongs to us now.  Our eternal home, which will never be taken from us, is already ours.  Olive is already there, and we will be as well.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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