To you, the friends and loved ones of Joanne, our dear sister in Christ - grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
The text from the Prophet Isaiah: “We have a strong city; God sets up salvation as walls and ramparts. Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. … Your dead shall live, their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.”
Joanne has been kept safe in a strong city. Thick walls and mighty fortifications protected her, although not physical ones. Salvation is the wall that defended her. The forgiveness in Christ Jesus is the shield that warded off the attacks of the evil one upon her.
Evil did harm her in this life. Her mind and body were worn down by affliction in these last years. Yet she was kept safe in Jesus, her Lord and Savior. He held her life in His hand, and even the devil could not snatch her from that mighty hand. Now she rests in perfect peace with the saints of God, since she also is one of them.
Joanne is and forever remains a member of the righteous nation called the Church. This nation does not have borders or armies in any regular sense. The Word of God is where they are found. They are those who hold onto Him by faith, trusting and clinging to the wonderful merits of Jesus.
So Joanne also was found where the Word is. She also trusted and held onto her Savior. But this clinging and trusting was not by her strength. No, the Holy Spirit kept her in the true faith. He held her safely.
This is important because the evil one may try to shake our confidence. We may be tempted to think that, perhaps, as Joanne’s mental faculties became clouded over time that she may have forgotten her Lord. We may be tempted to think that perhaps she let go of Him, or that she stopped thinking about Him.
But that is not the way of things. The Lord is gracious and merciful, and protects us even from our own weaknesses. Joanne was always safe. When she could not come to the Word, the Lord sent an unworthy messenger to take the Word to her. When she could not express her faith clearly, the Lord saw the thoughts of her heart, where He had planted faith. He nurtured and He kept that faith alive.
Every one of us would lose our faith if it was up to us. If we had to maintain the slightest bit of our trust in Christ in order to be saved, we would all mess it up one way or another.
But the Lord keeps us as He did Joanne. He protects our faith through the hearing of His Word. He sends His Spirit through many unworthy messengers who speak and Baptize and feed us the food that nourishes our souls.
So the Lord Jehovah, the God of salvation, was and is and always will be the strength of Joanne. As He is almighty, from everlasting to everlasting, He has kept her as His precious child through this life, and carried her to the life to come, where she was welcomed through the gates of heaven.
One thing more awaits her. A day comes when the dead shall rise. All bodies in the tombs shall live again. The resurrection of Joanne shall happen along with everyone else. The Lord will need to reassemble her body from the remains that have been cremated, but that is no challenge to Him. He did something much similar with the first man when He made Him from the dust of the earth.
That day shall dawn bright and glorious, as the new morning blazes forth upon the earth. That is the day of resurrection, the last day of this earth, and the beginning of the new and eternal day.
Joanne will stand up on the earth on that day on strong and confident legs. She will have a mind more clear and brilliant than any of us had in this life. Greatest of all, she will be holy and glorious as the Lord Jesus is. She, like every believer in Christ, will be raised to majestic and eternal life in a body made pure and full of health and without any weakness or pain.
What a glory to see that, especially for our sister who struggled with weakness for so long.
We also will rise, if we are not left alive at the coming of Christ. Those of us who trust in Him will rise to eternal glory. He has purchased this for us by His suffering. He entered the grave before us, suffering its worst agony. And He also rose, showing us that we will rise like Him.
Joanne did not earn this, nor did we, not the best of us, if there is such a person. But we do not trust in what we do, but in what Christ has done for us. We look to His Cross and resurrection because they have purchased for us perfect life for all eternity.
There we shall meet Joanne again. Even better, we will look upon the face of our Creator and Redeemer, the One who gives faith and forgiveness and every blessing, and keeps us in these things for all eternity.
In His Name and to His glory alone. Amen.
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