To the family and friends of our departed sister Ruth, grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Ruth has entered glory. In this life, she lived in the hope of that glory. This is no uncertain hope, as if she wished it would happen but did not know for sure. Instead, she had the absolute certainty that she would not be put to shame. On the contrary, she has been lifted up on high in the presence of God, seeing the wonderful glory of His face. She will be lifted up again at the Day of Resurrection to even greater glory when her physical body will be clothed in majestic immortality.
How could she be certain of these things? Because God has justified her through faith in Christ Jesus. Because of His death and resurrection, she was declared innocent and righteous in His sight.
Ruth’s hope of glory was not in herself and her love for others. By God’s grace, she was being renewed in love for those around her. But that was not the basis for her hope. Instead, God’s love was poured into her heart through the Holy Spirit. He loved her with a pure and gracious love. Her own love, much as we may praise it on this day, is no solid rock upon which to build. But the love of God in Christ Jesus is a firm foundation that can never disappoint. So Ruth’s faith was not in her own goodness, since she knew full well that she was a sinner. Instead, she trusted in Christ, the holy Son of God.
But just because God loved her did not mean that her life was always a bed of roses. There was suffering at times. There was pain, and the pain of loss. There were struggles. God did not shield her absolutely from anything bad.
Yet in the times of pain, even then she loved to sing. When she was too weak to sing (which she had to get very weak for that), she still loved to hear the songs of her Lord. Why? Why did she continue to have a joyful heart in the midst of her suffering? Because she had endurance and character that gave her the hope of glory in Christ.
He filled her heart with joy when she heard His Name sung, for He shed precious Blood to justify her. He lifted her spirit when it was low, because He turned her eyes to see His promises for her. It was not simply that melodies are nice and cheer a person up, although that certainly helps. Much more than that, the sacred songs of Christ showed her His death and resurrection, the source of all spiritual joy.
This is not to say that she was always joyful. She had her low moments, as we all do. We need not be troubled by these. Christ our Lord felt great anguish of soul, so we know that it is no sin to feel the same. Although we often spoil our sorrow with sin, the sorrow in itself does not mean that there is something wrong with us.
When Saint Paul says that we have peace with God and that we rejoice in our sufferings, we are not forced into a perpetual state of positive emotion. Nor should we doubt someone’s faith, Ruth’s or anyone’s, because they feel negative emotions. We still struggle in this life, and surely can be expected to feel sadness. Even at a funeral, our Lord set an example by weeping. So we need not be ashamed of crying at the death of loved ones.
Yet, overall, our attitude is one of joy. Our sufferings do not crush us into despair, as they did not crush Ruth. She knew that whatever tribulations would come in this life, she was safe in Christ. She kept her hope in Him. May she be an example for us to keep the promises of our Lord before our eyes, even in the dark hours of our own deaths.
Ruth did not have to fear death, because her Savior has conquered it. The grave is toothless, its sting removed by the death and resurrection of the Lord of life. Since Ruth was Baptized into Christ, she was also Baptized into His death and resurrection. Life was hers, life that could not be taken away, even now that her body sleeps in the ground.
Resurrection will inevitably come to Ruth, and to all believers, because Christ is not satisfied to save only the soul. Ruth was fully reconciled to God and justified by His Blood. How then will He fail to raise her on the Last Day? Why would He forget about her body as if He did not care about it? He shed precious Blood and suffered terribly for her, and thus proved His immense love for her. As she is dear to His heart, He has insured her resurrection to deathless perfection.
In that way, He will remove the last sign of sin from her life. Although He has made her death a blessed sleep, yet death is still the wages of sin. But even this He will reverse, as He will do for all His saints.
That will be the completion of the fantastic blessings that Christ has purchased for her. The reconciliation of Ruth to God means that she is a friend and family member with God, and belongs in His household, as she also now dwells in His presence with all the spirits of the faithful departed. Her faith and hope in Him are fulfilled in Paradise, and will be fulfilled even more at the Judgment.
She need not fear any wrath of God at the Judgment, because she has not trusted in her own goodness, but in the sacrifice of Christ. Therefore, all the anger of God against sin was transferred to Christ on the Cross, and none will ever touch her. Instead, she will continue to receive life and joy everlasting.
Therefore we also rejoice today, although we have suffered a loss. Our hearts are comforted by the great things that Christ has done for Ruth. And we turn our eyes also to His Cross and Empty Tomb, where our life also lies.
In His Name alone, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the God of all the living. Amen.
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