(some borrowing from Chemnitz)
To all who mourn the death of our sister Linda, yet also look forward to eternal life and the resurrection of the body; grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The text is the holy Gospel, Saint Luke chapter one, especially these words: “that He would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life.”
It is a sentence fragment, so we need a bit of context. The subject “He” is the Lord God of Israel, but also is the mighty Horn of salvation, who is Christ, raised up for us in the house of David. The Triune God, and particularly Christ our Lord, is the One who delivers.
Secondly, who are the enemies? They are sin, the curse of the Law, the devil, death, and hell, as well as the sinful flesh and the wicked people of the unbelieving world. These are fearsome and terrible enemies who would surely defeat us if left to our own strength.
From these enemies, our Lord God has delivered and will deliver Linda. He delivered her from sin and the curse of the Law when He lived a perfectly righteous life and shed perfectly holy, innocent Blood on her behalf. He rescued her from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse in her place, taking the ravages of the curse on Himself. He crushed the serpent’s head and left that ancient enemy no basis of accusation against her. Hell is shut forever to Linda because Christ triumphed and openly declared His victory over all its demonic forces.
All those were things done in the past, some two thousand years ago. But in her lifetime, Christ still worked. He specifically brought the benefits of His mighty work to Linda when He washed her in the waters of Baptism. He therefore put to death her sinful flesh, also called the old Adam, and saw to it that she kept putting the old Adam to death throughout her lifetime by daily contrition and repentance.
He continued by declaring His Gospel to her. He forgave all her sins through His Word, spoken by men called by Christ to serve Linda. He would not leave her defenseless, but sent shepherds to watch over her soul.
To further strengthen her for the hard pilgrimage of this life, Christ fed her His Body and Blood in the Sacrament. This food of immortality nourished Linda for everlasting life. In those bites and sips, she tasted eternity.
Since Christ protected and preserved her throughout her lifetime in the true faith, now she is beyond the reaches of the devil and the sinful world. Although these hated Linda and still do, God kept her safe, shielded from their wicked rage.
One enemy remains whose effects still remain. Death has struck Linda. The sting of death is the Law, and the power of the Law is sin. But thanks be to God that He removed that sting through Christ Jesus. So the death of Linda is not the horror and tragedy it would have been. Her spirit has been kept safe in the presence of Christ her Lord, while her body sleeps here below.
At the resurrection, He will complete His final work for her. He will raise her with this body, yet not as it was. She will be as she should have been, how she was meant to be in the original creation - without sin, without sickness or pain or sorrow. Then death will be abolished once and for all for Linda, and she will be clothed with glory and immortality forever.
But let us pause now to remember her earthly life as God saw it, in the words of Saint Zacharias, father of John the Baptist.
Because Linda was already delivered from her enemies, she was able to serve God without fear. Now, this was not a kind of fearlessness that goes along blithely without a care in the world because it fears neither God nor man. No, Linda could be fearless because she had peace with God, purchased by Christ. She had a tranquil conscience even in the face of temptation and sin because her future was certain. She had confidence in God because she was adopted as His dear child. Since God was her beloved Father in Christ, what should she fear?
Yet fears came from time to time. No man or woman, no matter how saintly, can entirely escape the fears of this life. But even the weaknesses of human nature and the heart of sin could not remove the objective reality that was Linda’s through faith: that all enemies have been conquered and God is her Father.
So she could also serve Him with a willing heart. She was no slave who labored under threat of punishment. Christ had taken all punishment on Himself on the Cross. Therefore Linda was able to serve purely out of the thankfulness and joy of a redeemed saint. What a glorious service she offered to God! We cannot fully see how majestic that life was, but we know with certainty that He was most pleased with her obedient service.
Her life was so glorious because the powerful redemption purchased by Christ the Lord freed her for service. So she was able to resist corruption, freed from slavery to the devil. So Linda was able to avoid wickedness and devote herself entirely to worship of God and love for her neighbor.
Not that she was perfect. May our reflections of Linda not paint too exaggerated a picture of her personal goodness. She truly was a sinner.
But God, who searches the heart, was watching Linda’s life with special care to nurture in her those things that please Him. He was working in her mightily to do wonderful acts of holiness and righteousness. She was and is His workmanship, created and shaped and cultivated by Him. We could see her holiness in the observance of the commandments, serving both God and neighbor in love. Her greatest righteousness was the righteousness of faith that received the gifts of God in Christ Jesus. This faith also exercised itself in a pure heart and good conscience.
She was far more glorious with the holiness of Christ than we could perceive or comprehend. But on the last day, she will shine out with all the sons of God, and all eyes will see the wonders of God’s new creation in His saints.
God also continue to work in us, the saints who still labor below, until we follow Linda into the presence of God, and preserve us until the final defeat of the last enemy at the resurrection. Amen.
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