These past few days have been a time for both mourning and dancing. We mourn because Louise, our dear sister in Christ is no longer with us. We dance because Louise, our dear sister in Christ is with the Lord. For those who believe, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
I speak of dancing because, as I spent time with her family, I learned that Louise was a fairly good dancer in her youth. I was not surprised because Louise always had a spark to her - a joy for life. She enjoyed teasing the people she loved and she enjoyed it when the people she loved teased her back. The energy and the spirit of a dancer always came through in her demeanor even after she was no longer physically able to dance.
Louise had deep love and loyalty. She loved God. She loved her family. She loved her church - her family of faith.
It was a rare Sunday that she did not take her place on her favorite chair out in the narthex - a chair that she called her throne. She was always there to greet those who came to receive the many gifts that God has for His people in this place. She made it her business to welcome people to God's house.
Louise had a missionary's heart. There are times in our 24 x 7 culture that parents can't always get off on Sundays. Louise was always happy to pick up her grandchildren and bring them to church when their parents had to work. She also encouraged me to take God's Word to the Veteran's Hospital in Danville - to a veteran who eventually died of ALS. I Had the distinct privilege of sharing God's Word with that veteran partly because of Louise.
I am sure that each of you has many stories and memories of Louise. Whether you called her Mom, Granny, or Louise, I am sure that each of you will miss her in your own special way.
That is why today is a day of mourning. Death has made a hole in our community. A loved one is missing. In future Sundays, someone else will sit on her throne in the narthex.
So this is a day of mourning, but it is also a day for dancing. St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and said, [1 Thessalonians 4:13] "We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope." Paul does not say we do not grieve, but that our grief is different. We do not grieve as though Louise is lost forever. Instead, we grieve as those who must spend a long time apart from one another. We do not grieve as those who say good bye knowing they will never meet again, but as those who say good bye until we meet again.
You see, Louise knows that Jesus Christ transformed death. Death is no longer a final destination, but Jesus has transformed it into a doorway - a doorway to a life that is like the Garden of Eden, only better. All those who believe in Jesus Christ as their savior, as Louise did, will step through death into a new life - a life that is beyond anything this world has to offer.
This world can not offer anything like the life Jesus gives because this world is not perfect - it is sinful. It has been sinful ever since Adam and Eve listened to Satan in Eden. That sin has been passed on from generation to generation so that we all inherit sin from our parents. We are born as our own worst enemy. As St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Christians in Rome, [Romans 5:12] "Death spread to all men because all sinned."
Jesus came into this world to change all that. In Jesus Christ, we experience God and Man in the flesh. His perfect life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection transformed death. For those who believe in Jesus, death is no longer a way to eternal loss, but a way to eternal bliss.
Louise believed in Jesus Christ. Death for her was a door that led to her savior's side. She is now sees Jesus face-to-face with all the beloved who left this world before her. She is at peace. Her pain is gone. Her health is perfect. She will never shed tears of sorrow again.
Not only is Louise's soul in heaven with her Lord, but the day is coming when Jesus shall return to raise all the dead. On that day He will raise us all to immortality. On that day, Louise and all believers will join together body and soul to live before God in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.
We shall see Louise again. She cannot come back to us, but we can go where she has gone. We can join in the fellowship of the Church where we join not just with angels and archangels, but with the whole company of heaven, including Louise, as we laud and magnify God's glorious name. We can join our song to hers, and we can follow her to Jesus' side - to the Church of the firstborn in heaven. For Jesus not only died for Louise, He also died for, and loves, us.
Remember the faith that Louise confessed. The Holy Spirit wants to feed your soul with His Word and Sacraments so that your faith will grow as well. With faith in Jesus Christ your time in eternal glory will be greater than any time here on this earth. Our separation from Louise and other loved ones will not last. The trumpet will sound. The dead will rise. And we will be joined in Christ forever. Amen.
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