Sermon for the Funeral of Marjorie A. Fischer, November 24, AD 2020

John 5:24-30; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
           
Our readings today speak of the great comfort we find in the resurrection of the dead. Yet comfort is needed because there is a problem. That problem is death. I did not have the opportunity to meet Marjorie, but I know she was a Christian. Yet, even after eighty-eight years, she has died and been separated from us. We must wait to see or hear from her again.
           
I was told that Marge loved the season of Advent, it was her favorite season. It’s a season that starts next week – the church will be decorated, there will be midweek services, and the anticipation of Christmas will be in the air. For Advent means “coming,” and it is a season that anticipates the coming of Jesus as a baby in the manger in Bethlehem on Christmas morning. But this is not the only coming that Advent anticipates. Advent also looks forward to the coming of Jesus at the end of time, when He will come to raise all the dead and bring all of those who trust in Him to be with Him forever.
           
By the very fact of death, we see that we live in a broken and corrupted world. The Bible tells us this corruption, the fact that things are not right, that there is death, comes from our own sin. As the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, “by a man came death” and “In Adam all die.” Our forefather Adam disobeyed God and brought sin, and therefore death, into the world, and we have suffered ever since. We all inherit this sin from our parents, and so sin every day. Yet Christ was sent to save us from our sin.

These two “Advents” of Christ are connected. Jesus’ birth on Christmas was the beginning of His work to save humanity from our sin. In the womb of Mary, the Son of God took on human flesh and became man, like us, but without sin. He lived the perfect life, and was crucified and died for our sin, and three days later He rose from the dead. This resurrection is our solution to sin and death, it is our ultimate hope. For as Paul also says, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Trusting that Jesus by his death has paid the penalty for all our sins, we also know that we shall join with Him in His resurrection from the dead when He returns at the end of time. Paul continues, “But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” Because Christ has risen from the dead, we know that Marjorie, and all we who believe and are baptized, will rise on the final day as well.

We grieve in hope because of Christ’s final victory, but this does not mean that we do not grieve. For while we have ultimate hope in the resurrection, death still hurts us now. The separation, loss, and heartache we experience is not as God has intended. In the end, Jesus will destroy every enemy and authority and power, and the last enemy He will destroy is death. We hope in Christ’s complete victory, for this is a victory for Marjorie as well, and we pray for Christ’s return, his last Advent to set everything right.

While we wait, there is one more Advent. The Advent of our Lord Jesus who comes to us now. As we hear from the gospel reading from John, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” Eternal life is here now. Whoever hears the word and believes already has eternal life. In her baptism, in trusting in the Word of Christ, Marjorie had already passed from death into life. Her resurrection began 88 years ago when she became a child of God through water and the word. The fruit of her new life showed in her love for her family, dedicated work in the church, and love for her neighbors. This is true for all of us who believe His Word as well. As John says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” Dead in our sins, we have heard the voice of God, that Christ has paid for our sin and risen again. Trusting in Him, we now live. This is not just an hour that is coming, but is now here. Christ’s Advent is also now, here, for us, whenever we hear and believe His Word.

That Word is what sustains us in our hope as we continue our lives in this world of sin, as we experience loss, separation, and heartbreak. We grieve now, but not as those who have no hope. For all who trust in Christ we will see Marjorie again, with Christ and all his beloved saints, in the resurrection of the dead. Then we will not grieve at all. For Christ “will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces” (Isaiah 25:8). With all the redeemed we will then say on that final day, on the last Advent, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation" (Isaiah 25:9). Amen.

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