“Forgiveness, Resurrection, and Life: God’s Gifts to Ron” (Apostles’ Creed)

Funeral Service
Wednesday, July 7, 2010

“Forgiveness, Resurrection, and Life: God’s Gifts to Ron” (Apostles’ Creed)

Ron, Doris, John, family and friends of Ron Benear Jr., dear brothers and sisters in Christ: Today we mourn the loss of a son and brother, a friend, and fellow member of this congregation. It hurts to lose someone we know and love. Ron and Doris, you’re not supposed to say goodbye to a son. It’s supposed to be the other way around. John, to lose a brother you’ve known your whole life–that’s like losing an arm, or maybe more closely, to lose a piece of your heart. And for all of us, every time we bid farewell to a friend or relative, we are exposed to the bitter pain of death and we are reminded of our own mortality, our own coming death. This is a time to mourn and to grieve.

But we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Indeed, we have the greatest hope there is–really, the only hope there is in the face of death–and that is the hope of glory we have in Christ. Today we find comfort in what we just confessed in the Creed, namely, “the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” “Forgiveness, Resurrection, and Life”: These were, are, and will be God’s gifts to Ron Jr., and they are the same good gifts our gracious God bestows on each one of us here today.

“The forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” Mark it well: These are not just some empty phrases we mouth when we say the Creed. No, these are living realities, purchased with the blood of Christ. This is the faith we believe, this is the faith Ron believed and confessed, this is the faith into which he was baptized and in which he died. The work of God behind these words and in these words–that is what breathed life into Ron’s soul and which in turn will breathe life into his body. And this is what will give you the strength and comfort to carry through, in the face of difficult times: the work God has done, is doing, and will do in gifting us with forgiveness, resurrection, and life.

Let’s look at each one, beginning with the forgiveness of sins. It is because of our sins that we die. If we had no sins, we would have no death. Death weighs down upon us, bears down upon us, and overtakes us, because we are sinners. Death is the curse that God has pronounced on all who disobey his voice. It has been that way ever since the first sinners, our first parents, in the Garden. And that sinful nature–and with it, the curse of death–has come down to us, generation after generation. And then it hits home, when a loved one is struck down and dies, like Ron Jr. was taken from us. How awful our condition, our predicament! Sin and death all around us! Sin and death inside each one of us, and we’re only waiting for the bell to toll our name.

But as I say, there is forgiveness for these sins of ours. And the forgiveness comes when our sins are taken away from us and paid for by another. That someone else is our brother, Jesus Christ. He came down from heaven, the Son of God did, in order to take care of the whole miserable mess. He came down into our hall of death, this gray, grim world of sin and misery, and he came as our brother. He came revealing and bestowing the gifts his coming would bring. He raises a widow’s son from his funeral bier. The message is clear: This man Jesus has authority even over death.

But why? How? How will he accomplish this victory over death, all these blessings that accompany his coming? By the forgiveness of sins. When sins are forgiven, then death loses its power. But first, Christ must pay for those sins. Your sins, my sins, Ronnie’s sins–all the sins of all the sinners in the world–these Christ bore in his body on the cross. So great is God’s love, so great is Jesus’ willingness to bear your load and set you free, that he did this for you. You could never atone for your sins, but Christ did. When the holy Son of God sheds his blood for you and dies for you, there is nothing left to be paid. Your sins are completely forgiven because of Christ.

Our sins under the law would have done us in. But as the apostle writes: “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

So there is the forgiveness of sins, the first point. But when there is the forgiveness of sins, that will inevitably lead to points two and three, which are the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. So that is where we go next.

“The resurrection of the body.” Yes, dear friends, God is going to raise this body, this body of flesh and bone. And he is going to raise it new and glorious, perfectly restored in body and soul and mind, better than ever. No matter what has happened to our body–the ravages of cancer, the ravages of age, the deterioration caused by our own folly or just the natural wear and tear–God is going to raise up and restore your body. It will happen on the Last Day, when our Lord and Savior returns in glory.

You see, Jesus himself is our guarantee that this is going to happen. Christ himself was raised from the dead, on Easter morning, and that shows that what he did on the cross for us, atoning for our sins, is sufficient to remove the curse and conquer death. Jesus Christ is the firstfruits of the resurrection of the dead. When he rose from the dead, that meant that all those who believe in him and are joined to him will surely follow.

And Ron Jr. did trust in Christ his Savior and was joined to him. It began in his baptism. That is where Ron was brought to Christ and joined to him. Buried with Christ in the water and raised up to newness of life. God washed away Ron’s sins, claimed him as his child, gave him the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that Ron would believe in Christ and be kept in the Christian faith. And that worked, didn’t it? Ronnie did indeed remain in this saving faith. Through all the ups and downs of his life–and there were plenty of both–Ronnie was kept and guarded by the Word of God, through the preaching of the Gospel and the receiving of the Sacrament. Thanks be to God for this wonderful work of preserving us in the faith!

Yes, through his baptism, Ronnie was joined to Jesus. “Joined at the dip,” you might say. And so Ronnie’s life is tied to Jesus. Christ’s righteousness became Ron’s. Ron’s sins were borne by Jesus and forgiven. Christ’s resurrection is the sign and seal of Ronnie’s resurrection. Ronnie and Jesus were joined together, and so even now, Ronnie is with his Lord, blessed and at rest in paradise. His soul is at rest, and on that day when Christ comes again, Ron’s body, too, will be raised and restored and made perfect for eternal life.

And that is where we are going. That is where we are headed–eternal life. We don’t know all the details of that yet, but we do know that it will be glorious. Glorious and supremely good. No more tears, no more sorrow. Living in the presence of our God, in peace and fellowship and harmony. What joy there will be! United with God in perfect fellowship, no more sin to interrupt and disrupt our walk with God. United with all of God’s saints, our near ones and dear ones who have departed this life in the faith, all the saints of old, who knew the same Lord we know. The whole church, in all times and places, together in the presence of the Lord. That is the life everlasting that awaits us.

The Apostles’ Creed has it right. These three things go together: the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Bing, bang, bong. One gift follows upon another. When your sins are forgiven, you are right with God. And that means your body will be raised at the resurrection on the Last Day. And that Last Day will be just the first day of the life everlasting in glory, body and soul perfectly restored to live with God, and with all his saints, forever. “Forgiveness, Life, and Resurrection: God’s Gifts to Ron.” And take heart, my friends: These are God’s gifts to you, too.

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Published in: on July 7, 2010 at 4:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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