“From the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant” (2 Timothy 4:6-8, 18; Revelation 7:2-17)

Funeral Service
Sunday, November 25, 2018

“From the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant” (2 Timothy 4:6-8, 18; Revelation 7:2-17)

Today we remember our dear brother, Bill McBride. Some of you called him “Bucky.” I always called him “Bill.” Or maybe you called him “Dad” or “Grandpa,” because he was that, too. You could also call him “Soldier,” because he was proud of that part of his life, as well.

As you’ve seen in the obituaries, Bill McBride proudly served his country in the U.S. Army: 37th Field Artillery Unit, Second Indianhead Division, during the Korean War. Good work, soldier! And for decades after Korea, Bill was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Yes, if you got to know Bill, you knew that was a big part of his life, serving in the military. When I’d visit him in his home, I could see various memorabilia of his service to our country.

But today I want to tell you about Bill’s membership in another army, that is, in the church militant. The “church militant” is a term we use to refer to Christ’s church here on earth, as we battle and struggle to keep the faith in the midst of a hostile world. And it is a battle! It is a struggle. Our whole life long as Christians, we are facing enemy fire. The devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh are fighting against us, trying to discourage and defeat us and to pull us away from Christ, our Savior. That is why we call the church the “church militant,” because we are like a military unit, fighting the good fight to keep the faith and finally win the victory.

Well, now we can have the peace of knowing that Bill’s tour of duty in the church militant has come to an end. His struggle is over. He can say with St. Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” The Holy Spirit called Bill by the gospel, enlightened him with his gifts, sanctified and kept him in the true faith. Thanks be to God!

You see, from the day of his baptism, Bill was sealed with the name of the triune God. “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”: That saving name and the holy cross was placed on Bill’s forehead and on his heart, marking him as one redeemed by Christ the crucified. When God placed his name on Bill, he took him as his own dear child, washed away his sins, and sealed him with the Holy Spirit. At his baptism, God also enrolled Bill to serve in the church militant. It comes with the territory when you’re a Christian; there’s no getting around it. But at the same time, God placed Bill under his protection, so that the old evil foe would have no power over him.

And now, for Bill, that tour of duty is over. What’s next? Again, Paul tells us: “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” That’s what next: the crown of righteousness, the crown of eternal life. “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.” Yes, our brother Bill will wear the victor’s wreath, which the Lord Jesus will award to all believers on the day when he returns.

Resurrection! Victory! Bodies raised whole and glorious! Minds restored to full clarity–and then some. A restored creation: Paradise regained, only better. That is what awaits us. That is what awaits Bill. For now, he rests from his labors. He is at peace, his soul with the Lord even now, as his body awaits the day of resurrection.

And so Bill has been transferred from the church militant to the church triumphant. We get a glimpse of the glory that awaits us in the reading from Revelation 7: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” Bill will be in that number, rest assured, and so will Bonnie, his beloved wife. I had the privilege to serve them both for many years with Word and Sacrament, the means by which the Lord kept them in the saving faith.

Clothed in white robes, palm branches in our hands, praising the God who gives us victory and salvation: What a scene that will be! But how do we get our robes so white? How did Bill? God’s Word tells us: “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Ah, the blood of the Lamb! There is the secret to our spotlessness! It is because of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus, our Savior, the very Son of God in the flesh–Jesus Christ shed his holy blood on the cross to take away our sin. He did that for Bill. He did that for you. Jesus made the atoning sacrifice that covers all our sins. In him we have forgiveness. In him we have life and everlasting salvation.

What will that eternal life look like? Revelation gives us a hint: “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

No more sin. No more sickness or sadness. No more sorrow. God will wipe away every tear from your eyes. And our Shepherd will lead us to springs of living water. Jesus is our good Shepherd. He lay down his life for us–we, his weak and wandering sheep. And then he took it up again. Jesus took up his life again in his glorious resurrection. Christ, the Son of God, has life in himself, and he graciously shares his life with us. This is our hope of glory. This was Bill McBride’s hope of glory. In that faith he lived, and in that faith he died. Thanks be to God.

“From the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant”: God is faithful to his promises, and that is how our brother Bill lived and died and will live forevermore. In fact, all of us who trust in Christ can say with St. Paul: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

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Published in: on November 25, 2018 at 7:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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