“I Will Not Leave You as Orphans” (John 14:1-6, 18-19)

Funeral Service
Friday, May 22, 2020

“I Will Not Leave You as Orphans” (John 14:1-6, 18-19)

It was a day in May of 1996. And on that day my mother, Marjorie Henrickson, died. My father had died some years earlier, and now my mother died. I realized on that day that now I was truly an orphan. The next morning was a Sunday, and the Holy Gospel for that day, which I had prepared to preach on, was the passage from John 14 in which Jesus says, “I will not leave you as orphans.” Suddenly that text became extra meaningful for me.

Fast forward to a day in May of 2020. On that day your mother, Mary Heineman, died. Your father had died some years earlier. And now your mother has died. Now you her children are truly orphans. And it just so happens that the Holy Gospel from this past Sunday is that same passage from John 14 where Jesus says, “I will not leave you as orphans.” Today I pray that this text becomes extra meaningful for you as well. “I Will Not Leave You as Orphans.”

It is a tough thing to suddenly realize that now you are an orphan. You have gotten used to losing one of your parents, but now the other one is gone also. The one person you have known literally your entire life, who has been part of your life every single day–now she is gone. All these memories come flooding back to you. And even though she had lived a good long life, 91 years, and even though her declining health these last few years has prepared you somewhat for this day, even so, there is still grief and now there is this hole in your life.

In a way, this is how the disciples of Jesus must have felt, when he told them that he was going away. They had been with him every day for three years, following him, learning from him, witnessing his marvelous works of mercy and hearing his wonderful words of wisdom. And now Jesus says he is going away. They don’t understand it. Their hearts are filled with grief.

So Jesus gives them words of comfort and encouragement, words of hope and promise: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

These are words of comfort and encouragement, these are words of hope and promise for you! Our Savior Jesus Christ has gone ahead of us, to prepare a place for us! He prepared a place for his disciples. He prepared a place for his mother Mary. He has prepared a place for your mother Mary. And he has prepared a place for you. You have a room reserved in our heavenly Father’s house.

What did Jesus do to prepare this place for Mary and for you? He did this precisely by his going away. He had to go away from the everyday visible presence of his disciples in order to return to his Father. In order to accomplish the mission for which he was sent. And that mission, that way back to the Father, would take Jesus the way of the cross. That very night in which Jesus says these words, that was the night in which our Lord was betrayed and handed over to the authorities. The next day he would be nailed to a cross, to suffer and die.

But Jesus did all this for you. His death was to make the sacrifice for sins–for your sins, for Mary’s sins, and for mine–indeed, for the sins of the whole world. Now you are forgiven. Now you are clean. Now you will be able to stand before God on the last day and be accounted righteous for Christ’s sake. Now you will be welcomed into those heavenly mansions that Jesus has prepared for us.

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” This is Jesus’ promise to you. He is coming again, to take you home to himself. Our Lord Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning. He ascended into heaven–we celebrated Ascension Day yesterday–and his promise is that he will come again and raise us up, bodily, and we will live with him in his kingdom forever. “Because I live,” Jesus says, “you also will live.”

This is a promise that Mary believed. I know, I talked with her many times over the years, especially these last few years when she became shut in. Mary trusted in her Lord Jesus Christ for her eternal salvation. This is a promise that Mary believed. This is a promise that Mary has received. Jesus has welcomed her into paradise. She is truly “sheltering in place” now. The Lord is her shelter and her stronghold. And the Lord has prepared the place in which her soul now is resting. And on the last day, our returning Lord will call forth her body, raising it up, whole and glorious, perfectly restored, and she will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” Jesus says. “No one comes to the Father except through me.” And through Christ, we do come to the Father. Through Christ, we do come to the Father’s house, where we will live forever. Jesus is the way. Believe in him.

Often these last few years, when Mary was living at this nursing home or that, she would tell me how much she wished she could be at home. Well, Mary, now your wish has been granted. Now you are at home.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Heineman children–and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren–this promise is for you. Jesus will not leave you as orphans. “Never will I leave you or forsake you,” our Lord assures us. Jesus is with you. He will be walking with you over the days ahead. He will be with you in your every sorrow. He will be with you in every memory that comes flooding back to you, both the sweet and the bittersweet. It is good and natural to grieve, but we do not grieve as those who have no hope. We do have hope! We have a sure and living hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ!

Take hold of Jesus’ promise to you today, the same promise that Mary believed and now has received: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you,” Jesus says. “Because I live, you also will live.”

Published in: on May 22, 2020 at 7:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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