Lessons: Lamentations 3:22-33, 1 John 3:1-3, John 16:16-22
Hymns: LSB 801, 744, 748
Dear family and friends of Judy Martin: Grace mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
There is always hope, even during sorrow and loss. There can also be joy, even while weeping and lamenting. God has a plan in all things. The Bible says, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). God works all things for good. He brings life into this world, for He is the Author of life and the Creator of all things. He also determines when life should end. Today is a day of grieving as we face the reality that Judy has died. But underlying the sorrow is joy and hope. There is joy because many are here who are close to Judy and Jim. Many memories are being shared. Condolences are offered. Love and support abound. God’s will is being done.
We heard in Lamentations, God’s “mercies are new every morning” (Lam. 3:22-23). Every day that God gives us is a gift. It is an opportunity for service, to love, and for enjoyment. That is, each day is an opportunity to live as Christians. God was merciful to Jim and Judy, and gave them over 50 years together. God was even merciful these past few months as many have offered help and encouragement to both Judy and Jim.
The hope and joy Christians have is centered on the blessings God grants us. While God has placed in our lives our families and friends, daily vocations, and opportunities to enjoy many things, the ultimate hope is found in Christ Jesus, who conquered death and rose from the grave. Our hope is in the reality that Jesus can raise us from the dead on the Last Day, along with our loved ones, and that He will acquit all who abide in Christ at the final judgment. That is, God will judge sinners to be righteous and will receive them into His eternal kingdom because Jesus paid for our sin when shedding His blood on the cross.
Our joy is in Christ who has triumphed, and grants us the victory over sin, Satan, death, and the grave. Judy’s remains are being tucked in for a temporary sleep at Machpelah Cemetery. As Jesus said of those who have died, they are not dead, but sleeping. For Jesus has power over death. He has swallowed it up in victory.
God added Judy to His family through the waters of Holy Baptism when she was an infant. In her Baptism, Judy was united to the death and resurrection of Jesus. She died to sin and rose to newness of life. Bringing Judy into God’s family was part of His plan for her, and she confirmed her faith on December 20, 1959 at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Kansas City.
When Jim woke up on the morning of October 3, 1969, he had no idea that he would meet the one he would love for the rest of life. They met each other just across the street from here. God had this planned out for them. Two weeks later, they got engaged, and they were married in less than two months at Grace Lutheran Church. God brought them together and gave them two sons who have started their own families.
God has a plan in all things. He planned out the way of our salvation by sending Jesus as our Savior into this world to be held guilty in our place. God planned for His Son to pay for the sins of the world. God planned out who would be the first eyewitnesses of our Lord’s resurrection. A group of women were the first to see the empty tomb. Upon seeing that the tombstone had been rolled away, Mary Magdalene told the disciples what she saw. She then returned to the grave to see why the tomb had been rolled away. She saw a man that she thought was the gardener. It turned out, she did not see a gardener at the cemetery, but she saw Jesus. At Creation, God planted a garden, and it was paradise. Now when Jesus rose, the first person to see Him thought He was just a gardener. He wasn’t just a gardener, but He’s the creator and sustainer of all things.
Judy, too, loved to garden. She was a master gardener, and an amazing designer. She took their house and truly made it a home. Her beautiful backyard was very much her happy place. Now, as Jim has said, his task will be to serve as the curator of all things Judy.
God also had a plan for Jim and Judy this year. It certainly did not match their plans. God declares, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). God’s plan was to call Judy home. As Judy’s condition worsened, Jim and Judy spent a considerable amount of time together. Friends and family from all over came to visit them. The outpouring of love and support has been incredible during Judy’s hospitalizations and stay at Shirkey. Amid their sorrows was the joy of love that they had for each other, and the love so many of you expressed to Jim and Judy. Jim, you stated that you feel lost, but look at what you have hear. And remember above all that God has redeemed you through His Son!
Judy didn’t complain about her situation. In one of my first visits with her upon her hospitalization, she told me what caused her situation and that she probably wouldn’t be able to walk. She handled that news amazingly well. She probably knew she was in her latter days and could only place her confidence in the mercies of Christ. As she heard the Word of God read and proclaimed to her, she listened intently. She received Holy Communion with much gratitude. God was calling on her and preparing her to depart this life in peace. She could be at peace, for she had tasted and seen that the Lord is good.
This shows God is at work. This year, Jim’s birthday fell on Easter Sunday—the day we celebrate our Lord’s glorious resurrection and His triumph over death and the grave. Death itself is transitory and is by no means permanent. As we heard in our reading from John 16:16-22, Jesus spoke to His disciples about the sorrow they will face in a little while when Jesus is crucified. And He spoke of the joy they will have when in a little while Jesus rises from the dead. He talks about the sorrow that comes about in life and the joy that follows. Death brings sorrow and pain. Life brings great joy, as Jesus describes when a mother gives birth and holds her newborn baby.
God is the author of life. That’s why He sent His Son into this fallen world. He sent Jesus to redeem sinful mankind and open the gates of Heaven to all who believe. God did not want us to suffer eternal condemnation. Instead, He wants to have us live with Him in Heaven and live eternally in body and soul when Jesus returns on the Last Day. As we heard in 1 John 3:1-3, when Jesus returns, we shall be like Him, and we shall see Him as He is. For He will raise all the dead. Our bodies and souls will be reunited. God will recreate the Heavens and the Earth. And we will dwell with Him eternally.
This is why we have hope and even joy even on days when we bury a loved one. God continues to have a plan. His mercies continue to be new to us every morning. Great is His faithfulness!
God bless each and every one of you with comfort He provides through our Savior, Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen.