Jan 14, 2017 – Betty Blasingame
Dear Linda & Robert, Denise & Bob and all the gathered family and friends of Betty, grace mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I know you have a huge store of memories of Betty to hold onto. But remember, among those memories, to hold onto the joy of the salvation that she held onto. Though I will miss seeing her and having her greet me here after services with her warmth and brightness, my task this afternoon isn’t to tell stories or anecdotes of Betty’s life. That’s been your job the last several days and will continue to be. And Bob, her son-in-law will share a bit in a eulogy before the closing hymn
But, my task right now is to remind you of Betty’s Savior; the One who died for her, the One who rescued her, and the One who promises her – and each of us this day – life eternal, 8th day life. As we sang a few moments ago, “Come Christian follow, where our Captain trod…” that’s what she did. She followed Jesus Christ, trusting fully in Him and His salvation.
Today’s a day of deep feelings and mixed feelings. It’s certainly a day unlike any other. Yes, we rejoice that Betty’s no longer bound by illness or debilitation. We’re glad for the freedom and life and joy that she now possesses in the presence of her Lord Jesus Christ. And we’re happy that she has no pain, confusion, or sorrow, she lacks nothing and has all that the Lord promised to those who trust in Him as she did. After all, as we read in the epistle lesson, we are not “ignorant about those who fall asleep, or (to) grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.” We do have hope… but we still grieve.
It’s a time to mourn as Ecclesiastes reminded us. We rightly mourn over the loss of Betty’s presence with us. Death, as you’ve heard me say before, isn’t what we’re created for and it interrupts God’s design for us. We’re made for life, for love and for relationship. And death is an unwelcome intruder into the relationships we’ve been created for. To have her taken away in death, which, though now it’s been transformed into a doorway in Christ granting her joy in the Lord; death still has closed the door to our joy with her on earth with us.
So today is a day of mixed feelings for us. Today we remember the full and generous life in Christ that Betty lived and the life she was glad to share with others. She loved her Lord and trusted in Him alone. She trusted Him for her salvation, her peace, and her wholeness. She understood what Jesus said in the gospel lesson today, where Jesus speaks of going to prepare a home for His followers to come to.
That lesson tells us that Jesus has gone ahead of His followers to heaven to make the preparations for them needed there. A bridegroom, in Jesus day, in preparation for his bride, would add rooms onto his own father’s house. Those rooms would form the home that the new husband would bring his bride too, in His father’s house. That was part of the marriage preparation that was the man’s responsibility.
In the gospel lesson today Jesus says that He is going to His Father’s house where there are many rooms to – prepare a place for His followers. Those listening to Jesus say these words for the first time, they all knew the marriage tradition of the day and would have instinctively caught onto what He meant. Jesus has gone ahead to heaven to make a new home with His Father for all His followers: a home where we would be welcome when the Father calls us home, just as He’s called Betty. Because of Jesus, no one can snatch us out of our heavenly Father’s hand the Lord tells us today.
Though Betty is safely at home in Jesus, we still live in a world that tries to grab us away from the Lord. We see a world of hurt, of sorrow and suffering, brought on by our sin. Betty understood this. She understood the sorrow of suffering. But she also knew, and trusted in what Jesus made clear to Thomas in the gospel lesson; that Jesus alone is the way, the truth and… the life. And so now, she has gone beyond faith. She now enjoys what her hope longed for, life in the presence of Christ her Lord. She now possesses that and no longer needs faith or hope.
She knew that by His suffering on the cross Jesus takes away all our suffering; and by His resurrection, He makes for us the way home… home to our Heavenly Father, where Jesus is and has prepared for us to join Him there. By His word of promise He will take us with Him, where He’s taken Betty, and where we’re forever set free from the power of sin, Satan, suffering and death.
Having heard the gospel proclaimed to her throughout her life, Betty knew God’s word and that the promises of Christ were hers by grace through faith alone. Again as we read in the gospel lesson, Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” That’s what Betty did here on earth; she trusted in Jesus and because of that, her earthly heart was never troubled about where she would spend eternity.
Through her baptism she received the Holy Spirit and lived her life reflecting the love and generosity of her Savior. And her confirmation verse, Heb 13:5, Be content with what you have, for he has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you, which in addition to being a favorite, gave her a guide she used all her life. She understood that God, by sending His Holy Spirit to us, had given each of us hearts full with the love of the Lord, from which we are to share with others that same love of Jesus.
She knew and held close the words of her Savior. Jesus’ words gave her hope and joy in knowing she would be home with Him, in His Father’s heavenly mansion. Again, as we sang, she followed Jesus knowing that He is the way, the truth and the life; for all who trust in Him – as she did. In Jesus precious name, we pray, amen.
Sermon #866 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
Reading from 1ST THESSALONIANS 4:13-18
Reader: 13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.
Reading from Ecclesiastes 3:1-5
Reader: 3 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
Readings from the Gospel of John 10:27-29, 14: 1-6
Reader: 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” … “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”