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Danny, Steve, and Toni, family members and friends of Millie:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
The loss of a loved one is never an easy thing to endure. It seems that we are never ready for that to happen and yet, it does happen. I’m not telling you anything new. Many of you know that more personally than I. And no matter when it happens, it’s hard to know what to say. Our words fail us. Often they do not help, but unintentionally irritate the wound. For none of our words can bring our loved one back. And memories can be wonderful, but they are a weak substitute for having them with us.
And so, on this day as you seek a word of comfort and hope, I will direct to the Word of God—which is the only thing that gives comfort and hope that can be trusted and that can live forever. Listen now to the words of the Holy Spirit as written by Peter in his first epistle:
You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the Word of the Lord remains forever.” And this Word is the good news that was preached to you (1 Peter 1:23-25).
I chose this passage for today partly because, in addition to her love of family, her fresh baked pies and cookies, her quick wit and infectious laughter, one of the first things that most people seem to recall about Millie is how she really enjoyed mowing the lawn and taking care of her flowers and garden. As late as this last summer, even with her eyesight failing so she could not drive her car, Millie was out on her lawn mower mowing her grass and making an occasional trip to the Jasper Mini Mall.
But I think it also speaks of a deeper truth, that though someone may be blessed with 94 years of life, as Millie was, the time is coming for each of us when we will cease our earthly labors and our earthly life will cease.
All flesh is like grass—it withers and the flower falls. Indeed, all our earthly life is like the grass which eventually dies, whether it is cut down green in the prime of life or holds on until the cold of winter. And on this day, we do not have to think very hard, nor look very far to be convinced of this—the mortal remains of one who was with us just a few days ago is all the evidence we need.
Sometimes it is frightening to be reminded that the way of all flesh is as it is before us today. And yet, we do not view death as a spectator who observes all of this from a distance. No, we are not a spectator at all—we are participants! And knowing that can bring terror to the heart and a lump to the throat.
People go through their lives trying to ignore the reality of death by going about the business of the day. Then comes a day like today when we are confronted with it. We can try to escape it by living a good life, exercising, eating right, following the doctor’s directions, but it is not to be put off for long. The truth be told, each of us is only a heartbeat away from the grave.
In the midst of such a condition, God, in His infinite mercy intervened. Just as we are not merely spectators, but participants, so also God Himself did not remain a spectator. That is where the Christmas scene of the Babe of Bethlehem comes in. The Lord knew that no man could save himself because all people were corrupt. Only God Himself could be the Savior—and that is just what He did when He was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and made man. His life and His death and His resurrection were done for all people—they were done for you!—in order that you might be claimed as one of His children.
That is what God’s Word is. It is the promise that for those who trust in Jesus, their loving and personal Savior, death will have no dominion over them. On the Last Day—at the sound of the trumpet—the resurrection of the dead will take place. The faithful will be brought before the very throne of God and will behold the Lamb of God and will eat from the tree of life and will drink water from the river which flows from the throne. God will wipe away every tear. There will be no more death nor mourning, nor crying, nor pain, nor getting old. Peter’s words are true: The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the Word of God remains forever.
Is there such a word of comfort and consolation for Millie which I can give you today? Oh yes indeed. Millie was brought to the living waters of Holy Baptism. And knowing that Baptism is the beginning of her relationship with the Lord, she later publicly confessed that faith in the Rite of Confirmation and promised to remain faithful to God and His Church until death.
Like each of us, Millie didn’t keep her promises perfectly. But God is always faithful to His promises and provided her with His Word and Sacrament. Just a few weeks ago Millie joined us for chapel and Holy Communion at Sunrise Village. She heard the Word of God that brings salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life. She received the medicine of immortality—the very body and blood of her Savior Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of her sins and the strengthening of her faith. The grass withers and the flower falls, but the Word of God abides forever!
And what do we say of those now left behind? What about you? Is your life one of worship and praise unto the Redeemer? If it is, thank God and continue to stay close to your Lord and do not let anything nor anyone get between you and your God. However, if you have slowly drifted away, or slipped into the habit of forgetting about the Lord, or, have never known Him, don’t let another week go by without worshiping Him—don’t let another day pass without trusting in Jesus—don’t let allow another hour to fade without a prayer for God to renew your life—don’t let your life slip away from what the Lord wants you to have through His Son Jesus Christ.
For just as surely as we know why we are here today, so also will a group of people be gathered as they will remember each one of us individually, as we will be called to present ourselves before God Almighty. Don’t enter into eternity without confessing and trusting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Jesus once stated with great seriousness: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).
The peace of God that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.