Sermons, Uncategorized

Blessed Indeed: Sermon for the Funeral of Bonnie Muller

Click here to listen to this sermon.

“And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit. ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’” (Revelation 14:13).

Randy, Greg, Daniel, Mitchell, family and friends here today, and those watching livestream: Grace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!

I pray that you will find comfort and hope in the Word of God we have before us today. For, in times such as this, that is all we really have. There are no human words that can be said, no human actions that can be done, that can give you hope and comfort outside of the Good News of the resurrection of our Lord. And that is simply fine, for Christ promises, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

The Word of the Lord that I’ve chosen to share with you today is based on the Gospel reading from Matthew you just heard a few minutes ago, the portion known as “The Beatitudes,” or blessings, and one verse of the Book of Revelation. Both passages speak of Christians being blessed.

I’m sure today you don’t feel very blessed, but to be blessed has little to do with our feelings and is actually based on the actions of God in Christ Jesus. As often happens, Jesus works from an entirely different perspective of what it means to be “blessed” than you or I normally do. And I think it’s quite safe to say that when Jesus seems to have a different understanding about something, it is we who need to learn and correct our understanding, not He. So, let’s look first at what it really means to be blessed.

A new family has just joined the church. The father had a job promotion to the corporate office. The family now has a high enough income that they have bought a home in a nice neighborhood and the mother can stay home and care for the kids. Upon meeting them, they cannot help but share with you how “blessed” they are by God. A young woman gets accepted to a prestigious medical school. She is about to fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor and she cannot help but tell everyone how “blessed” she is by God. After two years of terrible weather and low prices, the farmer is asked by his pastor how this year’s harvest looks. He can’t help but say, “Pastor, it’s our best crop ever. The Lord has really blessed us!”

Reading her obituary, you and I would likely say that Bonnie, for most part, lived a very blessed life. Raised in a loving family. Married for 30 years to Randy. The mother of her three boys—Greg, Daniel, and Mitchell—who loved to pick on her. A successful career at Citibank for 38 years. Teacher of Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. Community volunteer. Duet partner with Ed Dock. Loving daughter and good friend. Bonnie was blessed in many ways and you have all been blessed to have her in your life.

Indeed, God does work many material blessings in the lives of people—all people. It is good to give God thanks and praise for such things. The problem, however, is when we limit our thanks and praise only to those situations. God’s blessing becomes something that looks a lot like the America dream… and not everyone experiences that blessing.

What about the young woman who did not get into medical school and now lives with her parents and works part-time at a convenience store? What about the father who was passed over for a promotion or lost his job and the family now needs to downsize? What about the farmer who is unable to plant half of his acreage because of unprecedented rainfall and flooding? What about the husband and sons and mother and others who mourn the death of their loved one at so young an age? Can such people be blessed? Is God still at work in their lives?

The way we usually use the word “blessed” would lead us to say, “No.” But then Jesus comes and radically changes our view of how God works. He does it through His opening words of our Gospel, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

These are the people who have nothing to offer God. The publican who hides in the corner of the temple and will not dare raise his eyes to Heaven. The widow who walks out of the city taking part in the funeral procession of her son. The demon-possessed man who lives among the tombs and knows he does not belong in the city. Blessed are these people. The people who have nothing, who can do nothing, who are nothing, blessed are these people. Why? Because Jesus sees them, comes to them, and promises them that they have a God who makes something out of nothing.

Jesus continues: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” This mourning expresses sorrow over sin, one’s own sins and over all the consequences of sin in this world. This includes the troubles and tribulations of this life and finally the just wages of sin, namely, death. Sin deserves both temporal and eternal death, and there can be no greater sorrow than this.

But those who mourn can now be comforted. As Christians, we do not mourn like those who have no hope, for God has given us hope. He promises and provides comfort and hope in every tribulation and finally eternal life for Jesus’ sake. “He will wipe away ever tear from [your] eyes” (Revelation 21:4).  

I know it’s hard to believe on a day like today. Comfort seems so far away. Today, tears and weeping are perfectly acceptable. They are a natural response to a great loss. Jesus wept at the death of His friend, Lazarus, even though He knew He was going to raise him back to life in a few moments. As you sit here today, everything has happened so quickly, you haven’t had much time to process it. The days of mourning for Bonnie will go on for a long time, perhaps until the day you die. But you have this promise of the Lord: In the resurrection, “death shall be no more, neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” and Bonnie, and you, and I, and everyone who has ever lived and died in the Lord will live in His presence for eternity.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit… those who mourn… the meek… who hunger and thirst for righteousness… the merciful… the pure in heart… the peacemakers… those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” With these stunning words, Jesus turns everything right-side-up. Jesus looks upon people, real people, just as we are, amid the suffering and complexity of this life and He brings God’s blessing.

Jesus breaks through our barriers in His Beatitudes. He shatters our conceptions of the blessed life and opens the Kingdom of God to all believers. Why? Because the favor of God comes freely, graciously, to all people in Him. Jesus took the cross, an instrument of shame and torture, and transformed it into the gate of Heaven. All sin is forgiven in Him. All suffering is overcome by Him. All death is swallowed up in Him. All the promises of God are and will ultimately be, “Yes,” in Him.

What a blessing it is today to remember what it means to be blessed! The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see how God comes in Jesus into the sinful and suffering messes of our lives and works to bring about His new creation. And in Christ, you are and ever will be eternally blessed.

Which leads us to confess the final beatitude of the day, perhaps the hardest to believe from Revelation 14:13: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit. ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’”

Just as the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount challenge us to look at things from God’s point of view, so also this blessing challenges us, in the face of death, to see things from God’s perspective. At the moment of death, the Lamb’s followers have His victory. The victory of the Lamb is given to all who die in faith. For now, to us left here, that victory is an article of faith, something not seen but quite real and true. But Bonnie is now experiencing that victory in the presence of the Lord and will share it fully—body and soul—on the Day of Resurrection with you and me and all who trust in Christ as Lord and Savior.

Bonnie was baptized and raised in the church. She trusted in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. She confessed that faith publicly in confirmation and continues to confess that faith up to the day she died. And now she rests from her labors. She was and is blessed indeed. You are too. All are blessed who live and die in the Lord.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 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.

“And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit. ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’” (Revelation 14:13).

Randy, Greg, Daniel, Mitchell, family and friends here today, and those watching livestream: Grace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!

I pray that you will find comfort and hope in the Word of God we have before us today. For, in times such as this, that is all we really have. There are no human words that can be said, no human actions that can be done, that can give you hope and comfort outside of the Good News of the resurrection of our Lord. And that is simply fine, for Christ promises, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

The Word of the Lord that I’ve chosen to share with you today is based on the Gospel reading from Matthew you just heard a few minutes ago, the portion known as “The Beatitudes,” or blessings, and one verse of the Book of Revelation. Both passages speak of Christians being blessed.

I’m sure today you don’t feel very blessed, but to be blessed has little to do with our feelings and is actually based on the actions of God in Christ Jesus. As often happens, Jesus works from an entirely different perspective of what it means to be “blessed” than you or I normally do. And I think it’s quite safe to say that when Jesus seems to have a different understanding about something, it is we who need to learn and correct our understanding, not He. So, let’s look first at what it really means to be blessed.

A new family has just joined the church. The father had a job promotion to the corporate office. The family now has a high enough income that they have bought a home in a nice neighborhood and the mother can stay home and care for the kids. Upon meeting them, they cannot help but share with you how “blessed” they are by God. A young woman gets accepted to a prestigious medical school. She is about to fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor and she cannot help but tell everyone how “blessed” she is by God. After two years of terrible weather and low prices, the farmer is asked by his pastor how this year’s harvest looks. He can’t help but say, “Pastor, it’s our best crop ever. The Lord has really blessed us!”

Reading her obituary, you and I would likely say that Bonnie, for most part, lived a very blessed life. Raised in a loving family. Married for 30 years to Randy. The mother of her three boys—Greg, Daniel, and Mitchell—who loved to pick on her. A successful career at Citibank for 38 years. Teacher of Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. Community volunteer. Duet partner with Ed Dock. Loving daughter and good friend. Bonnie was blessed in many ways and you have all been blessed to have her in your life.

Indeed, God does work many material blessings in the lives of people—all people. It is good to give God thanks and praise for such things. The problem, however, is when we limit our thanks and praise only to those situations. God’s blessing becomes something that looks a lot like the America dream… and not everyone experiences that blessing.

What about the young woman who did not get into medical school and now lives with her parents and works part-time at a convenience store? What about the father who was passed over for a promotion or lost his job and the family now needs to downsize? What about the farmer who is unable to plant half of his acreage because of unprecedented rainfall and flooding? What about the husband and sons and mother and others who mourn the death of their loved one at so young an age? Can such people be blessed? Is God still at work in their lives?

The way we usually use the word “blessed” would lead us to say, “No.” But then Jesus comes and radically changes our view of how God works. He does it through His opening words of our Gospel, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

These are the people who have nothing to offer God. The publican who hides in the corner of the temple and will not dare raise his eyes to Heaven. The widow who walks out of the city taking part in the funeral procession of her son. The demon-possessed man who lives among the tombs and knows he does not belong in the city. Blessed are these people. The people who have nothing, who can do nothing, who are nothing, blessed are these people. Why? Because Jesus sees them, comes to them, and promises them that they have a God who makes something out of nothing.

Jesus continues: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” This mourning expresses sorrow over sin, one’s own sins and over all the consequences of sin in this world. This includes the troubles and tribulations of this life and finally the just wages of sin, namely, death. Sin deserves both temporal and eternal death, and there can be no greater sorrow than this.

But those who mourn can now be comforted. As Christians, we do not mourn like those who have no hope, for God has given us hope. He promises and provides comfort and hope in every tribulation and finally eternal life for Jesus’ sake. “He will wipe away ever tear from [your] eyes” (Revelation 21:4).  

I know it’s hard to believe on a day like today. Comfort seems so far away. Today, tears and weeping are perfectly acceptable. They are a natural response to a great loss. Jesus wept at the death of His friend, Lazarus, even though He knew He was going to raise him back to life in a few moments. As you sit here today, everything has happened so quickly, you haven’t had much time to process it. The days of mourning for Bonnie will go on for a long time, perhaps until the day you die. But you have this promise of the Lord: In the resurrection, “death shall be no more, neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” and Bonnie, and you, and I, and everyone who has ever lived and died in the Lord will live in His presence for eternity.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit… those who mourn… the meek… who hunger and thirst for righteousness… the merciful… the pure in heart… the peacemakers… those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” With these stunning words, Jesus turns everything right-side-up. Jesus looks upon people, real people, just as we are, amid the suffering and complexity of this life and He brings God’s blessing.

Jesus breaks through our barriers in His Beatitudes. He shatters our conceptions of the blessed life and opens the Kingdom of God to all believers. Why? Because the favor of God comes freely, graciously, to all people in Him. Jesus took the cross, an instrument of shame and torture, and transformed it into the gate of Heaven. All sin is forgiven in Him. All suffering is overcome by Him. All death is swallowed up in Him. All the promises of God are and will ultimately be, “Yes,” in Him.

What a blessing it is today to remember what it means to be blessed! The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see how God comes in Jesus into the sinful and suffering messes of our lives and works to bring about His new creation. And in Christ, you are and ever will be eternally blessed.

Which leads us to confess the final beatitude of the day, perhaps the hardest to believe from Revelation 14:13: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit. ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’”

Just as the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount challenge us to look at things from God’s point of view, so also this blessing challenges us, in the face of death, to see things from God’s perspective. At the moment of death, the Lamb’s followers have His victory. The victory of the Lamb is given to all who die in faith. For now, to us left here, that victory is an article of faith, something not seen but quite real and true. But Bonnie is now experiencing that victory in the presence of the Lord and will share it fully—body and soul—on the Day of Resurrection with you and me and all who trust in Christ as Lord and Savior.

Bonnie was baptized and raised in the church. She trusted in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. She confessed that faith publicly in confirmation and continues to confess that faith up to the day she died. And now she rests from her labors. She was and is blessed indeed. You are too. All are blessed who live and die in the Lord.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 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.

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