Sermon for the Funeral of Sandy Carstensen

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[Jesus said:] “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. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:1–6).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

The tension was thick that night. The mood was somber because death was near. Repeatedly and increasingly, over the weeks and months, the Lord had told them that He was going to Jerusalem to be crucified. Now the betrayal was underway and His alarming prophecy would come to pass in less than 24 hours.

So, what would the Eleven do? As long as Jesus was with them, they were disciples of the Christ, the Son of the Living God. But if He were dead, what were they, then? Nobody. They were absolutely nothing without Jesus, but lost sheep, with no hope and waiting to die. They could look back at the good ol’ days for a bit of comfort, but that would give them no help for the future.

So Jesus said, “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. And you know the way to where I am going.”

But did they? Did they know the way? Jesus was leaving via the grave. How would they be reunited again? Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?” What sort of path led from life, through death, to beyond? What would they have to do to get there?

Jesus replied, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

They needed to know Jesus, and that was all. Why? Because when it came to their salvation, He was going to do all the saving. They didn’t have to climb any stairway to heaven—Jesus is the Way to heaven. They didn’t need to seek out some sort of hidden knowledge, because Jesus stood before them to tell them the truth that He would die for their sins and rise from the dead. They didn’t need to find some miracle medicine, some fountain of youth somewhere, because the risen Jesus would give them life. By His death on the cross, He would deliver them from sin. By His resurrection from the grave, He would deliver them from death. He was already getting ready a place for them in heaven forever.

He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life for them; and He would keep His promises. No wonder He said to them, “Let not your hearts be troubled.”

Of course, as long as the disciples lived in this sinful world, they’d still be troubled. While Jesus underwent trial and cross, they’d run away, hide, deny, and despair. They knew the way, the truth, and the life because they knew Jesus, the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; but their eyes saw terrible things that filled them with fear.

No matter their fearful doubt, though, Jesus rose three days later. He made His way to them, spoke His truth to forgive them and give life. He sent them out to tell the world that He is the Way to His Father and heaven. Of those apostles, all would die—all but one a martyr’s death. Even then, however, salvation was sure, and the hope was certain. When bodies were wracked by pain, hearts were still not troubled. They knew Jesus because Jesus knew them. By His death and resurrection, He had prepared a place for them. Forever.

“Let not your hearts be troubled,” said Jesus once again. This time, He said it to a little girl named Sandy. “Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms, and by My death and resurrection, I have prepared a place for you.” Yes, make no mistake, Jesus said this specifically to Sandy on April 25, 1937 at St. Paul Lutheran Church here in Pipestone, Minnesota. Oh, He used different words, namely, “Sandra Jeanne Bucher, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

These words were spoken over Sandy before she was old enough to comprehend the words; but on that day, the promise to her was sure. Jesus declared that when He died on the cross for sins, He had already suffered God’s judgment for her and risen again; and now in Baptism He shared that death and resurrection with her. That day, the Lord said: “Sandy, you don’t know all that I have planned for you. No one does but Me. But this you know, because I declare it to all this day: I have already given you forgiveness and faith and eternal life. Your soul already lives in Me forever! No matter what lies ahead, rest assured that you know the end of the story. For My life and death and resurrection, I have prepared a place for you in heaven. Let not your heart be troubled.”

And having begun this good work in His beloved child, the Lord Jesus remained faithful to her. So Sandy’s life in the Lord’s hands continued, and He provided her with all sorts of gifts—including a young man named Bill. The Lord blessed this union with 61 years of marriage, four children, 12 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren (and counting). There would be days when Christ’s blessings were richly apparent, and days when there was little but anxiety and trouble and doubt. But day after day, year after year, Christ attended her by His Word, to give her more grace and strengthen her faith. Time and time again, He spoke His Gospel into her ear: “Sandy, I have made you My own and I forgive you for all of your sins. There will be both trials and joys for you, but you can be sure that My mercies are new for you every morning. My faithfulness to you is sure, and I will be your portion now and forever. “Let not your heart be troubled. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life for you.”

So the years passed by quickly, the Lord was faithful to His promises for His beloved child. But this is a sinful world, and time and age wear away at body and health. Disease and distress proclaim the wages of sin in a way more piercing than any sermon every could. And as happens to all in this life, so it came to Sandy. But as He had for so long, the Lord did not forsake Sandy. Even as foes like sickness and death circled her and sought to rob her and her loved ones of life and hope, Jesus remained faithful.

Despite the presence of these enemies—indeed, because of them, He continued to prepare a table for Sandy. He continued to say to her, “Take and eat, this is My Body. Take and drink, this is My Blood… for the forgiveness of sins.  Even though you must walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I have gone there before you and destroyed its power. I will be with you now, and I will raise you up to life everlasting.”

The Lord always keeps His promises. That is why, although you mourn today, you do not mourn without hope. Christ has died for all the world and Christ is risen from the dead. Risen from the dead, He promises forgiveness to all who repent of their sin and believe in Him. He promised this to Sandy. She believed and she was ready to go to be with the Lord. He promises the same to you.

And so He declares to you this day, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” In His Father’s house are many rooms. As He did for Sandy, by His death and resurrection, He has prepared a place for you. Christ Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Knowing Him, you know the way to heaven. Forgiven for His sake, heaven is already yours.

We do not see heaven with our eyes, only by faith. For now, our eyes see the enemies of grief and age, sickness and death. By faith, though, we see what St. John saw in Revelation 21: “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away’” (Revelation 21:2–4).

The holy city in Revelation 21 is the Church, the Bride of Christ—the sum total of all of God’s people in the history of the world. Throughout history, we see the Church move on, often troubled and worn and ailing. But throughout history, she lives on because her Savior is always with her. The Church doesn’t look especially triumphant in this world; but in that vision of heaven, John sees her in her glory forever, set free from sin and sorrow and crying and pain.

What is true for the sum total of believers is also true for each individual believer. Gathered here today, you mourn the death of Sandy Carstensen, and you witnessed some of the griefs that she endured. But for the sake of Jesus, her Savior, for her there is no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There is no more pain, for these are former things that have passed away. God has wiped every tear from her eye and made all things new for her.

That is the promise fulfilled for Sandy Carstensen. That is the certain hope by which you live this day. Let not your hearts be troubled. 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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