The Words of Eternal Life: Sermon for the Funeral of Marilyn Boomgaarden

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“When many of His disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray Him.) And He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God” (John 6:60–69).

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

Marilyn Margaret Jurgensen was born to William and Alma Jurgensen on October 13, 1931. One month later, November 15th, she was born again, born above, born of water and the Spirit through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Here, at Trinity Lutheran Church, the triune God placed His name upon Marilyn, and He adopted her as one of His beloved children.  

Marilyn publicly confessed her Christian faith in the Rite of Confirmation here at Trinity on April 14, 1946. She acknowledged the gifts given in her Baptism. She renounced the devil, all his works, and all his ways. She confessed her faith in the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. She confessed the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God. She promised, by the grace of God, to hear the Word of God and to receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully. She promised to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even to death. And she promised to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it.

Marilyn’s confirmation verse, John 6:68, reflects those intentions: “Simon Peter answered [Jesus], “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” It is that intention and confession of Christ that Marilyn made her own upon which we will focus today.

In John 6, Jesus made the bold claim that He is the Bread of Life that came down from heaven. Many who heard Him would not believe and had no desire to follow Him. Even some of Jesus’ disciples grumbled, considered this to be a hard saying, and would not listen to it. Jesus replied: “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe” (John 6:61-64). Then, when some of the disciples went away and walked with Jesus no longer, He turned to the Twelve, His inner circle, and asked them, “Do you want to go away as well” (John 6:67).

So, what is the point of this? Well, dear friends, Jesus is telling us quite clearly that His words are spirit and life—that they are the saving truth—and yet not everyone is going to believe. In fact, even some Christians will finally depart from the Lord because they do not accept His Word.

And why will some not receive the Lord Jesus? Because the Gospel of Christ and His cross continue to be foolishness to those who will perish! Quite frankly, you don’t need me to tell you from the pulpit—you already know full well that not everyone who hears the Good News of Christ and Him crucified is going to believe. But the situation becomes a little dicier when your Lord asks you whether you, too, are going to depart from Him!

Now, I do not speak these words to you in order to rattle your faith and lead you to doubt your salvation. As a Christian pastor, I have the responsibility of preaching the pure Word of God to you, and in turn warning you against false teaching. And the abundance of false teaching in our culture and popular American Christianity nurtures the doubts that already come forth from our sinful hearts by nature.

Let me give you an example. Jesus has told you that He is the bread of life that came down from heaven. Whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood, that is, whoever embraces Him in true, saving faith, which is God’s gift, will live forever. Conversely, whoever does not, has no life in Him. And not only this, but also that He alone is the source of life and being. Thus, the whole purpose of Christ, the eternal Son of God, becoming man in His incarnation, was for the eternal benefit of your souls—that by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, you would be justified—declared righteous before God and seen as holy and blameless in His sight. Not on account of your own works, but because of Christ’s full atonement for the sins of the whole world, you have the promise of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life.

Marilyn believed and confessed these things. She trusted that these are the words of eternal life, and that Christ Jesus is our only hope and refuge. She believed that she could not, by her own reason and strength, believe in Jesus Christ her Lord or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit had called her by the Gospel, enlightened her with His gifts, sanctified, and kept her in the one true faith unto life everlasting. That’s why we are here today. A celebration of Marilyn’s life could be held anywhere. Christian funeral services are fittingly held in a church sanctuary  because they are, first and foremost, worship services that proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ—the Gospel that Marilyn trusted throughout her life.

After Jesus spoke to His followers and said that not all will believe, some of them drew back and walked with Him no more. And here Jesus reacted in a way that is often ignored in our modern day—He let them go. And this shows the second point of Jesus’ words. The first was that not everyone will even remain in the faith, and now, second, we see that God accepts this. The Lord knows that some will remain hardened against the Christ, the Son of the living God, and that many will even depart from Him.

To our modern sensibilities, the idea that God would let someone go doesn’t seem quite right. How could a loving God consign anyone to condemnation? I would remind you here that God is not only loving, but He is also just.  He patiently seeks the lost. But He does not force His love upon anyone. God does not force anyone to believe in Him, and when His Word is rejected, He does not change it to suit one’s felt needs. Notice that when some of His disciples said they had difficulty believing His Word, Jesus simply asked, “Do you take offense at this?” And He allowed them to depart. Jesus did not apologize for who He is and what He came to do and then backpedal on everything He taught just because some people couldn’t accept it. He told them the truth and allowed those who would not receive it to depart. He didn’t go chasing after them, seeking their input on how to meet their felt needs.

We would do well in our day to observe how Jesus dealt with people. He loved them more than we could ever love another as sinners. He desired that all people would be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4), and yet He also remained faithful to His Word. It is the Word of Christ that gives eternal life. It is this Word that the Holy Spirit uses to create saving faith in one’s heart. It is this Word that is to be preached throughout the world, and it is this Word that is to be in the mouths of the faithful without ceasing.

It is this Word of eternal life that Marilyn confessed throughout her life. It is this Word of eternal life of which we confess to one another in hymns, psalm, and liturgy in our service today. It is this Word of eternal life that we hear in our readings and message today. It is only this Word of life that brings true comfort in the face of death and loss. For we know that by that Word of eternal life, the Lord Jesus will raise Marilyn and all who have died in the faith on the Last Day that we may be with Him in the new heaven and earth where there is no more death, nor mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

I pray that this Word might bring you comfort now and in all of your days. I encourage you all to avail yourselves of that Word at every possible opportunity—to confess your sins and receive absolution, to hear of Christ and Him crucified, and to receive His body and blood in the Sacrament every Lord’s Day, that you would continually be renewed and strengthened against the power of sin, death, and the devil. Be fed by the Bread of Life that brings everlasting life. In times of joy and sorrow, in sickness and in health, look to Christ Jesus alone, confessing with Saint Peter and Saint Marilyn, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Amen

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

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