Come to My Place and Rest Awhile: A Sermon for the Funeral of Faye Long

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“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this” (John 11:25–26)?

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

There is a story in the Bible of one man who never died (Genesis 5:24). His name was Enoch. Scripture says that God translated him directly from life on earth to the presence of God in heaven (Hebrews 11:5).

A little girl was once asked to tell the story of Enoch. She said, “Well, Enoch and God were good friends. And they used to take long walks in Enoch’s garden. One day God said, ‘Enoch, you look tired. Why don’t you come to My place and stay and rest awhile?’” And so he did.

It’s not hard to image the Lord saying something similar to Faye last week: “Faye, you look tired. Why don’t you come to My place and rest awhile?” That poetic way of looking at Faye’s departure from our presence may comfort us, too. So do saying things such as “God called her home” or “God took her.” But such euphemisms do not soften the reality or pain of death and grief.

Death is an enemy. One of our greatest enemies. Death comes upon us because of our sinful condition. We—all of us—are mortal, meaning that unless Jesus returns first, one day we, too, will die. Why? We inherited our sinful, mortal condition from Adam and Eve, the parents of the human race.

In addition to inheriting Adam’s mortality, the result of original sin, we are also guilty of our own sin. In our sins of commission and omission, we have placed ourselves first, ahead of God and others, whom we assign a lower priority. Sin is just that: self-absorption and self-centeredness. Sin is ignoring God and planning our lives as though He did not exist.

Sin and death are great enemies. But they are defeated enemies! We Christians have been redeemed by God in Christ Jesus. Our sins are forgiven—both the sin passed down to us from Adam and the sins we ourselves commit. All are wiped clean by our Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered on the cross for the sins of all people. Jesus died. Death came to Him as a member of the human race, even though He was without sin. His resurrection from the grave is our comfort and our hope in all aspects of our Christian life, especially at this time.

A funeral is a sober reminder of what is truly important in life. Christ’s Church on earth is our place of birth as Christians, and it is where we are finally laid to rest. Did you notice how our service began with the covering of the funeral pall? The funeral pall is a reminder of the robe of Christ’s righteousness in which Faye was clothed in Holy Baptism that covered all her sin. Our spiritual birth—actually, our rebirth—takes place in Holy Baptism. Our sins are forgiven by the gracious, redemptive power of God through the resurrection of Christ Jesus (1 Peter 3:21). The Holy Spirit descends upon us to fill us with new life.

And throughout our earthly existence, that new life is nourished in worship by the Word of God and Holy Communion, where we receive Christ’s body and blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of our sin. The liturgies of the Church, so full of rich insights, teach us the truths of God and put songs of faith in our hearts. All this prepares us for the final time when the sign of the cross is made over us and we are laid to rest in the confident hope of the resurrection of the dead.

God is not a God of cheap grace or easy forgiveness. The payment for our sins cost Him dearly—the life of His Son, our Savior. But by Christ’s death and resurrection, we are forgiven people. God declares us righteous—made right again in His eyes—through Christ’s atoning work for us. We cannot save ourselves. Christ did save us. And He wants the assurance and peace and comfort and hope of that forgiveness to be a living reality in our daily lives. God says, “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands” (Isaiah 49:16). “I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine” (Isaiah 43:1).

When Faye was baptized as an infant at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Ward, she was marked with the triune name of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The faith and life given her at the font was nourished through the early years by the Word of God and she confessed that faith publicly in the Rite of Confirmation, also at Immanuel. Through the years, she faithfully attended worship here at Our Saviour’s, where she regularly received Christ’s body and blood for the forgiveness of her sins and the strengthening of her body and soul unto eternal life. She heard the Gospel preached and Christ’s absolution of forgiveness in the voice of God’s called and ordained servant. In God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament, Faye’s faith grew and sustained her through the joys and sorrows of this life, even as she looked forward to eternal life in the Resurrection.  

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.” Do you believe this” (John 11:25–26)?

Faye believed this. She was baptized and knew she was a forgiven child of God. This gave her hope and comfort as she faced physical death. And now, she has eternal life with God! Three words sum up Faye’s state right now. These three words are “with the Lord.” That’s what life eternal is: being in the presence of the eternal God who is love. That is joyful bliss beyond all description.

We here today sorrow at losing Faye. But Faye would not have us grieve as those who have no hope, for she is with the Lord! She is awaiting the Day of Resurrection when the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).

May God grant this to us all. 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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