Bev Lorenz Funeral (Luke 23)
1. There is nothing in this life harder than losing a loved one. It is difficult to understand how to go on with our own lives with this piece missing. But we must go on. Life goes on. Life only slows for a moment. But, during that moment, we can see most clearly. At that time, we see ourselves just like the repentant thief on the cross next to Jesus. While everyone was railing against Him, He was dying for the sins of the world. It was only a matter of time before the thieves joined in the mockery. But one repented of his sins, saying, "Do you not fear God? ... This man has done nothing wrong." Turning to Jesus, he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom." Jesus replied, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" (vv39-43).
2. Paradise at the point of death. Paradise in the wake of death. Paradise comes by asking the question, "Do you not fear God?" The Bible is replete with statements like, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10). Wisdom comes as our knowledge is married to the promises delivered in the Word of God. As with the repentant thief, we must also ask ourselves, "Am I 'under the same sentence of condemnation'?" As we gather here today, we are faced with our own mortality. We must acknowledge the fact that we are also under the same condemnation as Bev. We, too, will one day die. We, too, will face our final moments in this life. We find ourselves looking and longing for something else. Something more sure. Something that will bring everlasting consequences.
3. Our everlasting consequences come in Jesus' statement, "Today you will be with Me in Paradise" (v43). Today, we also find Paradise. Paradise is found in the faith engendered by the words of promise. Words which Bev heard the day she was baptized. The same words that each baptized child of God hears at his or her Baptism, "Today you will be with Me in Paradise." As the water washed the sins away, Paradise was given. Paradise freely given as the love of God continues as we read earlier: "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Corinthians 13:7). That's the Paradise we receive from God's Word. His love bears, believes, hopes and endures everything. He endures the sin that you and I have committed. The sins that will cause each of us to die. But God's promise, through His Word, tells us that death is not the end, but only the beginning. Everlasting life coming to you from the "Beautiful Savior" who brought us into this life and who promises to deliver us into the next life on eagles' wings. The same eagles' wings that God has always delivered His people from every adversity.
4. Believe the promises. They are yours today. As St. Paul said, "for now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face" (1 Corinthians 13:12). May today be the first day where you begin to see Jesus clearly, face to face. May today be the first day where you enjoy, truly enjoy, the Paradise that is yours in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.