Elfreida Matson Funeral (LSB 725)
This morning, as we mourn Elfreida's passing from this vale of sorrow, we also celebrate that her Lord called her to her heavenly reward. As we meditate for the next few minutes, I'd like to take a look at the hymn we just sang. Sometimes we get caught up just singing the words but never really looking at what these words are saying.
The hymn's first verse says, "Children of the heavenly Father safely in His bosom gather; nestling bird nor star in heaven such a refuge e'er was given" (v1). Elfreida enjoyed a special place because of the faith the Holy Spirit gave her in her Baptism. Because of her faith, she was able to gather with the rest of the saints on earth wrapped up in God's arms. God has adopted us as His most treasured creation. No other creation in the entire universe is allowed to be wrapped in God's arms. We have been adopted as children and heirs through shared sufferings (Romans 8:14-17). Suffering shared because Jesus suffered while sharing our human nature.
Therefore "God His own doth tend and nourish; in His holy courts they fluorish. From all evil things He spares them; in His mighty arms He bears them" (v2). Elfreida spent eighty-nine years being tended and nourished by God. Eighty-nine years of fluorishing in His courts. One of her favorite passages was the opening of the second Psalm we spoke this morning, "I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the LORD'" (122:1). She came to church borne upon God's arms. And as her last breath left her body, she was borne upon God's arms as His angels brought her soul to receive her heavenly reward.
Her reward confirms that "Neither life nor death shall ever from the Lord His children sever; unto them His grace He showeth, and their sorrows all He knoweth" (v3). Death does not separate His children from God. In fact, death only physically separates Christians from each other. We are not separated completely. We are still together with those who have gone before us in the faith. We're together when we come to the Sacrament. We're together as we come together in worship and sing the great hymns of the liturgy. Hymns like the Gloria in Excelsis and the Te Deum. Hymns the Church has sung for centuries and even millenia. Nothing is able to separate us from the love of God through Christ Jesus our Lord who shared our human flesh. He shared our sorrows. He died our death. Rising from the dead, He promises that we too will rise from our graves to be with Him in Heaven.
The hymn ends, "Though He giveth or He taketh, God His children ne'er forsaketh; His the loving purpose solely to preserve them pure and holy" (v4). God never forsakes His children. That's completely beyond the scope of His grace. St. Paul relates this best as he speaks to husbands, "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her ... that she might be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:25-27). Being made pure and holy, the Church is able to enter into the heavenly realms. Elfreida is there now. She is among those who have been made pure and holy through her Lord Jesus Christ. You, too, who have been baptized, have also been made pure. And when Christ gathers His people together, we will be reunited with Elfreida and all the saints who have gone before us. We'll be bodily in the new Heaven we've heard about these last couple of weeks in the Easter season. And no one will ever be able to take us away from. God will not allow His pure and holy children to be plucked out of His hand.
Elfreida will be missed. There's no denying that. But we rest upon the promise that she is with her Lord and is waiting for us to join her in the eternal praising of your heavenly Father. You are also "Children of the Heavenly Father". Praise Him that He has made you so. Amen.