Sermon Hymn: “For All The Saints” – LSB 677
Preached at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Dallas, TX on August 3, 2011
Text: Romans 8:31-39
“What then shall we say to these things?” Paul asks at the beginning of today’s Epistle.
Indeed, what shall we say? Barbara, Kimberly, dearly beloved, it’s a time like this one that causes you to ask such questions. “Why?” I imagine the question has crossed your minds, and likely your lips. It’s a time like this one that brings you to your knees, crying out to God from this dark low place and asking Him to bring you up. You say things like “I want my daughter back!” You have to explain to your daughter that her Aunt Koko won’t be on the phone or hanging out with her anymore. It’s terrible. It’s wrong. Death is not natural, or right, or good. It is the ultimate contortion of God’s creation.
“What then shall we say to these things?” Everyone here, no doubt, would in some way like to give an answer. Many things run through our heads, don’t they? We want to say what a beautiful person she was. We want to encourage one another through the memories of how she made us feel good or special. How she loved us in a special way. We want to dwell on all the good memories we have.
And there’s nothing wrong with those memories. But then the devil is there, to remind us of the times when maybe things weren’t so sunny. I don’t know how many here have struggled – or do struggle – with addiction. I don’t know how many here have loved ones who are addicts. But I know there are at least a handful here who know what it’s like. And here we find the devil crouching, waiting with his lies for you. He might be blatant, or he might just wiggle sneakily into your mind in those moments of deep grief. The reality is that Kortni suffered. Mightily. I certainly don’t know to what extent – probably none of us do. But it was enough to drive her into the waiting arms of a very false god – her addiction.
Barbara, Kimberly, I know you right now are suffering. We’ve talked about how you both feel like Job. Can the Lord add any more burdens to you right now? The temptation is to think that maybe this is God’s way of telling you that he doesn’t love you the same way he used to. Maybe this is God punishing you for something you’ve done, or that you’ve failed to do? You’ll be tempted to think that maybe you did something wrong as Mom, or as sister, or boyfriend, or as her support network. The temptation of the devil is to make you always to think that God has given up on you, abandoned you. And he has plenty of evidence. Addicts do bad things – to themselves and others. So do adulterers, tax cheats, rebellious teenagers – in fact, all of us do bad things: we are sinners.
So has God abandoned you, denounced you, forsaken you? Did He abandon Kortni in her hour of need? “What then shall we say to these things?” No! Emphatically, without any doubt: NO. Paul says it. God is for you. Paul suffered. Paul lost. He was jailed, flogged, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, persecuted by his own people and others, betrayed, sleepless, hungry, without adequate clothing, homeless. He even spends an entire chapter of Romans, chapter 7, decrying himself because he keeps wanting to do the right thing and has to mentally stand there and watch himself physically do the wrong. He was clean, and yet his sinful flesh kept returning for its fix.
And yet Paul maintains that God’s on his side, and yours, and Kortni’s.
So where’s the proof? It’s OK to demand it. In the midst of your grief, Barbara, in those nights of mourning, Kimberly, ask God to prove it. And then look at the proof that Paul here offers: Jesus.
“Who can be against us?” Not God, because God gave His own Son into death for you. Each one of you. “Who shall bring any charge?” No one. Because Jesus took all sin to the cross and died for it there, God speaks that beautiful verdict of “Not Guilty” and “Clean”. “Who is to condemn?” None. Because God died and was raised. Jesus stands in Kortni’s place – and yours – and shows God all that He has done. God’s anger towards you is turned to love, in Christ.
God loves Kortni, because she too has died and was raised. That’s baptism, as Paul tells us in Romans 6. Buried into Christ’s death, raised in His resurrection. You share this with your daughter, Barbara. You too with your sister, Kimberly. Brooklyn, this is a precious treasure that you will share with your Aunt Koko your whole life long. In your baptism you have died with Christ and were raised with Him, right alongside Kortni. In this precious gift, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
Right now you are physically separated from Kortni, and you will be, for as many years as God gives you, until your death. But don’t let this separation from the one you love in any way create a false impression that you are separate from Jesus. Nothing can separate you from his love. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Finally, hear these words from Jesus Himself. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me… I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Jesus’ gift of belief was Kortni’s in her baptism on December 12, 1983. She confessed and confirmed that belief aloud here – in fact, right there in front of this altar – on May 4, 1997, and partook that day for the first time of His body and blood. I urge you to come to the Lord’s Supper and eat and drink His body and blood. At the Sacrament Jesus brings with him all the company of heaven. And that now includes our dear Kortni, and all who have believed in Jesus.
Barbara, Kimberly, Brooklyn, beloved – “Let not your hearts be troubled.” A few weeks ago Kortni and I talked about sin, about addiction, and about forgiveness. And she without a doubt again confessed her confidence in her forgiveness in Christ. Our sister Kortni has fallen asleep, yes, but she sleeps in the peace of Christ. That same Christ will on the last day raise her up into life eternal, with Him. And on that day, in Christ, you’ll be right there with her, worshipping the Lamb in His Kingdom, which will have no end. Amen.