“Created, Redeemed, and Sanctified by the Triune God” (Apostles’ Creed)
Bob, Karen, Michele, friends and family of our dear sister Dottie: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
A Christian funeral service is both a time of sadness and a time of hope. It is a time of sadness, because we will miss our dear loved one. And so we grieve. However, as St. Paul tells the Thessalonians, we grieve, but not as those who have no hope. We do have hope, the only hope that works. For the Christian, our hope is firmly anchored in the goodness and the promises of the triune God. The Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as we just confessed in the Apostles’ Creed: This is where we find the hope to sustain us in the midst of our sadness. And so it is today at this Christian funeral service for our sister Dottie. We mourn her loss, but we also find hope. The basis for our hope is that Dottie was “Created, Redeemed, and Sanctified by the Triune God.”
First of all, we know that Dottie was created by God. God gave her life, knit her together in her mother’s womb. God made her and gave Dottie her body and soul, eyes, ears, and her members, her reason and all her senses. And God took care of her throughout her earthly life.
And how did Dottie respond to all this fatherly, divine goodness and mercy? She rightly saw it as her duty to thank and praise, serve and obey him. Often she did this by serving others. When I was thinking about Dottie the other day, the first word I came up with was “active.” “Active” and “energy,” those are words I associate with Dottie. And so, when I read her obituary, I had to nod my head in agreement when it said: “Throughout her life, Dorothea, was always active. From hosting barbecues and volunteering with her church, she spent her whole life taking care of others.”
And that is true. Dottie was a very active member of her church, St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Bonne Terre: a regular in church every Sunday, very active in the Ladies’ Guild. And Dottie had her own distinctive personality. Yesterday, at our weekday Bible class, I asked our members what they remembered about Dottie. The first reply was “warm,” “warm and welcoming.” Yes, “welcoming,” another said. Another word that came up was “feisty.” Yeah, I guess there was a little bit of that feistiness that Dottie had, too. But Dottie was a big part of our little congregation, deeply active and involved and dearly loved. We thank God for how he created her. She used her natural gifts to serve her Lord and her church.
So Dottie was created by God. And even more so, she was redeemed by God. God the Father sent his Son Jesus Christ into this world to save Dottie from her sins–to save you and me, and the whole world, in fact. As St. John tells us: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
And this is where we find our hope firmly anchored, centered and focused in the cross of Christ. Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, came into this world of sin and death, of sorrow and sadness, and he came as our brother. He came to rescue and redeem us from all the ills and afflictions that befall us. He came to rescue and redeem us from our own sin and the rebellion that resides within us. And that includes Dottie. It includes you and me. Jesus is our Savior!
He, Jesus, the sinless Son of God, took all our sins in his body and carried them to the cross. There he was lifted up, suspended between heaven and earth, as the mediator between God and man. His holy blood, shed on the cross, is the one atoning sacrifice that covers all our sins. By his death, we are fully forgiven, as a free gift. By his resurrection, we know that we have life, eternal life, as a result. In him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. In him we have everlasting life and an inheritance waiting for us in heaven. In him, in Christ, we have the only righteousness that will avail on the Day of Judgment. Christ’s perfect righteousness is credited to our account–freely, by grace through faith–and thus we will stand, justified, declared not guilty, on that great day when Christ returns. This is the faith that Dottie believed. This is the Savior in whom she trusted.
And how did Dottie come to this faith? Again, through the work of the triune God. Dottie was, is, baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In the waters of Holy Baptism, she received the life-giving name of the Holy Trinity. God the Father claimed her as his own dear child. She was buried and raised with Christ to newness of life. All her sins were washed away, and she was joined to Jesus forever. And the Holy Spirit gave her the gift of faith to believe in Christ and trust in him. The Holy Spirit called her by the gospel, enlightened her with his gifts, sanctified and kept her in the true faith.
Yes, the Holy Spirit kept her in the true faith all these years. As I say, Dottie was a regular in church, every Sunday hearing the gospel preached into her ears and into her heart. Every Divine Service she was refreshed and strengthened in her faith through the salutary gift of Christ’s body and blood in the Blessed Sacrament. And even after Dottie was no longer able to come to church, the church would come to her. I would visit Bob and Dottie and bring them the Word and the Sacrament to sustain their faith. And Dottie gladly received what God was giving her.
So, dear friends, this is why I can say that today is a day of hope! We know that Dottie was and is created, redeemed, and sanctified by the triune God. And there is no greater ground of hope than this. Dottie is at peace, at rest, resting from her labors, resting in the arms of Jesus.
And Jesus says to us today, “Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” This is his gracious invitation to you today. Find the same comfort and peace that Dottie found. It is found in Christ, the Savior of the world, your Savior and mine. Lay down your burdens at the foot of the cross. Look up to Jesus and see the face of God, forgiving your sins and giving you life. You are free and forgiven in him.
God does not hate you. God loves you, deeply–so deeply, he gave his only Son for you, that you would have life, new life, eternal life. The Holy Spirit is at work, through the Word, through the church’s ministry, to lead you to repentance and faith, and to strengthen you in them. God will sustain and support you in your time of loss. He comforts us in all our sadness. We find hope and joy in the goodness and the promises of God and in the community of God’s people.
Our dear sister Dottie was created, redeemed, and sanctified by the triune God. And you, dear Christian, by God’s grace, so are you.
And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.