“Invited to the Feast” (Funeral sermon on Isaiah 25:6-9, by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

“Invited to the Feast” (Isaiah 25:6-9)

There’s a big feast coming, and Bob is invited! In fact, his seat is already guaranteed. There’s a big feast coming, and you are invited too. That’s what I want to tell you about today, that we have been “Invited to the Feast.”

What is this feast I’m referring to? It’s the one spoken of by the prophet Isaiah. You heard this prophecy in the reading from Isaiah 25. It begins: “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.”

So this is going to be a “feast,” which marks it as a joyous occasion, a time for celebrating. This is going to be a big, fantastic feast, with only the best food and drink served. It’s going to take place “on this mountain,” as Isaiah says. And by “this mountain,” Isaiah means Mount Zion, the dwelling place of God in the midst of his people. And this feast will not only be for those who are already his people, the Lord will also call “all peoples” to his feast.

Bob Worsham is one of those who have been invited. And now we can say his seat is guaranteed. For the good Lord kept him in the saving faith until he died.

What will happen on this mountain, at this feast, that will make it so joyous and so celebratory? Listen to what the Lord will do there: “And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever.”

Whoa! Now that is pretty amazing! The Lord will swallow up death forever! Usually it is death that swallows us up. But the day is coming when the Lord will swallow up death itself. Forever. That is something to look forward to. For now death is like a veil, a shroud, a covering that is draped over all humanity, darkening our days like a total eclipse blocking out the sun. But the day is coming when that shroud will be lifted.

How did death come to be this dark veil cast over all peoples? It was through our sin. Your sin, my sin, Bob’s. It goes back to our first parents in the garden, when they thought they knew better than God and did what he had said not to. And we’ve been following in their footsteps ever since. And as a result, the curse that descended on mankind was the sentence of death. “Dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” And now today, once again, we see death staring us in the face, reminding us of our own mortality.

The reality of death causes us grief. We miss those we lose, like Bob, like Dottie. But the day is coming when “the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.” “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Joy, because the Lord has promised to swallow up death, forever. And this will be the occasion for a big celebratory feast that goes on forever. It’s coming. And Bob will be there.

Now why was Bob invited to this joyous feast? Was it because of all the good he did in his life? And there was a lot of good. Bob served his country with honor, in the United States Marines. But that was not the reason he will be at this feast. Bob served his community with distinction, for many years, as a St. Louis police officer. But that is not the reason he was invited to the feast. In his retirement, Bob was an active member of our church, a regular every Sunday when Bob and Dottie were still able to go. I remember Bob being the driving force behind our Men’s Club holding a couple of fund-raisers for the BackStoppers. But this did not earn him a ticket to heaven. In recent years, when Bob and Dottie moved into the nursing home, and I would come and see them, I remember Bob being so loyal to Dottie, as her memory was fading, month by month. These are all good works, praiseworthy and commendable, but Bob was not doing them to earn his way into heaven. And they are not the reason he was invited to the feast.

No, here is why Bob will be at the feast. It is the Lord’s gracious doing. The good Lord has done everything necessary to give Bob a seat at the table. God our Father sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to be our Savior. Christ came down from heaven and gives life to the world. Jesus gave his life into death, even death on a cross, to win forgiveness for all our sins. When the very Son of God sheds his holy blood for you, to atone for your sins, that is mightily effective! Your sins are forgiven! Cleansed, free, forgiven! And the proof of that is in Christ’s resurrection. Because he lives, we will live also. Forever.

And Bob Worsham knew this Savior, knew this forgiveness, knew this hope of everlasting life. In Holy Baptism, he was joined to Jesus and all his sins were washed away. He received the gift of the Holy Spirit to keep him in the one true faith. In the preaching of the gospel, week after week, month after month, year after year, Bob was reassured of the Lord’s mercies and he grew in the grace and knowledge of our Savior Jesus Christ. And in the blessed Sacrament of the Altar, Bob received the very body and blood of Christ. The bread of life. The cup of salvation. For the Lord’s Supper is a foretaste of the feast to come.

And that feast is coming! Jesus is coming again, and on that day he will raise up our mortal bodies and clothe us with immortality. Jesus says–and this is a promise Bob believed, and it’s a promise for you also–Jesus says: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

“Then shall come to pass,” as St. Paul says, “the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Isaiah tells us what that day will be like: “It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’”

Yes, the feast is coming. The feast of victory for our God. The feast celebrating the victory Christ has won for us in conquering death and giving us life everlasting. This is rich food indeed! Bob is invited. He’s already got his seat reserved. And you are invited too! There’s room for more. The gift is for you! Bob and you and I–we all have been invited to the feast.


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