Preached on October 31, 2012
Over the last year, Bonnie has suffered many ailments and physical hardships. She was living in the brutal reality of a fallen world. She lived, staring down that foreign intruder, death, as he made his presence known in this world, leaving no one untouched.
But if you don’t believe that we live in a fallen world, just go on living. Soon, your joints will start to creak and ache. And if you live a long life, you will see the powerhouse of your youth fade away to a lingering echo. Weakness will not only invade but will become an unwanted freeloader in your life.
But Bonnie needed no reminder of that. Every day, her body told her that she was suffering because of our fall into sin. That’s what our Old Testament reading told us. God told Adam that if he and Eve were to eat of the forbidden fruit, they would die. And that aftershock of death is still ringing in our ears. We are here today, at Bonnie’s funeral, because of that.
Yet, Bonnie not only suffered because we happen to live in a fallen world. She also suffered because she was fallen, just like you and I are! She made mistakes and wandered down the wrong paths–as you and I still do! Sometimes, she recognized the error of her ways. She realized that, for too long, she had stayed away from God’s preached Word and the Lord’s Supper. She told Chuck that they needed to get back to church after she got out of the hospital.
That’s called repentance. Even in the hospital, Bonnie, remembering the truths of God, changed course. She wanted to go in a different direction. That’s what repentance is: it’s changing course and going in a different direction. She wanted to be where God came to her in Word and Sacrament.
So, it’s ironic, now looking back. Bonnie was a chronically late person, always pinched for time, never able to be the early one. I suppose we can say that she was wired that way from birth. I can just imagine Bonnie as a child–her parents flustered as they were trying to get her ready for school or church. So, I’m not surprised that Bonnie was late getting back to church. Sadly, she was never able to make it back. The Lord called her home anyway.
But it was not too late. For God always welcomes His children who have softened hearts, who want to be where He generously gives out His gifts. Although Bonnie shortchanged herself of God’s gifts in Word and Sacrament here, our God is not a stingy God. Even in eternity, He showers His grace and mercy on His saints.
In Bonnie, we see a mirror of ourselves. Left on our own, we would all be too late for God. We would let our own wants and wishes drive our lives, even losing the eternal life that God has prepared for us. Yet, like with Bonnie, God lavishes His mercy on His repentant children. So, even in death, Bonnie has won the eternal victory.
But Bonnie didn’t win the eternal victory because she was a kind person. Oh, don’t get me wrong: she was a kind person. She often put herself in second place as she chose to serve others in her life. She wanted to bring her family together for Thanksgiving and Christmas. All that is praiseworthy. But none of that won the victory over suffering and death for Bonnie.
Like all of us, Bonnie had to overcome problems that were more powerful than she was. The Apostle Paul named these problems: corruption and mortality. No one can overcome those problems. No one is holy enough to overcome sin’s corruption or the darkness of the grave. That’s the problem.
And if that’s where the story ended, it would be most depressing. But Bonnie did not face death alone, for another stood by her side. He was stronger than death. And through Him, through Jesus Christ, Bonnie has won the victory.
Jesus excised the sharp sting of death, sin, by washing Bonnie clean in His precious blood. With all of Bonnie’s sins nailed to the cross of death, no one, not even Satan, could accuse Bonnie any longer. Satan, our old, evil foe, who deceived our first parents long ago, is now silent in the courtroom of God. For the Lord God has already declared Bonnie innocent.
That’s why Bonnie’s death is not simply some continuation of death. No, she has passed through death into life. She has gone into the direct presence of her dear Lord. Now, Bonnie has no more pain or fear, only joy.
And that is a most-glorious victory. But that’s not enough of a victory for our Lord Jesus. He will not settle, only to give Bonnie eternal life as a spirit. Jesus loves Bonnie too much to leave her body behind, decaying in the dust.
So, Christ has done more than redeem Bonnie’s soul; He also redeemed her body. For He died, not just for part of Bonnie, but for all of her–body, soul, and spirit. Although her body remains here, it will awaken on the Last Day. And on that day, as Christ raises her body, Bonnie’s spirit and body will reunite.
But it will not be the same, fallen body that Bonnie has had to put up with, especially this past year. If that were true, would that even be a victory? Here, her body suffered from corruption, disease, and failure. And I suppose, we could even call death the final failure of the body.
No, that’s not how it will be. On the Last Day, Jesus will raise Bonnie’s body, better than it was before. She will be raised imperishable. That means that nothing can go wrong with her new body, which Christ will give her. She will be full of strength, health, life, and vigor. If you could see her now as she will be, you would be struck silent in awe and mystery.
By His perfect life and His innocent suffering and death, Christ Jesus has won this victory for Bonnie. He won that victory by crushing Satan’s head, smashing to pieces the power of the grave.
The wonders of eternal life that Bonnie has received–and will receive–are beyond our imagining. When we ponder Jesus earning this life for Bonnie, how can we put a value of what He has done? For what Christ has done is beyond any value. And so too is the value of the life given to Bonnie. Like her Savior, Jesus Christ, it is limitless, endless, and perfect.
Indeed, for Bonnie, death has been defeated. This is because of God, who has worked this wonder through His Son, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit. And this life is yours, as well, as the Holy Spirit enlivens your faith, bringing to you Jesus through Word and Sacrament. Amen.