To Whom Shall We Go?

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
There are days and times when the going gets tough. Of that you are well aware. Who would have thought less than two months ago that we would be here today? Even two weeks ago, we all had much hope for Lois’ treatment and recovery. And now you’re caught up in the swirl of thoughts and emotions that come with mourning: a deep sense of loss, confusion, or perhaps even shock, at the death of a loved one just recently so active and vibrant.
 These reactions are perfectly normal and natural. It’s death that’s not normal and natural. Oh, I know it happens all the time, but death was never a part of God’s perfect plan for creation. Man and woman were made to be eternal, to live forever—body and soul—in God’s holy presence. There is something deep in the very fiber of who we are as human beings that recognizes the damage caused by sin. Even the most hard-core atheist realizes that death is not right. As the Teacher writes in Ecclesiastes 3:11: “[God has] set eternity in the hearts of men.”  
One of the ways that people cope with the death of a loved one is to tell stories about that person... times and incidents that make you smile and bring back fond memories… times that make you cry. And as the day goes on, we will no doubt have the opportunity for that. But I can’t picture Lois approving of speaking about her too much during the service. For one, she never really liked to be in the spotlight. But more importantly, Lois understood that at a Christian funeral such as we have today, the emphasis is to be on what the Lord God Almighty has done through His Son Jesus. He is to be our focus of worship. He is the Way and the Truth and the Life. So, today I am not going to be talking a lot about Lois, but I will be speaking of a few times when God was active in Lois’ life.
The last few weeks have been difficult for you. It has been tough. Where did you go for comfort? How did you find the strength to endure? Whom did you seek? I am certain that the places you went and the people you saw varied for each of you. All of that, of course, is history. It has taken place and you are only able to tell where you did go and those people you did see. But there is an even more important question along this line and it deals with the future. In the future, when you face difficult days or encounter another loss or when you are burdened with fear, to whom will you go? To whom will you go when the days are difficult and the times are tough?
The Scripture text for this sermon is from a time when Jesus was teaching the people how vitally important it is to believe in Him and to follow Him. Many people would not accept what Jesus said, others were offended, and only a few remained with Him. Please listen again to our text.
“From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him. ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve.
“Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.’”
And that brings us to our question for today: “To whom shall you go?”
I suppose that it depends on the problem. If it is a medical problem, you will probably go to a doctor. If it is financial, perhaps you will go to an accountant. If you have a legal difficulty, you might be wise to consult an attorney. If something is broken, you’ll call in a repairman. But what about the issues of life and death or heaven and hell? To whom shall you go? Certainly when dealing with a problem, you would want get the best treatment or service or advice. You want the best doctor, the wisest counselor, the smartest attorney, or the most skilled repairman. And if that is true with the temporary things that we face every day, how much more concerning the realities of eternal life and death? To whom shall you go?
The best one to consult is, of course, God. In the days of our text, people were able to walk up to Jesus and ask Him their questions. That is just what they did and He answered them—at least all the questions that needed to be answered. That can happen to us, too. Today, we are able go to God in prayer, and He answers in His Word. Not all of our questions are answered in the Bible, but every answer that we need for eternal life with God is given there.
In the Bible we find that each one of us is a sinner and sin much every day. We find out that despite this, God loves us deeply. He loves us more, (and more perfectly) than we ever love anyone else. In fact, I can safely say that God loves Lois even more than any of you. Lois’ death grieved God even more than it does you. How can I say this? How do I know? Scripture tells us: “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). That love includes Lois and you and me.
The first time God’s love was active in Lois’ life was about 2,000 years ago. The Son of God became man and died on the cross to pay the price of everyone’s sins—your sins, Lois’ sins, my sins, the sins of all people of all time. Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead and lives forever. He has paid for our sin, conquered death, and defeated the devil. Forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation belong to anyone who believes this Good News and trusts in Christ Jesus.
Unfortunately, there is a natural, human tendency that often kicks in at times of seeking out others. It happened in Jesus’ day, and it happens yet today. People seek out the kind of help they think they want; but that is not necessarily the kind of help they need. People came to Jesus and He told them that He is the source of eternal life and that they needed Him. The Son of God told them that He is the Bread of Life, come down from heaven for them and for all. But this was difficult for some people to accept and the Bible tells us “from this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.”
The same thing happens today—both with spiritual issues concerning God and physical issues. Sometimes we go to the doctor, the tests are run, the results are received, and we are told the truth. But the truth is not what we always want to hear. So we might try to just ignore the diagnosis or go out and attempt to find a physician who will tell us what we want to hear. St. Paul describes the spiritual equivalent in his second letter to Timothy: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (4:3-4).
The truth is only found in sound doctrine. Only as we continue hearing the Word of God are we able to make the proper applications to our own lives. That means being involved with Church. It means coming to the place God promises to tell us the Good News of forgiveness and eternal life for the sake of Jesus Christ. That brings me to God’s further activity in Lois’ life through His means of grace.
 On December 28, 1949, Lois was adopted as a dear child of God. Through Holy Baptism, Lois received the gift of the Holy Spirit, faith, salvation, and eternal life. A short while later she was confirmed in the Lutheran church. On July 7, 1951, she was united with Clarence in holy matrimony in the St. John’s parsonage here in Trosky. And that marriage was blessed by God with four children.
Week after week, in a number of different congregations, Lois stood with her family and rest of the congregation to confess the creed and join in the prayers of the church. Lois heard Jesus’ word of absolution spoken through His called and ordained servant. Lois received Christ’s body and blood for the forgiveness of her sins and the strengthening of her faith. And those means of grace certainly brought her much joy and comfort, especially as she approached the hour of her death. That same Word of forgiveness and eternal life can be your comfort for times like this, and your salvation as you consider your own life and death.
So, Jesus told the people the truth, but not everyone wanted to hear the truth. And so “after this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him.” So many of them left. It was not God’s will that they leave, but they left. The Lord our God turned to those Twelve who remained with Him. He looked at them and asked, “You do not want to leave too, do you?”
What a question for God to ask His people! “Do you also wish to go away?” There must have been total silence for a moment as each one thought about staying or going. Finally, Simon Peter answered for those who remained: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
“Jesus, where else is there to go? You only have the words that lead beyond this life and into eternal life. And hearing Your words and understanding Your teachings, Jesus, we have come to believe that You are the Holy One of God. There is no one else we’d rather be with. There is no one else who will lead us through the valley of the shadow of death.” Peter confessed what he believed to be true and declared it in a creed: “Lord Jesus, we have come to believe that You are the Holy One of God.” Are you able to say the same thing?
It has been said that a funeral service is for the living and not the dead. That is most certainly true. Therefore also the funeral sermon is one for you, the living, and the applications must be made to you. For each one of us here... well, there will come a time when no doctor will be able to help... when no accountant will be able to give you a few extra days... when no lawyer will be able to bail you out… when no repairman can fix what’s broken. We will each face circumstances in our life that we cannot possibly handle on our own; that just don’t make sense to our limited human reasoning. Moreover, your death and mine are also coming. And so, the question for each of us to consider is the one Jesus asked, “Do you also wish to go away?”
And the answer, the only answer that prevails, is our original question, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
And the question needs to be answered today, not tomorrow. None of us knows if we will even be alive at the end of this day. We don’t have any guarantees. Let the suddenness of Lois’ sickness and death be a sobering reminder for us to get our lives in order and our priorities straight. Tonight as you are in bed and it is dark and quiet, think about Jesus’ question and Peter’s answer that are in our text for this funeral sermon. Then, think about your own answer. Turn to God’s Word for comfort, peace, and guidance. Pour out your heart to God in prayer.
If you have more questions or want to talk more about these things in the days ahead, please speak to your pastor or other mature Christian friend. If you don’t have anyone else, I would love to speak with you about these things, or I can certainly help get you in touch with someone else who can. There is truly nothing more important. It is literally a matter of life and death—eternal life and death.
So, permit me to read our text to you one last time.
“From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him. ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve.
“Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.’” Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Hospice for Sinners

Small Church Sunday

A Wonderful Mystery: An Address for the Wedding of James & Rebecca Dubro