Friday, May 19, 2017
A Time and Season for Everything: A Funeral Sermon
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4).
Solomon’s words ring true in our ears, especially today. For JoAnn, there was a time to be born and a time to die: August 28, 1931 and February 2, 2017. Indeed, there is a time to be born and a time to die for all of us. But this was not always so. In the beginning, there was only a time to be born and not a time to die; a time to laugh and never to cry; a time to dance and never to mourn. The Lord God looked upon all that He had made and behold it was very good. The world knew nothing of weeping and mourning and death. Man was created with eternity, not just put in his heart, but as a central feature of God’s plan.
Then “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Planting and harvesting were cursed with pain and sweaty toil, thorn and thistle. The blessing of birth came with pain. The joy of marriage became mixed with strife. And every human being returns to the dust from which the first man came. We are all subject to times and changes over which we have so little control. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
Solomon contrasts the changing human affairs with God’s unchanging will. Throughout Ecclesiastes, he frequently changes his tone, describing both the frustration and fickleness of life, as well as the firmness of God’s Word and blessing. In so doing, Solomon is showing that everything is in God’s hands.
Rather than stifling human effort, this truth encourages us to follow God’s will as revealed in the Scriptures. As God’s children, we do what we can; then we leave the outcome in His almighty hands. In His infinite wisdom and power, God fits everything into His eternal plan, and so “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” The apostle Paul writes: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). To see life’s hardships and joys alike as part of this grand scheme is like viewing life as a beautiful mosaic from the hands of the master Artist.
Yes, seen in such a way, Solomon’s words ring true, but they do not tell the whole truth. For that we need Jesus. Only He—His cross and resurrection—can make sense of it all. You see, for JoAnn and for you and me, sin and death are not the only season. They are but the fall and winter. Cold and cruel, to be sure, but temporary. Jesus, the eternal Son of God, willingly subjected Himself to the seasons of time and humanity in order to begin an eternal spring and summer. Christ was born. He lived, suffered, died, and was buried in order to bring you the eternity God set in your heart.
Yes, there is a time to be born and a time to die, even for the Son of God. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary for you. He lived a perfect obedient life for you. At the appointed time, He was crucified, died, and was buried for you. And, just as had been prophesied, He rose again on the third day for you.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
And so, for JoAnn there was a time—September 20, 1931—to be exact, where she died and was born all in a matter of a few moments and three splashes of water. “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” said the pastor, even as Jesus was saying, “Behold I make all things new.”
JoAnn’s Baptism was truly a time to die. Her sin was drowned and washed away. And her Baptism was also a time to be born anew by water and Spirit. And in God’s eyes, JoAnn was very good. In fact, she was better than good. She was perfect, holy, sinless. All of that because she was baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, credited as righteous by grace through faith. Christ having exchanged His perfect righteousness and obedience for her sin and disobedience.
This Christian faith is the firm foundation upon which JoAnn—and countless others—have been built as they learned and studied and memorized each week in Sunday School and worship, in the home, and later in catechism class. JoAnn publicly confessed that faith in the Rite of Confirmation on April 14, 1946. Her confirmation verse, John 3:16, is the Gospel in a nutshell, a wonderful promise to all who, like JoAnn, are brought to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
This faith in Christ also led JoAnn to a life of service as she was able. Freely she received Christ’s mercy, freely she gave to those in need. With her various interests, she demonstrated repeatedly that there’s a time for tearing and sewing, for speaking and remaining silent, and a time to dance.
But above all, this faith in Christ gave her words of comfort. Words she learned from the wisdom of Solomon, as well as those which come to our ears straight from the lips of Jesus in the Gospel:
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also (John 14:1–3).
Yes, there is a time for death and mourning and weeping, but for you who mourn and weep, Jesus has words of comfort and assurance. For JoAnn, and for all who rest with Christ, John gives us this picture in the book of Revelation:
Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (21:1-4).
Yes, there is a time to mourn; but there is also a time to dance. For death has no dominion over Jesus, over JoAnn, or you.
Yes, there is a time to weep; but there is also a time to laugh and rejoice. We see and hear that now, in part, in the Scriptures, hymns, and promises of Christ in Baptism and in the Supper. We will see and hear it in full before the throne where the Lamb of God makes all things new.
Yes, there is a time to die; but there is also a time to rise; a time to be planted in the earth for rest from our labors; and a time to be plucked up from our graves by our Lord Jesus Christ to live with Him for eternity.
And then there will be no more time for sin or sorrow or tears. There will be no more seasons. No more death. For the former things will pass away. These words are trustworthy and true. It is finished! And whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor can anything be taken from it. Amen.
The peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
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