Pastor Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church – Dyer, Indiana
13. October 2010
Funeral of Evelyn M. Hutchison
Dearly beloved, Bruce, Barbara, Karl, Lillian, spouses, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, visitors, and all the fellow redeemed – Grace, mercy and peace be to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The text for our meditation is the Gospel just read, especially these words of our Lord: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).
I did not have any opportunity to get to know Evelyn. I know Bruce and Karl only marginally better than the rest of you, of whom I know almost nothing. I was not ordained and installed at Evelyn’s church, Grace Lutheran in Dyer, Indiana, until her Alzheimer’s had taken its stranglehold on her. Yet, from her family’s description of her, I know she would have been a pleasure to know and she will be sorely missed.
Yet, I do not count this as loss. For our dear sister, your mother – Bruce, Barbara, Karl, and Lillian, did not die in vain. For to die in Christ is to gain eternal life for her soul. We ought to be willing to forfeit our entire life if only to hear Christ’s Word and to die with faith in HIm. Evelyn heard the Word and believed in Christ. She will not come into judgment but has passed from death to life.
Christ gave Evelyn this great promise of life forever with Him. When the Holy Trinity baptized her on March 18th, 1928, Evelyn was born into the heavenly family of the saints. The sign of the cross was placed on her forehead and heart, forever marking her as redeemed. She was born through this water into the church, where she joined with her fellow Christians in confession and absolution. Christ himself each week proclaimed the forgiveness of her sins, absolving her of her sins of thought, word, and deed.
She daily lived in this promise of her baptism, asking that our Lord would forgive her and restore her to a life lived for Him and for her friends, family, and neighbors. To sustain her on this pilgrimage from birth to death and onto eternal life, our Lord Jesus Christ came to Evelyn with his true and very body and blood, which Jesus shed and gave for us from the cross.
For all of Evelyn’s failing to keep the Law – to love you, her children, to love her spouse, your dearly departed father, Walter, to love her neighbors even greater than herself – for all of her faults, our Lord died and sacrificially poured himself out to his bride, the Church, in Holy Communion. Evelyn tasted on her lips and her mouth what the ancients called “the medicine of immortality.” Our Lord’s body and blood forgave her sins and kept her in the true faith, even now, unto everlasting life.
Christ suffered in His body for Evelyn. So also, Christ suffered for you. There is no limit to Christ’s love for humankind. His shed blood forgives the sins of the whole world. His atoning sacrifice is big enough to forgive your sins, Bruce, Barb, Karl, and Lillian, and you her family, friends, and neighbors. Christ forgave your mom and dear sister in the faith. Christ forgives you.
Jesus says, “An hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29).
Many hear these words of Jesus and think that their what they do in their life will get them to heaven. That’s our temptation too, to dwell on all the love Evelyn showed to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. We could talk about her service to her country and to her community. We could talk about the good things she did for the senior’s club. We could even talk about the things she did for her church. Our perhaps we could talk about how much fun Evelyn had, enjoying the life God gave her.
Dearly beloved, God does not forgive us because we love others. God did not forgive Evelyn because she loved her husband, her children, and the rest of her family. He did not forgive her for serving our community, country, or church. God forgave her because she heard the Word of God and believed. Her good works are the work of God in her. First and foremost, God worked faith in her by the Holy Spirit and through the Word. God anointed her as one of his children in the saving waters of Holy Baptism. He fed her with the forgiveness of sins in His body and blood.
By this good work of God in her, she was given a reason to love her family, her community, and her church. Knowing and trusting that God forgave her, she could go about loving and forgiving others. God’s grace for her gave her the reason for loving you.
So today, Bruce, Barb, Karl, Lillian, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, family, and friends, I can speak with confidence about Evelyn. I know Evelyn because Christ knows Evelyn. Christ tells us we can speak with confidence about our dear sister. Evelyn is baptized and so one of God’s children. Evelyn confessed her faith publicly at her confirmation. Evelyn trusted in our Lord by hearing the Word as often as she could. Evelyn desired the “medicine of immortality” when she received our Lord’s true body and blood.
Thus we can say with all boldness and confidence that Jesus holds her in his loving arms, while she yet rests until the resurrection of the dead on the last day. On that final day, the voice of the Son of God will call to her and she will live eternally. This promise is trustworthy and true. He that believes the word of Jesus and is baptized will live for ever. Amen.