I wish that I could stand before you today and honor Edna by saying some personal things about her. I wish that I could speak specifically to her experience and her life. I wish that I had had the chance to meet her and spend some time talking with her. I do wish these things, but to no avail. You are the ones who have known her and loved her. You are the ones with stories and memories that mean so much on a day like today. So be it. For my part, I can only tell you about someone who knew Edna too. And I’ll tell you about that person, Jesus Christ, using the scriptures that Edna wanted read today.
First, Psalm 23. Jesus Christ is a shepherd. This means that his job is to care for his sheep, provide for them, lead them, and protect them. Jesus Christ leads his sheep beside the still waters of baptism, giving them the promise of forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Jesus Christ leads his sheep through the valley of the shadow of death. This shadow draws painfully close, touching those we can hardly bear to lose. We can hardly bear it. Yet he brings us through. He brings us through this valley and he gives us comfort to endure.
Jesus Christ prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. That is to say, he richly provides for us even when all kinds of evil and adversity are all around us.
Jesus Christ is our shepherd.
Next, 1 Corinthians. Jesus Christ is the victor over death. We read that “death is swallowed up in victory.” We read that death has lost its sting. I can assure you that death did not give up its power gracefully. Its sting was not removed cheaply. No, in fact the victory of Christ over death was very expensive indeed. It required that the very Son of God, Jesus Christ must bear the sins of the world, and even become sin itself, and it required that he suffer and die. The death of any innocent is a price beyond measure, too horrible to contemplate. The death of Jesus Christ is more expensive than that and more horrible, yet this great evil is turned to good by an all powerful God. Instead of being swallowed up by death Jesus swallows it up himself. He puts death to death. And so we can declare that death has lost its sting.
Jesus Christ is the victor over death.
Next, Romans. Jesus Christ refuses to be separated from us. He sits at God’s right hand interceding for us. What does this mean? First of all it means that we require intercession. We are sinners. We do what is evil in the sight of God. We fall short. We rebel. We love ourselves more than we love others. In short, we sin against our God over and over again. We require intercession. And this is what Jesus does. He says, “Father, you must forgive. For I have died and been raised for that one. She has been baptized in my name as well as yours. Do not regard her unrighteousness, but instead look at my righteousness. For I do not wish to spend eternity without that one. I refuse to be separated from her.” The strength of the love of Christ is such that it will not allow any such separation.
Finally, John. Jesus Christ brings us to be with himself and with the Father. An oft heard religious message is that we must seek God, make a decision for him, invite him into our hearts, turn our lives over to him and so on. This is nothing else but to say that we must bring ourselves to Jesus. And if we’re responsible for that, then it’s really not much further to say that we must bring ourselves all the way to the father. This is not true. It is false. We do not bring ourselves to the Father, nor do we bring ourselves to Jesus Christ. In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther explained it like this, “I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him.” No, it is Jesus Christ who comes to us. And having collected us and sealed us with his blood, he brings us to the Father where he has prepared a room for us and where we shall live with them forever.
As I said at the beginning, I wish that I had had the chance to meet Edna and know her. By all accounts she was a wonderful woman. But thank God that Jesus Christ knew Edna. Thank God that Jesus Christ was her shepherd and that he conquered death for her. Thank God that Jesus Christ has interceded on her behalf and has promised to bring her to live eternally with God.
As for us who remain...... May God work repentance in us and may God cause his gift of faith to grow in fullness, bringing forth fruit in this world, until the day that Jesus brings each one of us to be with him also.