“For you have died, your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you will also appear with Him in glory.” (Colossians 3:3-4)
“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 14:2-4)
Thank you everyone for sharing those wonderful memories of Lillian. What a comfort those words were. I feel blessed to have heard them because they really brought her to life for me. Truly Lillian’s life was gift from God to all of us. Through her much love, joy, and life were brought into the world. So I too mourn with you and share your sorrow over Lillian’s death.
In times like this, when we grieve over the loss of a loved one, the Lord is with us always you know. He promised “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). So the Lord’s presence is felt through the gift of family and friends out of which He pours His love and compassion. Through them, the Lord provides the wonderful gift of memories which keeps a special part of the person with us.
But His presence among us is also much more than that. Jesus promised that “whenever 2 or 3 gather in my name, there am I among you.” The Lord comes also to speak to us in His Word and that is what He calls me here today to do for you. To speak another Word, a Word of grace and forgiveness, to let you know definitely that death does not get to have the final say over Lillian or over you.
So God has appointed me to preach to a Word of Good News. It’s the Gospel story. It’s Jesus Christ’s story but it’s also the story of His walk with Lillian because her life was Christ’s life and Christ’s life was also hers. So I will tell Lillian’s story from Christ’s perspective as the Lord was with her always.
I, the Lord God, created & knew Lillian before the beginning of the earth. I made her special & unique & placed her in her mother’s womb. After she was born, I sent my Son, Jesus Christ the Living Word to her when she just a baby. Even then, I knew that Lillian needed My help because all people are born into a fallen world. All men since Adam are trapped in the lie that they can make their own way without me. So I came to Lillian in her helplessness; in her bondage to sin. I the Lord was with Her always.
So I first came & spoke my decision to be her God in the waters of her Baptism. Oh, it wasn’t her choice or doing. She was a baby after all. But even then, I knew without my intervention, she would be lost so I took action. I worked through the other people I created in the World, Her mother and her Pastor, to bring her to the baptismal font. There, I said “I Baptize you” in you in my name: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. I told Lillian that she was my beloved child so She could call on me for anything. I declared her sins forgiven, taken by me long ago on an Old Rugged Cross. And I promised that when her journey on earth was done, I would come & take her to be with me in my Father’s house in heaven.
So she went out into the world, first in Covington township then in many other places. But everywhere she went I was there too. I know growing up wasn’t easy in those days. It was the Great Depression and times were tough. Her mother worked hard to provide for her and brother Roy and they prayed a lot. There wasn’t much material wealth, but there was love; lots of love & simple times of childhood joy. And I the Lord was with her always.
I continued to speak to her throughout her life too. She came to worship me with her family. There, in my church, I continued to nurture the faith I had given her. She freely received my grace in the places I promised her I could be found and heard. So there I spoke faithfully to her again & again my Words of forgiveness of sin through the preaching of the Pastor and in the bread & wine of my Supper. In those earthly things, I let her know that she would always be my child. Even if she strayed, I said I would come find her. I reminded Lillian that I had chosen her in Baptism & she had my own Holy Spirit as proof. I let her know I hadn’t forgotten her; that my promise of eternal life still held no matter what because “I was not an ordinary man who would lie” (Num. 23:19). And I the Lord was with her always.
Lillian grew up to be the special person you just heard about because I had also promised her that she would “walk in the good deeds that I had prepared for her” (Eph. 2:10) before she was ever born. And what a joyous walk she had! My love shown brightly through her. My heart jumped for joy when I got to marry her to Alvar! Marriage isn’t easy for anyone, but what I put together with those two stayed together for 52 years! There were good times and bad, many houses, everything from living above the old garage by the steakhouse to the farm, and many children too. But my servant Lillian worked hard & shared the gift of wit I had given her with everyone she met! And I the Lord was with her always.
Now getting old isn’t easy. But I still needed to work through Lillian for many things so she walked for 88 years on this earth. There were the difficulties of advanced age, more crosses to bear, but the faith I gave her continued to sustain her. The children grew up and moved out of the house. That was hard to bear, but I walked with them also because Lillian was led by the Holy Spirit to take them to me so I could baptize them too. She raised them in the faith so they grew up well and had families of their own. Through them, I blessed Lillian with 16 grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren. How I love such a big tree of life! And, oh my so much love she gave them all. There did come sorrow and grief with death of her beloved husband, but I was there with her in that too and I promised Her their separation would be brief. At the end, she had some sickness. But I was there as well. Her suffering and pain were also my suffering and pain. And at her final breath, I appeared to her personally, Lillian saw me face-to-face “as I really am”. Softly & Tenderly, I called her by name: “Lillian, beloved Child of the Heavenly Father, come home. Come to the room I have prepared for you. For I the Lord was with you always.”
My friends in Christ, Lillian is in heaven now with Jesus and all the elected Saints of God. Her death is not an end but simply a continuation of the eternal life Christ gave her thru His death & resurrection. We can be joyous today because God has fulfilled all the promises He made to Lillian in her Baptism.
There is good news too for you today as well because the same Savior & promises Lillian was given are also yours. Now some of you may have been first told of your adoption as God’s Child and your salvation in your baptism. If so, the Lord says that He has not forgotten about you and still walks with you in all things in your life. If you haven’t been Baptized yet, He wishes to do so because You are His & He is your Lord & He is with you always. But, just to make sure there is no uncertainty at all about your future, God has sent His Holy Spirit to let you know that He hasn’t changed His mind about choosing you. So by Christ’s authority, not my own, I am here today to declare that: “All your sins are forgiven & you will live forever in the Father’s house.” What this means is that you aren’t saying your final goodbye to Lillian. You will see her again & when you do, the Lord promises that your joy will never end. So may this Gospel of Christ give you peace always until He comes again – for you. Amen.