Reconciled in Christ: Funeral Sermon for Elwood Olkkanen

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself…” – 2 Corinthians 5:18

We all have memories of Elwood. Hopefully you will share yours shortly when we have that part of the service. I’d like to start this devotional with one of mine because I think it fits well with the bible verse we just heard. We all know Elwood was quite a personality. He could be quite gruff at times but also very funny a lot of time too. Well, with me, one thing he always got stuck on was batteries. Elwood would always ask me for batteries. No matter how many I gave him, he would always ask for more! For some reason, Elwood could never reconcile himself to the fact that bring him more batteries was not exactly number 1 on my priority list in life. So in a good natured kind of way, he always let me know I was never living up to his own high standards as to what a “battery supply” guy should be. I think he tried to give me a break, but he couldn’t quite reconcile my poor performance in battery delivery with his expectations.

Unfortunately, that’s how our sinful human attempts at reconciliation with one another more often then not go. But with God its different. When God resolves Himself to reconcile, it gets done completely & perfectly. When Paul writes about reconciliation in this verse from his 2nd letter to the Corinth., he is talking about the new relationship that brings together God and man in Jesus Christ. This reconciliation is entirely God’s work. We do not earn this reconciliation. The fact of the matter is that our will’s cannot will it into being. Nor do we have to either prove we are worthy of it or have to try hard to keep it by our own strength. This new relationship with God is built upon a foundation far more enduring than anything we can offer: the death and resurrection of Christ.

In Jesus we have been totally recreated. We are now new creations. God has begin in us something new which is at work in us to conquer the powers of sin & death. The center of this wonderful, reconciling miracle is God Himself. In baptism God gave this miracle of reconciliation to each one of us as a free gift of His love. He spoke our names & adopted us as His own child. God also promised us in baptism that someday He would call us by name and take us home to be where He is at. So, on the day Elwood died, Jesus came to him & fulfilled the baptismal promise made long ago to bring Elwood home to be with Him in heaven. So that is where Elwood is today: at peace and enjoying eternal bliss in Our Father’s house.

So even as you mourn the loss of a friend, the good news for you today is that this same promise of eternal salvation is also for you. God first gave it to you in your baptism just like He did Elwood. He gave it just so that you can lean on it in times of grief like this. Because the truth is, whenever the Gospel of God’s unconditional forgiveness is spoken, Christ is there to save. So today, since 2 or 3 of us are gathered in His name, our Lord is present with us once again, just as He promised he would be. He is here to speak once more to you His gracious Words of reconciliation: “I forgive your sins: all of them. You are my own chosen & blessed child. I promise to you today that even death will never separate you from my love.”

My friends in Christ, in the hearing of those Words, you truly have partaken in God’s reconciliation today. And, through the Word & Sacrament ministry of the church, God also gives to you His own Holy Spirit to continue His reconciling work in you for the rest of your life. So God is with you always to clear away the debris of your past and open for you a reconciled future. So, on one glorious day to come, you can be certain that God will finally complete His saving work of reconciliation in you too. God will usher you into His eternal kingdom just as He has done with Elwood. May this Truth give you God’s peace always: Amen.

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