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Ashli Kae Brown Funeral

December 3, 2013

Tuesday of Advent 1

Click here to listen to this sermon.

3 December 2013

 

+Jesu Juva +

Funeral:  Ashli Kae Brown

John 11:21-27

 

“Good grief!  What use are you now Jesus?  Lazarus is dead.  Been dead for four days.  We’ve already had his funeral and we’ve put him in the grave.  Where were you Jesus?  We put out the pastoral 911 emergency call and you were a no show!  We all thought Lazarus was your friend!  Where in the world have you been?

 

Now you dare to put in an appearance at Mary’s and Martha’s house?  Really?”

 

The two surviving sisters are NOT very pleased with Jesus. Each takes her turn and declares with a hand on her hip:  “If you had been here my brother would not have died.”

 

Yes, Lazarus is dead and buried.  Death is a power, a lord, little “l” lord, if you will.  And it appears that little “l” lord death has Lazarus in its icy grip.  Lazarus belongs to lord death that reigns.  At least that’s the way it looks at the moment.

 

And so:  “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.”  Like Jesus can’t do anything now?  In the face of death and the grave?  As if Jesus is a nothing. As if Jesus can’t or won’t do anything now.  As if death is just too big of a little “l” lord for Jesus.  As if Jesus is of absolutely no use to Lazarus once he’s put in the grave.  “Jesus if you would have arrived before Lazarus had died, then you could have done something.  But now?  You show up now?  Seriously?”

 

The surviving sisters are having a hard time believing in Jesus in the face of the immense tragedy that led to their brother’s death.  Lazarus was too young.  He had so much to live for.  Then, out of the blue, he’s sick.  Very sick.  Little did they realize – sick unto death. Now he’s buried.  It’s been four days and the body already is beginning to smell and decay. Jesus has come too late.  Or so it seems.

 

What about you?  Here you are.  In one of the toughest few weeks of your life.  Do you have any use for Jesus now?  Is He too late?  “Jesus, if only you had come and intervened a few weeks ago in Montana especially on a Friday in November, our friend, our sister, your daughter would not have died!  But now … well … what’s the use?  Death reigns.  Death is lord.”

 

Really?

 

Then it’s a good thing Jesus does show up.  Even if He’s a tad bit late according to our counting of time.  After all, His cup of tea is … RAISING THE DEAD – the totally helpless — and from nothing — creating believers – believers only in Him. And He’ll use an immense tragedy like Lazarus’ death or even an Ashli’s death to get people’s attention so that they’ll listen to His promises AND BELIEVE IN HIM!

 

Whether it’s Mary, Martha, the disciples, the people of His day or you who are gathered here today, Jesus would have you believe that He is the capital “L” Lord.  That no one or nothing can snatch sinners who believe in Him out of His hands.  Not even death has such power!

 

In times like this you don’t need pious platitudes that you preach to yourself.  What you need is the 100-proof preaching of the Gospel!  I know the good news of the Gospel is a very stiff drink and sometimes it’s hard to swallow but I’m going to serve it up anyway.  And I’m not going to water it down!  You can’t make me.  Are your ready?  Good!  Here goes.  Capital “L” Lord Jesus declares:  “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

 

Brothers and sisters, this is the categorical promise of THE LORD Jesus who knows a thing or two about … Fridays!  After all, He did a Friday!  Or a Friday was done to Him!  One that we correctly call “Good” even though it only appears to be colossal catastrophe!  Where another shocking Friday death took place, namely, Christ’s, who is God in the flesh!

 

What good could come from such a dreadful Friday?  It’s this:  Good-Friday-God-in-the-flesh-Jesus wrapped Himself in your sin, my sin, Ashli’s sin, the world’s sin and answered for it all in His brutally crucified Body.

 

Tell me, what sin did Lord God Jesus not die for?  Can you name one?  I didn’t think so.  Tell me, what sinner did Lord God Jesus leave out of His death on that Friday afternoon?  Can you name one?  I didn’t think so.  “God so loved the world,” (John 3:16).  God was in Christ “reconciling the world to himself … not counting men’s sins against them,” (2 Corinthians 5:19).  That includes you.  Ashli too.

 

Jesus’ Good Friday divine blood makes the only payment for sin that counts for your salvation, Ashli’s, or anyone’s else’s for that matter.  “The blood of Jesus … purifies us from ALL sin,” (1 John 1:7).  “He [the-dead-on-a-Good-Friday-afternoon-Jesus] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world,” (1 John 2:2).

 

When your sin is on Good Friday Jesus, then your sin doesn’t belong to you anymore!  He took it all and buried it all in the black hole of His tomb.  Then on the third day He rose victoriously over death and the grave.  He is capital “L” Lord!  No one or nothing else is!

 

That’s why He emphatically promises that He is the resurrection and the life!  Right now.  Even today.    Even at Lazarus’ grave.  And there He barks out the orders:  “Lazarus, come out!”  And sure enough His words do and give what they command.  He is the Lord! Even over death.  Even over the grave.

 

Death doesn’t get the final word.  Lord Jesus who is the resurrection and the life does!  Especially today.

 

So you’d better hear Him again: “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

 

Ashli believed in Jesus who died for her.  As you or she believes – so you have!  ALL that Resurrection and the Life Jesus promises.  Including this promise:  “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,” (Mark 16:16). Ashli was given the divine gift of Holy Baptism.  There she was given God’s Triune Name.  And with His Name God gave Himself to her.  In her baptism God promised to be God FOR HER.  At the font she was, as St. Paul puts it in Romans 6:4, “baptized into Christ’s [Good-Friday-that-atones-for-all-sin] death.”

 

Consequently, her baptism and yours, for that matter, into Christ’s death means that, “we will also be united with him [Jesus] in his resurrection,” (Romans 6:5).

 

Well, brothers and sister, I beg you to have good use of Jesus and His Word of promise that I’ve preached to you today.  His Word is certain and sure.  He is faithful.

 

Faithful Lord Jesus promises you this today: “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

 

Happy believing in Him and trusting His Word of promise.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

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