Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
Messiah Lutheran Church
Monday after the Presentation (Feb. 4, 2008)
Funeral Sermon for Virginia Campagna
For an audio MP3 of this sermon, CLICK HERE
TITLE: “In Christ, We May Depart in Peace”
Family and friends of Virginia, especially Sandy, Vicki, Joann and Pete. Grace and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Our text for today is from the song of Simeon just read, from Luke 2:25-32.
Virginia Campagna was born into time on September 2, 1933 here in Kenosha. She was baptized into Christ on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1933. She made public confession of her faith at her confirmation on May 18, 1947. She and her beloved husband, Peter, were married on February 21, 1953. She lived her life here in Kenosha, and died in Christ on January 30, in the year of our Lord 2008. “‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!'” (Rev. 14:13)
Simeon was an old man when the infant Jesus came into the Temple. Simeon had waited his whole life for this little baby, this child from a backwater town in Nazareth, to come to the Temple. The Old Temple build with human hands met the New Temple of flesh and blood in Jesus Christ. So it is no surprise that Simeon took this little baby into his arms and prayed:
Now, set free your servant, Master,
according to your word in peace;
because my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared before the face of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and glory for your people Israel. (Translation by A. A. Just)
Set free. Most of our translations have depart, but really set free catches the meaning. The creator Lord sets Simeon free according to His Word in peace. God’s gracious presence in Jesus is the only things that can truly set us free.
The infant Lord comes to His Temple to set His people free from the bondage of sin, death and the devil. We, like Simeon, are all in bondage. We are held in bondage by this sinful nature that clings to us and grips us with cords of death. Our world is held in this bondage. Saint Paul says that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs to be delivered from this bondage of sin. This bondage traps us, and sickness, sin, disease and death are all the tools of this ghastly enemy.
That is the beauty of the Song of Simeon, or the Nunc Dimittis, as it is often called. According to the Word of the Lord, Simeon was set free in peace. There is salvation. There is life. There is new creation and hope for all mankind. When Simeon saw Jesus, he was set free. When he saw Jesus, he saw God’s salvation for all people. There is no wondering about where God is. He is there, in the flesh of Jesus, just as was promised in His Word. Where God’s Word promises that He will be, that is where He is, not as some abstraction or warm feeling that comes and goes, but in the flesh, in our flesh.
Virginia longed to be set free. Free from the sickness that had plagued her off and on for nineteen years. Free from worry and fear for herself and her family. She longed for that freedom which only Christ can give. I was struck last night in looking at all of the pictures of Virginia at how many of them were outside. Being stuck in bed, trapped in a body that isn’t working the way it is supposed to, must have been a great hardship for her to bear. How she must have longed to be free, and to be at rest and peace from all of the pain that beset her!
Like Simeon almost 2000 years ago, Virginia has been set free. For you see, death for the Christian is not the end, but the beginning. Virginia lived her life in the loving arms of Jesus Christ. She was baptized and confirmed in the Church, and spent much of her life here as a member of Messiah Lutheran Church. Last week as she lay in bed, she knew the voice of her Savior in the words of the Lord’s Prayer. We prayed it together. As the Psalmist cried out so many years ago, My heart and my flesh fail me, but you are the rock of my heart and my portion forever. (Ps. 73)
Yes, God in His great mercy has set Virginia free. And we who remain grieve at our loss, but we have confidence in this: Jesus Christ, who died and rose again from the dead, will raise up Virginia and all believers at the last day. She has been set free, and we will see her again in the Last Day.
Jesus said, My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10: 27-29) Virginia heard the voice of her Savior, and our Lord in His great mercy has given her eternal life.
For those who do believe in Jesus, trust Him, and follow Him, well you may depart in peace, because your eyes have beheld Him. Oh, it’s not that Christians look forward to dying. Christians do not especially want to die anymore than anyone else. For some though, the hard part is not the dying, it is the struggle to go on living. So from God’s point of view, the view that both Simeon and Virginia now have, any day is a good day to die, because the Christian may, indeed, depart in peace.
According to God’s Word, Virginia believed and was baptized. With the Word, Virginia lived her life of faith in the Church. Through the Word of God, Virginia received Christ at Holy Communion. She received the very Body of Jesus born of Mary — the very Blood of Jesus shed on the cross. And for a thousand times and more, after the Lord’s Supper,she sang the ancient liturgy of the church. She sang the song of Simeon …
… Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy Word. For mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a Light to lighten the Gentiles and the Glory of Thy people Israel. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Be at peace, Virginia. Be at rest, and we look forward to the day where we are reunited with you again in heaven. In the name of Jesus. Amen.