Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Memorial Service for Bonnie Miller
For an audio MP3 of this sermon, CLICK HERE
TITLE: “Peace I Leave with You”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is our Lord’s words to His disciples from St. John chapter fourteen, peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives peace do I give my peace to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
Bonnie Miller was born on December 10, 1942 and baptized into the Holy Christian Church on January 17, 1943. She moved to Kenosha in 1961, and married her husband, Dale, on February 18, 1984. She died in Christ on February 24th in the year of our Lord 2008. In Revelation chapter fourteen we hear:
Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ”
“Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” (Rev. 14:13-14)
It’s hard to imagine someone as vibrant and full of life as Bonnie not being here. I’ve only known her for the past 8 1/2 years, but she has always struck me as such a loving and positive person, it just doesn’t seem right that she’s gone. It doesn’t seem natural. It doesn’t seem fair.
But sin has a way of messing up the very best of plans. Sin, and its awful cousin, death, enter into everything it seems. They come in and mess things up where we don’t want them. For Bonnie, this curse of sin came out mostly clearly in the form of cancer. She fought this dreadful disease for a number of years with grace and humility, but eventually it took her life.
So how are we to find peace in the midst of such tragedy? How are we to find joy in the midst of such sorrow? Well first of all, we must remember that grief is a good thing. Jacob wept when he thought his son, Joseph, was dead. The people of Israel wept when Moses died (Deut. 34:8). King David wept at the death of his son (2 Samuel 18:33). And even our Lord Himself, when His friend, Lazarus, died, wept when He heard the news (John 11:35). So it is right that we grieve and are sorrowful, for Bonnie will be missed dearly, and we would be less than human if we did not grieve.
But we, dear friends, we do not grieve as the world grieves. Bonnie has died, but she has died in Christ. And that changes everything. Bonnie, you see, was baptized. She was washed in the holy font, and made white in the blood of the Lamb. Her life was in Christ, and so her death is in Christ’s. St. Paul writes in Romans chapter six:
We were therefore buried with Him through Baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the father, we too may live a new life (Romans 6:4).
What this means for Bonnie is that she really died when she was baptized. This death, the one that grieves us so much, is but a prelude to eternal life. Job reminds us in chapter nineteen that because our Redeemer lives, that he will live, too. And just as that is true for Job, so also it is true for Bonnie.
Christ our Lord, on the night when He was betrayed, promised the disciples something. He promised them peace. This peace, which passes all understanding and which only Jesus can give to you, this peace was bought with the price of Jesus’ death. But this peace means that when you die, you will rise again from the dead, in your body, on the Last Day. This means that you will see her again. She is not simply in a better place, although that is certainly true. She is with Christ, with all the saints in heaven, and is surrounded by the angels of God. She is at peace and rest, without pain or sorrow, heartache or trouble. And someday you, too, will be with her.
There was another who wept at a tomb. Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, wept when she went to the grave and could not find her Lord. But Jesus came to her and said, Mary. Her sorrow turned to joy in an instant, and she was at peace, no matter what the world might throw at her. It was true for Mary, it is true for Bonnie, and it is true for you as well.
So until we meet again, Bonnie, rest well. Rest well in the arms of your loving Savior. We weep and mourn for you, but we know that you will rise again on the Last Day, and what a wonderful reunion it will be.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.