[I have individuals ask me for a copy of this sermon from time to time. I thought it was out in cyber-world somewhere, but I couldn’t find it, so I’m re-posting it hear for your use. -LL]
Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
October 20, 2005
Funeral Homily for Debra Lynn Rushing
TITLE: “Not Cast Out”
Family and friends of Debbie, grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Our text for today is from the Gospel of St. John chapter six as follows, All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.
Debra Lynn Rushing was born on July 13, 1964. She was baptized into the Holy Christian Church at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Union Grove on October 11, 1964. She was confirmed in that same Christian faith here at Messiah Lutheran Church on May 21, 1978. She died on October 14, 2005.
In the midst of such a tragic and evil death, it is very easy for the Christian to be caught up in the moment, to be cast into despair by Satan, and to begin to ask those questions that the serpent asked Eve in the Garden, did God really say? You begin to doubt what you know to be true. You may begin to ask questions about Debbie and what kind of life she led. You may ask questions like “How did it come to this?” or “I thought she was thinking about it, didn’t you?” or “Why does God let children die before their parents” or “Why didn’t I do anything?” or even the most doubting question of all, “I can understand why she would have wanted this. I’ve thought about it myself.” In the midst of sorrow and heartache and pain, and at times when nothing seems to make sense, and when all you have are more and more questions, where are you to turn? What questions do you ask? What answers are you going to get?
It is important in the midst of such sorrow for us to know what we can and what we cannot understand. You and I will never know this side of the grave what was going on in Debbie’s heart and soul. We won’t know why it seems like she didn’t talk to anyone about her level of sorrow and pain. We won’t know really how it is that her life got to such a place. We won’t finally know the answer to the question of what caused her to apparently take her own life. We just won’t be able to know that answer.
These unanswered questions, these gaping holes that it feels like will never be filled, may easily deafen us to the reality of the questions that God’s Word clearly answer for you and I this morning. These questions which God answers in His Word are far more comforting, far more helpful than anything that our souls or the world may try to answer for us. What do we know for certain?
First of all, we know that Debbie is baptized. Notice I didn’t say was baptized. I said is baptized. When God baptized Debbie at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Union Grove in 1964, that changed everything for her.
Jesus death on the cross and His resurrection from the tomb now became hers. She became God’s own child. Debbie was reborn by water and the Spirit. We learn from the Scriptures that Baptism works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare. She is covered in the robe of Christ’s righteousness. God’s promise given to her in Holy Baptism is powerful and eternal. When God made that promise to her, all of these great gifts which God paid for on the cross became hers. That’s a big promise. That is why we have this funeral pall over this coffin this morning. A funeral pall symbolizes the righteousness of Christ which covered her in the holy waters of Baptism. Only the baptized have a funeral pall. It covers her up. All of her sin, all of her sorrow and pain. Even death itself is covered up. It is the robe of victory, and it flows from Holy Baptism.
Second, we know that she heard God’s Word and received Christ’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. In 1978 she was confirmed in the Christian faith right here, at this altar. Her church attendance of late is unclear, but God’s Word does not return void. When God makes promises in His Word, He keeps them. So we trust God’s Word more even that what our eyes or hearts might have us believe. One of our hymns puts it this way in connection with Christ’s Body and Blood in the Sacrament: Thy blood, O Lord, one drop has pow’r to win Forgiveness for our world and all its sin.1 One drop, dear friends. That is the promises of Christ given to Debbie and given to you.
These promises of God, given in Baptism, in His Word and in His Holy Sacrament, point us away from ourselves and our trials and tribulations, and point us forward to a life in Christ Jesus. This life in Christ, we often call it heaven as the Scriptures do, is a life where there is no sin and sorrow. There are no debts to pay, no addictions to overcome, no squabbles or fighting, no pain, no sickness or disease. This life in Christ, which Debbie received in her Baptism, points us outside of ourselves and our unanswered questions, and points us to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of God.
Debbie’s death has brought sorrow and heartache, pain and unanswered questions. There are a lot of tears, and a lot of guilt. And if we are honest about it, there is a lot of fear as well. Fear that God’s love won’t be enough for her. Fear that Debbie’s evil death somehow robs us of hope for a life in Christ. But hear this and learn it well: Debbie’s sin is not the measure of God’s love.2 God’s love is measured by the cross of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures put it this way, For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
Trust in the mercy of God, dear friends in Christ. God loves you, just as He loves Debbie. Christ died for you, just as He died for Debbie. The Spirit comforts you now in your time of weakness and pain, for when you are weak, He is strong, and He will see you through this vale of tears to an eternal life in Him. Don’t be afraid. God never abandons His little ones. Jesus said, All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out (John 6:37). Amen.
Believe it for the sake of Him who died and rose again, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.