Funeral Service for Bonnie Gilbert (September 21, 2013)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
TITLE: “The Party of a Lifetime”
Jack, Cheryl, Matt, family and friends of Bonnie, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Isaiah chapter 25.
Bonnie Halboth Gilbert was born in New Mexico on November 26, 1942, and was baptized that same year. She was confirmed in the Lutheran Faith in 1955 by her father. She died in Christ in the year of our Lord, September 14, 2013. “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: 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 ESV)
I’ll be honest with you. We had a pretty hard time planning this service. Now it is true that there is grief over the loss of our dear sister, Bonnie, but that’s not what made it hard. What made it hard was that we kept getting distracted by laughter. Getting lost, spoiling the grandchildren, cooking, throwing parties. Whatever it was, it seemed Bonnie went into these things whole hog. I still haven’t found a good Bible passage to use for shopping. Sorry, I tried.
But I think it would be fair to say that Bonnie had not been herself for sometime. The once always active could hardly move around. The do-er seemed to be done-in. It was hard to watch, and I have only known Bonnie for the last couple years. For those of you who have known the long history, and who knew Bonnie in her prime, I’m sure it was much worse. In the end she could hardly walk, had a feeding bag, and her life was not what she had known for so long.
We hear from God’s Word both why and how this happened. While there are medical descriptions of what happened, as a Christian our understanding is a little simpler. “The wages of sin is death,” St. Paul reminds us in Romans. All of us were born into this world sinful and unclean. Even Bonnie. So it is that we are all dying, every one of us.
But that, beloved, is not the end of the story. Not for Bonnie. Not for you. You see, St. Paul goes on to say, “but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus, our Lord.”
So while Bonnie was dying, she was dying to live. This is what Isaiah is getting at in our reading from his book. Hear this part of it again:
“On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 25:6–8 ESV)
God promises that there will come a time for each one of us when we will celebrate what we might call the party of a lifetime. This picture from Isaiah is one I think Bonnie would appreciate. A feast, good wine, great food, a celebration with family and friends unlike anything we have ever known. God, you see, promises to swallow up death forever. God promises that at the last day, that death itself will die.
How is this possible? How is it that our sorrow can turn to joy, even in the midst of such grief? God knows your tears. He sees your heartache. That is why He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to come and take our sins upon Himself, to die upon the cross. Jesus died on the cross so that Bonnie’s death is not the end of her story. Jesus Himself put it this way:
““Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:1–2 ESV)
This day we weep and are sorrowful, but strangely, we also rejoice. Bonnie is not in pain anymore. She can walk again. And she is at the party of a lifetime. I’m sure she’s making sure everything is setup just right for each one of you when you get there. Frankly, they probably don’t know what hit them.
So today we weep, but we weep with hope. Today we are sorrowful, but full of memories, and looking forward to a day that has no end, when the party and the rejoicing will never end.
So until that day when we are reunited, Bonnie, rest well. Rest well in the arms of your Savior. Save a seat for us at the party. We’ll all be there soon.
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.