Miriam Meyer was a dear saint of the Lord and member of Trinity who passed in her Savior’s arms on February 3, 2016.
God’s grace, His mercy and His peace be with you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
As a pastor it’s sometimes difficult to learn who members are, what their names are and connecting them with faces. Miriam was one of those people who made it easy for me to learn her name. First of all she was at church more than I was! Every Sunday and a bunch of days in between Sundays, I would show up and there she’d be. She also enjoyed talking after the services so I came to know her quickly because she would always be waiting on her lunch buddies. Talking with Berniece as they waited on Bill to finish locking up so they could head to lunch. I thank God for this gift of a woman and I am very aware that the ways I knew her from brief visits and a few longer conversations pale in comparison to the great stories and love that you have for her. God gave a great woman in Miriam and God has taken a great woman in her. A wife to one, a mother to five, a grandmother to thirteen and a great grandmother to sixteen! Her joy, strength and sense of humor were infectious and ever present.
For all these great things we knew about her and as well as we knew her, there was one who knew her even better than we did. There is one who knew things about her that none of us will ever know. There is one who knew things about her that would shock us all. God knew Miriam to be a sinner. He knew all of her flaws and faults and the fallenness she carried. Her feistiness would spring up at the wrong time. Her stubbornness would hurt feelings. Her particularity would get in the way of relationships. So many things she did that God knew to be wrong. So much she could have done better. God knew these things and more about her; and you know what? Miriam knew these things and more about herself. There were many things she was ashamed of. She knew she was a sinner.
She also knew that because she was a sinner, she was deserving death and hell. She knew that sin meant separation from God and that apart from God there is no good thing. I know she knew this because I talked with her about it. We not only talked about it, but I heard her confess it: “I have sinned against you in thought word in deed by what I have done and by what I have left undone, I have not loved you with my whole heart, I have not loved my neighbor as myself, I justly deserve your present and eternal punishment.” This was Miriam.
But God was not satisfied having Miriam like this. God doesn’t desire the death of a sinner and God didn’t want to leave Miriam in her sins. So God did something about it. God in His infinite wisdom and ways beyond our ways made a way for Miriam to be joined to Him once again. The sinful imperfections of Miriam could not be tolerated in the presence of the eternal perfect God, so He made a way for these faults, flaws, and this fallenness to be taken from her. The imperfect cannot approach the perfect but our perfect God perfectly approached us to make a way for us to be with Him.
In Jesus we see this way. He is the truth, He is the life. He is true because in him is no deceit. There is no self serving-ness about Jesus. There is no sinful motivations. There is no fault or flaw to be found in Him as He lived the perfect life here on earth doing what Miriam could never do. He did that for Miriam. He, the way truth and life is the life because in Him is the life and the light of men. He was without sin and because death is the wages of sin, he didn’t need to die, yet He did. He died when He didn’t need to, He died for Miriam.
He died because the sins Miriam committed demanded death as a wage. He died in Her place. It was through His death that Jesus made the way for Miriam to be right with God. She is not held to account for the things that would cause her embarrassment because they were taken by Jesus. In God’s sending His Son to earth for Miriam, He sent His son to become the bearer of Miriam’s shame. He humbled himself to lift the burden of sin, pain and death from Miriam and all of that he took to the cross. And on that cross God was too embarrassed to look upon His Son. God’s Son became everything that embarrassed God all the imperfections about Miriam belonged to Jesus and as Jesus hung there God left Him to die guilty of all of Miriam’s sins.
For all this that Miriam knew herself to be, all that God knew her to be, and yes all that even we sometimes observed her to be in our life with her, because of Jesus Miriam the sinner is not the name we know her to bear. For all she was ashamed of there is one thing that brought her no shame. There is one thing that God gave her a pride in beyond all sin and pain. One thing that means everything for Miriam is what she found great joy and delight in and that is the Gospel. It is this news that Jesus has come and taken everything God did not intend her to do, Jesus came and became everything God did not intend His daughter Miriam to be. And because of this, she is no longer separated from God, she is His forever.
She loved this message. She loved this news. She loved this reality. She loved this power of the Gospel. She was so proud of this message, this was all she could boast in. This was the only thing that brought her no shame, Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” This power of God is not merely something that might sometimes be present when the Gospel is preached, but this power of God is found in the Gospel. The good news that Jesus has become for us everything that would keep her from God so that with Him through His resurrection she could be with God in a newness of life that is eternal, unchanging, and untarnishable.
God granted Miriam through Baptism to be brought this salvation work. He granted her through the hearing of forgiveness and proclamation that she was saved by Jesus. He sustained her through the eating and drinking of Christ’s body and blood given for her for the forgiveness of sins. As Jesus promises whoever hears my word and believed him who sent me has eternal life. He doesn’t come into judgement but has passed from death to life.
Jesus didn’t stay dead. He was judged for all that was wrong but by Him we are deemed righteous. Nothing wrong with Miriam is left to be seen as it is covered in the blood of Jesus. The power of God that is for Miriam gives her life. Jesus in His perfect payment of death conquered sin and death. There is nothing that separates Miriam from God now. She is in Him and she is with Him in paradise and she is no longer tempted or taunted or pained or prodded by the things of this world that would seek to convince her otherwise. She now rests in the savior because the savior has won rest for Her.
I have spent a lot of time talking about Miriam and about what she did and what Jesus did for her, but she would probably want me to talk a bit about you all today. Because as Miriam was, so are you. Sinners. But that’s not the last word, because As Miriam is, so are you, saved saints of God granted an eternity a place with him forever because of Jesus work for you. Nothing can keep you from God, nothing will keep you from being with Him in eternity, and as we rejoice God has delivered Miriam to himself we rejoice knowing that someday we will see her again along with her dear George in the joys of paradise.
But until then, we have work to do. Just as Miriam was blessed to be a servant of our Lord bearing this gospel this love of God in the world. Just as God prepared so many good works for her to do as She lived in Christ, so too, God has work for us to do, hearing this word and, sharing this powerful message, and loving through His powerful love. Today the works are works of hearing this and receiving from God our life in Him and in our life in him our works prepared by Him come in consoling one another with this hope that is within us. These works prepared for us may look like crying and weeping at the momentary affliction we feel at the loss of a loved one. These works are as mundane as hugging and holding and walking and talking and listening together to the words we need to hear and and the words we get to speak but in these things as we are in Christ, God is working for us, He is working through us.
It is a joy to have known Miriam but as she would agree, the greater joy is found in knowing her savior who has the final word. This Jesus would not let Miriam do it on her own and so too, he will not let you do it on your own. He has done it all for you and through the trials and afflictions that will continue to come our way, He provides the way for us. The way through the world of being loved by him so that we can love him and all around us. And the way to eternity through being ashamed of our sins but proud of his salvation’s work for us. May we all with joy this day be able to say, I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone.
In Jesus’ name.
Now may the peace which passes all understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.