Tag Archives: Faith

Funeral Sermon: Romans 8

In the sermon below, the name of the deceased person has been replaced with “our friend.” I pray this funeral sermon on Romans 8 is a blessing to you.

Romans 8:38-39 – For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Family and friends in Christ gathered today, God’s grace his mercy and his peace are yours from him our heavenly father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing separates us.

We live in a time when separation is quickly and simply overcome. Skype, Google Hangouts, Facetime what have you bring faces from places all over the world into a conversation with those who want it. Devices bring instant updates from friends firing off a quick lined updates in text messages. Voices can be heard in our ears transmitted over phone lines and cell towers in an instant. Social media networks keep us close to all sorts of people in all sorts of places some we are happy to hear from — some we endure. Separation is overcome by technology, but in many ways separation is increased as well by the same luxuries.

It is easy to diminish the closeness of a relationship when it is only shared across technological connections. The sting of the loss of a loved one is easier absorbed over the phone than it is face to face. The same is true of consoling and comforting one another. When we have barriers of miles connected by lines we are only able to say and do so much. Separation is hard.

The opposite of separation is connection. Being connected to God begins in our faith live when we are baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. That is how it began for our departed friend on her baptismal birthday. She was baptized into the family of God and in that baptism, like yours she received the gift of faith which we know by grace, through faith alone the gift of life is ours. That gift of faith was nurtured by her family and by this school and church which led her to her confirmation which took place before this very altar. Our departed friend’s faith was evident in her life as a mother, a wife, a church member, an active volunteer in our church and school. I had the opportunity to get to know our departed friend quite well. I saw what she wrestled with — and I saw her faith.

Satan loves separation. He loves separating us from all that is good. He loves seeing separation happen. Satan is even happy to see us convinced us we are separated from all that is good even when we are not. He loves tormenting us to believe we are disconnected. Once someone is disconnected he stops tormenting them.

Satan loves separation. He would love you to be separated from that gift and he uses all sorts of devices to keep you separated. Busy schedules are very logical separations from the gifts. Complacencies like — “I know my savior and that’s enough.” Not knowing enough people and the feelings of discomfort keep us separated from the gifts. But our friend knew better than to let these things keep her away from God’s gifts. As a faithful member of Trinity she received God’s gifts of forgiveness of sins regularly in worship services here and in meetings with me where I assured her of God’s love. As a mother she ensured her children would be in church and in our school here where they are being trained in the truth of God. God worked through this congregation and many in our friend’s life to assure her that she was not separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Satan loves separation. And now the biggest of his lies lays in front of us as our friend no longer lives. No more will we be able to talk with her. No more will she be enjoying laughter and hugs in these halls and in her home. She is gone —  taken by death. But Satan’s biggest lie is just that a lie. You see what Satan wants you to believe is that our friend no longer lives. Satan wants you to believe that she is undeserving. That she was not good enough — that she was too bad and her sins were too big for God to overlook. And he points the same accusations at you. You aren’t good enough. You aren’t deserving.

And Satan is right. Our friend was too bad for God. Our friend never deserved God’s love. You are too bad for God. You don’t deserve God’s love. No one deserves it. But God still gave it to our friend and he gives it to you.

And this is the gift from God that our friend had — she had the promise that nothing will separate her from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Until last week it was a promise. But for her now, removed from the reach of Satan’s lies, the promise is reality. And the further reality is that since her baptism it has never been our friend living, but Christ living in her. She was baptized into his death so that just as he was raised from the dead, she too walked and lives in a newness of life in him.

Christ came into the world to remove the separation. To defeat the lies he came as a human baby and died as a grown man. He Himself experienced for you and for our friend the separation that heals all separations when He cried out on the cross My God why have You forsaken me! He took the punishment for the big sins (and the little ones) that God cannot overlook. He gave His life on the cross for our friend’s life and for your life. And in His resurrection, we know life is now lived with Him in God. We are comforted knowing that we are never separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus. In that love of God we find a direct connection to those who have died in the faith.

For our friend this is real now. For us it is something we can only imagine. May God strengthen us in our faith as we mourn together.

In the name of Jesus.

Amen.

 

Growing in Faith

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This month marks the beginning of Trinity’s 139th school year as well as the beginning of our 2013-14 confirmation year. Our confirmation students have a large process in front of them as they take part in the catechism classes. It takes much dedication from the families involved. The weekly classes, memorization, sermon notes, service hours, acolyting and all things involved may leave us wondering, “Why do we go through all this effort to teach and learn the catechism?”

Consider a tree nursery. Trees don’t start as trees, they begin as seeds in pots of soil. The pots are placed in a greenhouse where they receive water and light. Soon the seeds come to life and sprout. They draw from the nutrients in the soil as they grow in their fragile condition. After a while the seedlings are taken outside of the greenhouse and continue to grow in the real world. The blue sky, the breezy air surround the saplings as they grow among the other trees. There they continue to draw from the nutrients in the soil. At some point the growing plants become large enough to be transplanted and they may arrive at a new location perhaps part of a replanted forest. There they grow year round assaulted by the elements of the changing seasons.  They may experience droughts, floods, storms and more. But as part of a forest they are safer than they would be alone. And as part of a forest they are able to accomplish things, they provide food and shelter for countless numbers of other creature, they prevent erosion, purify groundwater, and provide wind barriers.

Much like seeds in a nursery our confirmation students are being prepared to live a life in a forest and from this we have a picture of the Christian life. With Baptism, the seed of faith is planted within the soil of God’s Word where the Gospel brings it to life and nourishes it. Faith springs to life from the Gospel nutrients within the soil of God’s story. But just as seedlings need to be nurtured and cultivated in the protective arms of the nursery, so also Christians need the “milk” of the Word. Our roots in the faith need the rich nutrients of the Gospel.The six chief parts of the Small Catechism gives the shape of our life of faith: the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, Confession, and the Lord’s Supper. These six teachings, drawn from the Holy Scriptures, are the richest of nutrients that we receive as Christians. These teachings provide the structure for our lives, the DNA of our faith.

Continuing with the analogy of a tree being planted in the soil, the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer is like the humus, or organic material of the soil that provides the structure and the nutrients that the roots of the tree need (12). These three teachings provide the structure for all the teaching of Scripture. They summarize and organize Scripture for us. Baptism, Confession and Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper are the nutrients from the humus or organic material of the soil that awaken, nourish, and strengthen our faith. They deliver to us the Gospel of Christ that awakens faith in Christ. Together they sustain our faith from cradle to grave (13).

Like a tree, we keep growing. As we grow in the Christian faith we also, like a healthy tree, bear fruit—the fruit of the Spirit that we share with others (Gal 5:22-23). We continue learning and growing in the teachings of the Christian faith and in the conviction that God’s promises are true. When we grow in our faith we are more deeply anchored in the Word and prepared to weather the storms of false teachings, persecutions, and trials that blow our way (11).What is the benefit of relearning and reflecting on the chief teachings of the Christian faith? Well, the relearning and the reflecting encourage growth in our Christian faith and in the conviction that God’s promises are true. Just as trees grow from sunlight for photosynthesis and from water that brings nutrients of the soil to the roots of the tree, so also continual learning, studying, and reflecting on God’s Word and the teachings of the Christian Faith helps the Christian grow. And as individual Christians grow, our Lord’s Church grows!

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This article is modified from a newsletter article by Pastor Josh LaFeve from Atonement Lutheran Church in Spring Valley, California. This article and the original rely on an analogy taken from the book, Rooted in the Faith—Preparation for Church Membership by Dr. Charles Arand (2010), pp. 6-13. It has been adapted for use in this article. The Numbers in parenthesis throughout the article refer to page numbers in the book.