Funeral of Fred S. Dray Jr. (died 20 April)
April 25 2016 A+D
St. Luke 2:22-35
In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Nunc Dimittis flows out of Christmas. It’s Simeon’s song. The occasion was the purification of Mary and the presentation of the baby Jesus in the Temple. It was 40 days after his birth. Just after the shepherds and the Wisemen had come to worship Him and just before they had to flee to Egypt away from King Herod’s murderous wrath, Mary and Joseph took the baby to Jerusalem.
Simeon was instructed by the Holy Spirit that he would see the Messiah, his Savior before he died. Simeon believed this Word from God and knew that it meant salvation for the Jews and the Gentiles—for all people throughout the world and throughout time.
However, today, after centuries of use in the Divine Service after Holy Communion, the Nunc Dimittis reminds us of the Lord’s Supper. It reminds us that when we come into this building, we come to receive Christ’s body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins—to see our Lord Jesus Christ not as an infant in the arms of His mother, but as our crucified, risen, and ascended Savior who continually comes to us in mercy under bread and wine.
I’m not sure if Fred ever told you why it was his favorite part of the Divine Service, but I’ve got to imagine that it was tied to his reception of the Lord’s Supper. It is a beautiful canticle in its own right. You can almost place yourself in Simeon’s shoes. We have to try to imagine this, but Fred, by the grace of God, is now experiencing it for himself, even now. He and Simeon, servants of the Lord, have now departed in peace and now enjoy the presence of their Lord in a way that we won’t know until we join them.
We are like Simeon before he departed in peace. We have been instructed by the Holy Spirit through the Word of Holy Scripture that we have been united to God’s chosen people by Holy Baptism. What Fred and Simeon know by their entrance into heaven, we have to take on faith from God’s promise to us in His Holy Word. But it is a sure Word. A Word as sure as when the Spirit told Simeon to go to the Temple and see His Savior in the flesh.
We must see, as did Simeon, that this Child, Jesus, is God—God with us. He comes into the Temple, even as a baby, to claim His own. He is salvation and hope; He is the end of sorrow and waiting.
The child that Simeon saw in the temple had to grow up under the Law. He had to take our sorrows and our sins upon himself and march to the cross. There is no joy of Christmas without the suffering of Good Friday. There is no Easter resurrection without Jesus’ suffering and death. There is no departing in peace for us or our loved ones without God’s entrance into this world in the flesh.
But we know through eye witnesses like Simeon that God has come in the flesh. We know by the accounts of the Apostles and the others who attended Jesus on His way to Jerusalem later in His life that He accomplished all things for our salvation on the cross. We know for certain that all who die in this faith are not dead, but live with their Savior in heaven. This is what Fred believed. And this is what can comfort you now.
I thank the Lord that Fred gave you just such a confession before he died. Those are the words that can give comfort to you in your times of grieving. They can comfort you, because you know that while Fred has been taken from you for a little while, you will join him for eternity.
But for now, you have a wonderful reminder of the hope that Fred had. Every time you come to the Divine Service (because he picked out his favorite part of the service and told you) you can remember him. And you can remember that in the Lord’s Supper you are not dining alone, but are in the presence of the angels, the archangels, and ALL THE COMPANY OF HEAVEN. Fred is now a member of that company. Every time that you partake of the sacrament, you are partaking of the heavenly banquet where Fred now has a seat at the table.
May the Lord who was born, suffered, died, and rose again grant you comfort and strengthen your faith until that day that we are joined together with that company of which Fred is now a member.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)
In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.