In Memoriam +Oddie Emma Ridley 1925-2016+
November 5, 2016 A+D
Job 19:23-27; Romans 3:19-28; John 10:11-18
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The three readings chosen for today are particularly pointed for members of this church.
The first one from Job gives this congregation its name. Jesus is our Kinsman-Redeemer. He has taken up our flesh and our cause. He laid down His life for our transgression and He has risen again from the dead. After our bodies are destroyed and rotted in the ground, He will raise us up in new bodies and with our eyes we will see Him who lives.
We sing “I Know that My Redeemer Lives” at almost every funeral and in some ways it is the highlight of our Easter Sunday services every year. It is our hymn. That doesn’t mean it isn’t also yours or that it is exclusive in any way to us, but it is our hymn. It is the only hymn that I can remember Oddie ever talking to me about. She just told me that she loved it and then she laughed.
The third reading is also special to our people because of this window. You can’t be a member here and not think that this is a gorgeous window. Some of us think it is the best stained glass window in the world.
The surprising thing about the Good Shepherd is that He doesn’t seem to be that good at shepherding. We tend to think of good shepherds like we think of good farmers. A good shepherd is one who brings big, fat sheep to the slaughter and gets a big pay check. If some rancher said, “I am good rancher but I don’t bring cows to market. I let them live out their days in the fields and I die for them” we wouldn’t say that he is good but that he is crazy.
But the way that Jesus shepherds us is by dying, by laying down His life as a sacrifice for our sins. He doesn’t raise us for fleece or meat. He loves us and He fights off the wolf by giving Himself to the wolf in our stead. But since He lays down His life of His own accord, so also He takes it up again. He is bigger than death. He rises but the wolf stays down. The devil is defeated. Hell has lost its claim. Death can’t have us.
That is what this window shows. That is why Jesus isn’t in simply shepherd robes but is subtly dressed as the king. The tree there has been pruned. You can see a cut branch low on the trunk. There is fruit on that tree. It is harvest time. And we’re looking East, into a sunrise, a new day, the day of resurrection. And there is Jesus with His flock. They are safe and they are with Him. His hands and feet still have the marks of His sacrifice but He is risen and alive and so are they.
Of course Oddie loved that window – not just because it was pretty, but also because of what it represented. She hadn’t been in this building in a long time. The Good Shepherd reading comes up after Easter for us. I shared it with her and I asked her if she remembered that window. She laughed and said something like, “Pastor do you think I am crazy? How could I forget my Good Shepherd?”
The middle reading is not quite so obvious. It is a quintessential Lutheran reading. It is read every year on Reformation Sunday around here. That is because it is one of the places where the Bible makes the clearest distinction between the Law and the Gospel and Lutherans are sort of obsessed by that distinction. We believe that all of the Scriptures should be read with this in mind. There are two great themes or doctrines in the Bible. Frist there is the law. What we mean is that there words and passages in the Bible which God tells us so that we would know what is right and wrong. Those words shows us our sins and our need. They accuse us and they call us to repentance. Paul is talking about these words, this Law, when he says that can’t justify ourselves in the sight of God by the Law. We aren’t good enough, pure enough. We are infected with sin. All have sinned and fallen short. No one can appease God’s wrath by his own intent and effort. Paul says that God gave the Law to shut us up, to stop our excuses, and to show us our need for a Savior.
Paul then says that the righteousness of God has been shown to us apart from the Law. Where? In the Gospel. There are other passages and words in the Bible that don’t demand anything of us but show us who God is for us. They proclaim God’s promises to us, that He will be our God, that He loves us, that He will buy us back out of sin and death. We are justified by His grace as a gift, not by right, not by effort. That is the Gospel. It is grace, a gift we didn’t deserve. We are redeemed in Christ Jesus whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood. We receive this by faith.
Simply put, the Law shows our sins and our need. The Gospel then shows us our Savior, His atoning death and resurrection. This word of God, the Gospel, is the power of God unto salvation. By delivering Jesus to us, it forgives our sins. It justifies us. This is what Paul is talking about when he says: “We hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”
I preached one on one to Oddie many times in the last 10 years, at her dining room table and in hospital rooms. When I preach, I preach the Law and then I preach the Gospel. I call to repentance and then I pronounce forgiveness.
Here is what I want you to know about Oddie. When I preach the Law, she’d nod along, soberly. Maybe she’d say, “That is right,” but mostly she didn’t say a word, she just nodded. But when I preached the Gospel, when I said: “Jesus loves you, Oddie. He died for you, in your place, and when it was done He said, ‘It is finished’ and the judgement was pronounced ‘You, Oddie, are innocent, righteous, holy before God’ and no one can take that away. When the right time comes He will call you home. On the Last Day He will raise you from the dead and you will live. Your sins are forgiven,” when I said stuff like that, she laughed.
She didn’t laugh because it was funny, she laughed because she was filled with joy. I can’t imagine a more appropriate response. You know, of course, that she was quick to laugh and that she laughed a lot. She laughed to see the children. She laughed at their stories. She laughed to remember.
For her, there was no deeper expression, nothing more personal, nothing more serious than laughing with joy because Jesus loved her, because the devil got beat, because this life isn’t all there is. I don’t know if she’ll cook for you in heaven. But I am positive she is laughing now. Our time for laughing is mixed with weeping. Her weeping is done. Now she laughs. Now her joy is full. Your weeping won’t last forever. Jesus loves you too. You can go to her. You can follow her. And if you do, when she sees you again, she will laugh. I guarantee it. And even if you don’t laugh much now, when you get there and she throws her arms around you and cackles with joy and good humor, you will laugh with her. I even think Our Lord Himself will laugh to see it. What a glorious day it will be.
Come, Lord Jesus. Come, quickly.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.