Funeral, Pauline C. Lewis

The Christian Burial of +Pauline C. Lewis+
Hebrews 11:1-16

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. . . . But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:13 & 16.

Pauline was baptized early into this reality. And as one baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, she was a stranger and a pilgrim here on earth. She desired a better, a heavenly country, a place where God’s glory revealed on the cross is fully seen and His praise is without end. A place where His saints are gathered around Him and know perfect peace and joy. This  promise of the life to come was delivered unto her in those holy waters and awakened in her as she grew by the power of the Word, and then by partaking in the Holy Communion of the Lord’s pierced, shed, and risen Body and Blood. Now He has completed it in her. She is pilgrim no more. She is home where she belongs at last. For the God of Abraham was not ashamed to be called also her God.

Those Old Testament saints who went before her, Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham; Ruth, Rahab, and Bathsheba; Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, those blessed saints were not so different from her. They too had the promise that God would be their God, that He would deliver them by His own mighty Hand, the Messiah, and that they would come at last to the promised land which flowed with milk and honey. They saw the promises afar off, while they yet lived in suffering. Abraham lived in the land of his inheritance as a foreigner, in a tent, a temporary shelter, while others built mansions and enjoyed what God had declared to be his. Joseph suffered far from Abraham’s promised land, first at Potiphar’s hand, then in prison, and then in Pharaoh’s court. His return to the land was in a coffin. Moses was barred from Canaan. But nonetheless, despite the delay of the fulfillment, these saints were assured of God’s promises. They trusted that the Kinsman-Redeemer, Job’s Hope of old, would come and save them. They embraced the promises, clung fast to them, and confessed them. They lived not by reason, not by strength, not by experience or science, but by faith, by every word that proceeded from the mouth of God. They waited. And in His own time God brought them to that true promised land, to Himself in heaven, where there are no tears, no sorrow, and no regrets. By the virtues of a Messiah who had not yet born, by the substitution of His perfect life and death for theirs they were forgiven and they now enjoy all the bliss and contentment of heaven. They were saved, as all who are saved are, by faith.

And so, likewise for Pauline. The Messiah sacrificed once and for all was sacrificed also for her, in her stead, as her holy substitute. He absolved her and named her as one of His own. He  promised to be her God. And her distant, far-removed cousin, this prophet from Nazareth, who receives and eats with sinners, died that she might live. But He did not stay in the grave. He overcame it. Light in the darkness, life in death, joy in sadness: He is the Resurrection and the Life. He was her Champion, her Captain, her Hero. He gave her His Holy Spirit, and lived in her so that she knew and addressed His Father as her own dear Father. And in this Trinitarian reality, she waited. She saw the fulfillment of what was won for her on the cross afar off. She was assured of it. She embraced it. And she confessed it. Now at last it has been fulfilled in her and she has gone to her own people; to father Abraham, to Noah, to Rachael and Leah, to David, to Mary and Martha, to her husband, John, and all her loved ones who preceded her in the faith and in death. Death is not the end of life. It is the beginning. She never belonged here. She always belonged to God, who knew her by name before she was born. He asked her to stay in this world of sorrow for all those years. He asked her to wait, until her course was finished, until she’d witnessed to His glory for the last time, said her last prayer, and then, when her work was done He welcomed her home as the father welcomed the prodigal son, with great rejoicing and celebration!

And so we weep this day not for Pauline. For she is not sad. She does not need our tears or sympathy. For her, we rejoice. We thank God for the manifold blessings and mercies shown to her all her days, and most especially for the faith He granted unto her and the witness and godly service she has provided for us. It is our loss. We weep for ourselves. Her sadness and suffering are ended, but ours goes on. But look – the promise is not so far off as it was. Soon, soon, to faithful warriors, even us, cometh rest. The Lord Jesus Christ who died and rose again is coming back to claim His own!

The promise that saved Pauline is also for you. Jesus of Nazareth, true God and true Man, suffered and died for the sins of the whole world – even for yours – and all who believe in Him are cleansed and have everlasting life. If you live and die in this same faith – the faith of Abraham, the faith of Pauline – if you live as a stranger and a pilgrim in this world desiring a better, a heavenly country, seeking God and His righteousness and see the promise of God to be your God fulfilled in Jesus, then your tears too shall have an end. He has prepared a city for you. And in it you shall be reunited with Pauline and with all the faithful who have gone before you. With the God of mercy and infinite love all things are possible.

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord. He does all things well.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Rev’d David H. Petersen, Pastor
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Ft. Wayne, Indiana

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