In Memoriam +Roberta J. DeArmond+ 1913 – 2002 AD
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“The last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.”
The Kingdom of God is different than the kingdom of men. It is not the meat market or post office, where it is always take a number and first come, first served. For the Kingdom of God is not the kingdom of fairness. That is the devil’s kingdom. His is the kingdom of exact retribution, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, for every sin, every careless word, every devious thought, there is a punishment. God’s Kingdom is the Kingdom of Grace. It is not fair that God should send His innocent Son to die for us guilty sinners, that we should be forgiven without cost or merit, that His astonishing, covering love, His death and resurrection in our place, should set us free from punishment and accusations. He should have been first, but He was made last, that we would again be His. It is not fair that we should receive the wages of the just, but by Divine declaration, Jesus Christ Himself, His holiness, innocence, and righteousness were made ours in Holy Baptism.
Receiving this holy Faith, even as Roberta most certainly did, unites one to Christ. But the student is not above the Teacher nor the disciple above his Master. To follow the historical Jesus, the Son of God who was betrayed into the hands of Gentiles, treated spitefully, and killed, is to follow in the way of the cross. Therefore, like Christ Himself, Christians also know suffering and sorrow. God had His reasons to keep Roberta here these many years, to ask her to carry on with hardship and disease, with loneliness and pain. We can not say exactly why He asked that, for ours is not the mind of God. But we do know that she still had prayers to pray. And now those waiting, suffering prayers have ended. She was asked to endure the burdens of this life for a long time, but now it is complete. She has come to her reward. Thanks be to God!
And while her waiting, suffering prayers have ended, she has not ceased to pray entirely. She still prays. And she still prays, mostly, for the same thing. What she doesn’t pray for anymore is herself. For she is no longer in need of help or relief. What Jesus won for her, full and free, has been delivered. What she now prays for is you! She prays for the consummation of the kingdom, for her children and grandchildren, her neighbors and friends, that they would all know the Grace of God in Christ Jesus and be reunited with her before the throne of Grace on the Last Day. And that is a powerful prayer.
Thus, wrote St. John the Divine: “I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the Word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.”
So she waits now in bliss, for a little season. And the body we lay to rest in God’s green acre this day, will not stay there forever. It will rise. It will be made alive again and joined to her soul. For we believe in the resurrection of the dead. We believe that all things are possible with the God who gave His life as a ransom for many and has taken it up again. If you also believe in Jesus Christ, if you have found peace with the Father by the crucifixion of the Son, then grandma’s arms which once held you fast, will hold you again. Those lips that kissed you and which even now pray for you, will kiss you again.
Her life on earth was full of trouble. But in God’s Kingdom, that is a high honor. She was last, asked to endure much, but now she is first. For God has paid her not according to her labor, according to her works and deeds. But He has provided abundantly with forgiveness and acceptance she could not earn. He has rewarded her not according to fairness and equity, but according to His generosity. From the sweetest love in all creation He has provided in His Son what she needs for eternity. And she will never again bear the burden and the heat of the day. She will never again know loss, uncertainty, or sorrow. Her joy is perfect, for her Savior is perfect.
The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh. Blessed be the Name of the Lord. He does all things well. May He soon answer Roberta’s prayer and deliver us all.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana