In Memoriam +Winifred Sauerteig+
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
So did Freddie. So did Paul. They wept together to think of Our Lord’s tears, moved to tears because the Lord has such compassion that He would be saddened at the death of His friend, Lazarus, even though He fully expected to see Lazarus again on the last day. That is the story that I heard from both Freddie and Paul just days before she died. Within weeks of her sickness and death, this was their devotion: they contemplated Our Lord’s tears of sadness and were both brought to tears of their own.
Children are rightly suspicious when their mothers tell them at a wedding or at Christmas that they are not crying because they are sad, but because they are happy. Why did Freddie weep to think of Our Lord’s weeping? It is not false to say that she was happy that Our Lord has such compassion, that He took up flesh and intervened, that He was willing to suffer and die for us; but if it is not false, it is decidedly inadequate. She wept with compassion of her own. She was sad that Our Lord, or anyone, should endure sadness, that death is such an inevitable and evil part of our lives. There is no crying from simple happiness. It is always mixed. Mothers cry when their children bring them dandelions, for joy, to be sure, but also with some sadness that is difficult to express. They are sad that the joy and simplicity of childhood slips away almost as fast as dandelions in a plastic cup for a vase. They are sad that their children will have to grow up and suffer and face the evil that is all around us. They are sad that now the dandelions are dead or they are overcome with memories of their own childhood, of the time when they also saw dandelions as flowers and not weeds, and of their own lost innocence and regrets. Are they happy? Yes. They are happy, thankful, glad, full of joy at the spontaneous gift and act of love from a child. But they do not weep for happiness alone. They weep because they are human. And to be human – in this fallen world – means to endure suffering, pain, and sorrow.
So Freddie wept. And Paul wept. And you weep. Not because you will not see Freddie again or because you wish she could stay here and suffer some more. But you weep because death is evil. It is wrong. It should not be. We were not created to die. We only die because of sin, because of the corruption and decay that we have brought into this world, and of which we ourselves have been both perpetrators and victims.
But in your weeping and bittersweet emotions, know this: you do not weep alone. Jesus wept and Jesus still has compassion. He is our Immanuel. He is with and for you in His Holy Word and Sacrament.
He did not leave Martha with His weeping. He wept and then He intervened. He called Lazarus back to life again, reunited body and soul. That day, unlike today, the grave gave up its prey.
This is the beating heart of all our hope: Jesus lives. He died, but He is not dead. He lives. We didn’t read all of John 11 this morning, but before Our Lord wept, He said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” His compassion was not merely hand-wringing, but direct intervention. He stood in the gap. He stopped the devil’s claim, fulfilled the Law’s demand, ended His own wrath, became the Substitute for Lazarus and for us. He paid the price that justice required. He met everything that death and the grave could do and suffered for all the sins of all men. Then He died. He gave up the ghost, His Body and His soul were separated. His Body went into the ground. His soul went to His Father. Until the third day, when, of course, He rose, when His Body and Soul came together again as they were always meant to be, and He inaugurated and began the resurrection of the dead foreshown in the resurrection of Lazarus.
Jesus wept. Jesus died. Jesus rose.
Freddie wept also. But now her weeping is done. Now we weep, and we wait. We weep and wait for our own day. Soon the trumpet will sound. Freddie, and all of us, will rise.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Pastor David Petersen