In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Children, family, friends of Joy: peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Jesus says that He came down from heaven to do the will of the Father who sent Him. And this is the will of the Father who sent the Son: that He would lose none of those whom the Father had given Him, but that those would look on Him and believe and Jesus will raise each of them on the last day. Until now, Jesus has done the will of God: He did not lose Joy, whom the Father had given to Him. Marked with the holy Name of God in Baptism, fed continually by His Word and His Supper, Jesus bound Joy to Himself, so that she would never be lost. Even if her mind couldn’t keep everything in the right order or at the right time, Jesus did not cast her out. Even if she had to be prompted to eat the host and drink the cup, Jesus gave her Himself, the bread of God who gives life to the world. Even if she was confused about some things, the hymns she had learned over a lifetime in Christ kept the Word of God in her mind and heart. In all these ways, and more, Jesus did the work He had promised her that He would do.
And that’s really the entire point, isn’t it? That’s the point of Jesus’ work, of Jesus’ Word, of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and of the ways that He brings His death and resurrection to us here and now: the entire point is that when we waver, when we doubt, when our bodies break down, when our minds start to disconnect events and people from their proper places and times: then—especially then; and now—especially now—when we mourn her death: Jesus does work that we could never do. The will of the Father and the Son and the Spirit is the same: create, redeem, call, gather, enlighten, make holy, and keep His own until that other promised day.
Because that’s the second part of Jesus’ work. After gathering His own to Himself to gather them to the Father, He says that the goal is their resurrection. “I will raise him up on the last day.” That’s the goal of the work of Jesus. Not the separation of bodies from souls in death. Not leaving behind the physical creation and floating around in the clouds with wings and harps. Not “life” in a heaven that is far apart from earth. But resurrection. A resurrection as real as Jesus’ own, in a body like His glorious body. A body in which He stands in the midst of the disciples on that Sunday evening. A body where they can touch the wounds and see His pierced feet. A body in which He eats fish in their presence. A body that He has taken for His own and will never leave behind.
So it is that Jesus created Joy’s body as a necessary part of her. And now that He has kept her through this life, and finally put sin to death in her death; He intends to raise up that body, glorious and without sin and death. He not only intends it—He promises it. And since we have already seen Jesus keep His promise to her about not losing Joy, whom the Father gave to Him, we will also see Jesus keep His promise about raising her on the last day. She believed in the one whom God had sent, and that same Jesus fed her with His own body and blood, which is the bread that gives eternal life.
Today we do mourn that God’s creation of Joy as body and soul has been put asunder. But we do not grieve as those who have no hope. We rejoice in the promise of God in Jesus Christ, that death is not the last word about Joy. Instead, Jesus has spoken a final word in His own resurrection body, that the perishable, the dying, will put on the imperishable, which lives forever. And so Joy’s name is fitting in light of the work that Jesus has done for her: in Him Joy and we find our only true and lasting joy.
So today, ahead of time—but as if we had already seen it—we say with St. Paul and with the prophet Hosea: O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ! Thanks be to God, He has swallowed up death forever in the Jesus’ own death! Thanks be to God, He Himself will wipe away every tear and death itself, in Jesus’ resurrection, which He gives us freely. O come, let us fix our eyes on that Jesus, today, and at our own death, and always.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
–Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 3/8/17