In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Family and friends of Jim, especially Dorothy, Brian, Craig, and Mark: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. It is precisely for this moment that Christ was given to us. Yes, He’s given to us for our lives in this creation. He’s given to us whether we are doing well or overwhelmed; He’s given to us whether we are in pain or pain-free. He’s given to us when things around us are good and when they’re bad. He’s given to us for every moment, every day, every year.
But it is at precisely these moments, confronted with the enormity of death, that we have the Word of God to bind us to Christ, who is the Word of God in the flesh. Jim, and his family, and those of you who visited with him—you all know the truth of St. Paul’s words, that our outer nature, our outside man, is wasting away. You know that the things we see are transient and passing away. You know that we groan in this tent, this earthly body. You know all that because both Jim and you have experienced it. That’s not news to any of us.
But what is surprising is that none of that is final. None of that is the last word. None of that is the lasting truth for those who are in Christ. Jim was baptized into Christ on May 12, 1968, and therefore every word that is said of Jesus according to His human body is true also of Jim, regardless of what we see happening in this world. Sure, sin means that our outer nature is wasting away, but Christ means that our inner nature is being renewed day in and day out, right in the very middle of the wasting away. Sure, sin means we have afflictions now, but Christ means that the eternal fullness of glory will make every affliction look temporary, weightless, and insignificant. Sin means we groan, being burdened, but Christ means that we have been prepared by God in His Spirit to have these dying bodies swallowed up by life.
We do not see now what Christ has done in us. We do not see the life and the resurrection. But those who have been joined to Christ look to the unseen things in faithful and patient hope. Even when our grip might be slipping due to pain, or dementia, or any other affliction, God hangs on to us in Christ by His own word. So it was that regardless of any confusion, Jim knew the voice of His Good Shepherd when we said the Apostles’ Creed. He knew the voice of His Shepherd in the prayer that Jesus gave us to pray. He said “amen,” which is much more than the end of a prayer. It is the word that says “Yes, this is true.”
It was true for Jim throughout his life. It was true for him when his mind and body began to betray him. It was true in those final moments. And it is true for you now. Jim has seen, but we still walk by faith. Jim has been released from the groaning burden of living in a body subject to sin and death, but we still groan, being burdened. Jim rests from his labors, while we continue to work on. And Jim waits in glory for what we wait for here: the full glory of the resurrection and the new creation, when there will be no problems of body or soul. There will no longer be problems of mind or speech. Because God raised Jesus from the dead, He will also bring us with Jim into His glorious, eternal, healing presence.
So, as always, Christ alone remains our hope, as it was Jim’s. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever: He is given to us precisely at these moments, but He is also given to us whether we are doing well or overwhelmed; He’s given to us whether we are in pain or pain-free. He’s given to us when things around us are good and when they’re bad. He’s given to us for every year, every day, every moment.
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, 6/6/18