Dismissed In Peace

The following 'Prayer Service Sermon' is posted with family permission.  May the Lord give to the family of Joyce McDaniel, and all who mourn, comfort in their grief and a sure confidence in the Lord's loving care. 

Text: Luke 2:25-32

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

Bugs, snakes, blood, needles, public speaking, clowns, and terrorism.  These are some of the top fears of Americans as reported by recent surveys.  They are things that we fear because we cannot control them.  Yes, we fear these things because we cannot manage or predict or control them. 

But in reality, we can indeed control many of these things.  We buy insecticide to kill bugs.  We hire people to remove snakes.  We decline situations that ask us to speak in public.  We avoid the circus to avoid clowns.  And we buy guns to fight against the fear of terrorism. 

Considering all of this, there is a fear that is prevalent to all of us that I have not mentioned yet.  And that is death.  There is no doubt about it that death produces fear and frankly, death is the actual real motivating factor behind all of these fears that we have mentioned thus far.  In other words, we don’t like bugs and snakes, because they bite and can cause death.  Terrorism brings death. And so forth. You get the pictue. 

As a result, people go through life often living in fear of death.  And at the end of life, this fear can intensify. 

So what does this have to do with tonight’s prayer service?  What does this have to do with the scripture reading from the Gospel of Luke that we just read?  What does this have to do with Joyce?   

Well, like all of us Joyce feared death and yet at the same time she did not.  That is the way that it is with the Christian faith.  That is to say; to fear death is quite natural.  Death has a sting to it.  There is finality to death.  I would be lying to say that I don’t fear it as well, even as a pastor.     

Considering this, though, Joyce’s fear, my fear, and your fear are not left to hover over us.  Oh no, the Lord has seen it fit to make sure that Joyce was dismissed from this life, not in fear, but in peace.  And that same Lord has seen it fit to make sure that you and I this evening would be given peace in the midst of the shadows of death. 

Dear friends, take a moment and consider our Gospel reading from the Gospel of Luke.  In that Gospel reading the one promised by God to Adam and Eve, right after they sinned – the one reaffirmed by the prophets of the Old Testament, the one who was promised from long ago, was placed into the arms of an old man named Simeon.  In other words, the one in the arms of Simeon was none other than Jesus Christ, the one who came to destroy sin, death, and the devil.  Yes, Simeon held the baby Jesus Christ in his arms, and he then confesses,

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation!” 

Simeon held the Son of God in his arms, and as he looked upon Christ, he was set free.  He was set free in peace. Gloriously free for the rest of his earthly days.  Forever free because he held Jesus in his arms.

Peace, my friends, does not come from the sound of gentle water flowing over rocks. Peace does not come from meditation.  Peace does not come from soothing music… at least peace that lasts. Indeed, peace does not come from any of this.  But rather, peace comes from receiving Christ Jesus who has dominion over all things – including sin, death, and the devil.  What this means is that because Simeon got to see the Savior, he then became unconcerned about when and how death would overtake him.  He was ready for it every moment. He was ready to be dismissed from this life into death and unto paradise in peace. 

And like Simeon, Joyce too held Jesus Christ in her hands.  Our beloved Joyce’s fears about death were met with Jesus’ body and blood being laid upon her hands and into her mouth in communion and her hearing the news, “Your sins are forgiven dear child of God.”  

And so peace was given to our beloved Joyce.  Peace was placed upon her.  Peace was given to her so that she could pass from life into death and unto Jesus her Savior.  Peace that her sins were forgiven; peace that the wrath of God was satisfied in Christ’s death; peace that the devil, sin, and eternal death have been defeated.   

And so tonight our fear of death is met by Jesus Christ in His Word of the Gospel as well.  And that word to us is that we are not left to stare into the abyss of hell in fear.  We are not left with heavy hearts saying,

“I am lost!  Who will save me from this body of death?” 

We are not left saying,

“My sins are just too grievous and too dark, is forgiveness even possible?” 

We are NOT left in despair. 

We are NOT left in fear for Jesus Christ in His Word is not laid upon your arms but placed into your ears and upon your conscience!

Hear this, Jesus Christ is for you.  In Christ, that fateful dilemma death is resolved.  In Christ, there are no black clouds, no fear because God went for death’s jugular when He sent His own Son to take on the human condition, die as payment for sin, and rise from the grave – all for you and for me and for Joyce.   

So tonight we certainly grieve the loss of Joyce but we do so with peace, for Christ is with Joyce and Joyce is with Christ – in peace.  No more tears.  No more pain.  No more fear. 

Lord, now let Your servants go in peace this night; Your Word has been proclaimed. Our ears have heard salvation. Amen.

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