Giggling At Death, For We Are God's Own Children

The following 'Funeral 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: Mark 10:13-16

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

Well, dear friends, it appears that we are back to where we started.  At least that is true for Joyce.  Yes, with Joyce we are back to where she started.  You see, right before we came into the sanctuary, the family placed a white funeral pall on the casket, much like the white dress that was most likely put on Joyce when she was first baptized; a white pall and a white dress that represent the cleansing of baptism.  And then we had a prayer in the fellowship hall recalling the fact that Joyce was baptized.  And then as we entered the sanctuary, we sang a song focusing on the gift of baptism.  And then here in the sanctuary, we read from Romans chapter 6, in remembrance of baptism.  Indeed, it is almost as if we were intentionally returning to October 5th of 1930 when Joyce received the gift of Holy Baptism.  It seems that we are making a full circle in today’s service going from 2017 back to 1930 when Joyce was baptized as a little baby.   It seems we are going back to where everything started for Joyce.

While it may seem like we are circling around – going back to 1930 – truth be told when Joyce was baptized there was never an immediate benediction after her baptism as if her baptism was some sort of event trapped in history.  In other words, after Joyce’s baptism, there was never a nice neat little bow placed at the end as if to communicate that the work and effects of baptism were done.  But rather, in Joyce’s baptism service things were left open.  What this all means is that today’s funeral service picks up right where things left off on October 5th of 1930. It is almost as if all of this is intended to show that baptism runs all the way through a person’s life.  Dear friends this is the whole point that I wish to make, baptism does run through a person’s whole life, from the cradle to the grave. 

And so today we remember that the Lord God who saved and rescued Joyce from the condemnation of sin in that baptism in 1930 is the same Lord God who has held her for 86 years and rescues her now from the sting of death in 2017; all because He claimed her as a child in baptism and kept her as His child unto her last breath. 

Now, not only is this good news for Joyce, but it should grant all of us a tremendous amount of assurance this day.  Assurance that the Kingdom of God belongs to children, that is to say, it belongs to those who receive the Kingdom of God like a little child. 

Dear friends, Joyce is in the Kingdom of God, because she is a baptized child of God.  And to be a child of God is to know that we have absolutely nothing to offer God, but our sin. That is to say; to be a child of God is to have nothing but emptiness for God to fill.  To be a child of God is to be helpless, not to be able to do anything but to simply receive what is giving as a gift. 

I think Joyce’s favorite hymn – Rock of Ages – captures what this means best, what it means to be a helpless child. The 3rd Stanza says,

          Nothing in my hand I bring;
          Simply to the cross I cling.
          Naked, come to Thee for dress;
          Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
          Foul, I to the fountain fly;
          Wash me, Savior, or I die.

Being a child of God is not about being innocent, but it is about being a helpless sinner who is clothed in the righteousness of Jesus.  It is about us knowing that there is nothing that any of us can do to inherit the Kingdom of God, but rather that we simply receive it like little children.  And as we know, little children have not done anything to earn the Kingdom of God. 

In case you might be worried, you should know that the Lord Jesus is well aware of the fact that we are helpless and inferior.  He is well aware of the reality that we sin in thought, word, and deed.  He is well aware that we are spiritually poor-oppressed-beggars.  He is well aware that we can’t pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.  He is well aware that we are powerless to overcome the great sting of death.  However, because of His compassion, He looks at Joyce, He looks at me, and He looks at you, and in His eyes, sees children of extraordinary great value.  We are so valuable to Him that He dies for sinners like Joyce, He dies for sinners like me, and He dies for sinners like you… and considers it well worthwhile. 

Indeed, Jesus dies for us, and then during one of the times when we were most helpless, the Lord God places His name upon us in baptism.  Yes, when we were unable to do anything, as poor helpless babies, the Lord God snatches us from the kingdom of darkness and puts us into the Kingdom of His Son by washing us and clothing us in the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covers all of our sins.  

But as we have already heard, the Lord God does not stop there.  He abides with us and then before we know it, in the most dangerous times of our entire life – on our death beds – the Lord does not forsake us in our helplessness.  Oh no, He does not disqualify us from the Kingdom, but rather, because we are buried with Him in baptism and raised anew in Him, death cannot end our gladness.  Yes, because we are baptized into Christ sin can disturb our soul no longer.  Because we are baptized into Christ, when we die we inherit paradise.    

And so, today we can smile with assurance, not because we have lost Joyce, but we can smile because we know that baptism has the divine strength to give immortal life to Joyce and us.  We can even laugh and giggle like little children who have just won a championship game – we can laugh and giggle at the devil because his power has become unraveled.  We can stare into the deep cold grave and snarl our faces in a childish rebellion because we know that death does not have the final word, for we are God’s own children. 

God’s own children, we gladly say it, for we are baptized into Christ. 

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

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