Grab A Fork, Christ Is Risen

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

Text: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

If you had time to pay last respects to Ella, you might have noticed something unique.  Between her two hands is a fork.  Yes, a silver fork lays resting between her hands.  But why a fork? 

Perhaps the fork represents Ella’s great gifts of cooking?  Yes, is that the reason for the fork?  Does the fork serve as a reminder of her years of cooking, serving, and loving through baked goods?  Well, not exactly. 

Could the fork be a metaphor though?  Could it be about life having many ‘forks in the road?’  Yes, does the fork represent that there are times in life where two roads diverge in different directions, and we must make tough choices of which road to take?  Well, not exactly. 

Maybe the fork is trying to remind us of that old idiom, “Stick a fork in it”?  Could the fork remind us how sin destroyed mankind’s relationship with God back in the Garden of Eden?  After all, when Adam and Eve sinned, they stuck a fork in their relationship with God bringing forth sin, death, and fear. 

While the fork could easily represent all three of these things since they are all true, the fork more specifically represents ‘hope.’  Yes, it represents the Christian’s hope. 

You see, dear friends, we hear about ‘hope’ in our Epistle reading from 1 Thessalonians.  The Apostle Paul says that hope is so powerful that it affects the way that we grieve as Christians. 

It is like this, because of sin, Ella died.  And when death strikes our loved ones like Ella, we get struck with grief.  And this grief is deep sorrow and sadness that grabs hold of us and lays heaviness upon our hearts.  Grief causes us to become uneasy too, sometimes causing us to doubt, fear, and race with thoughts in our head.  In other words, grief is a natural response to death, especially the death of a loved one like Ella.    

But for the Christian – for you - along comes hope.  Yes, you are not left with just grief as a Christian but given hope. 

Now, I am not talking about the kind of hope that is often plastered on coffee mugs as a cliché slogan.  I am also not talking about a kind of hope that is a mere aspiration - that kind of hope that is nothing more than wishful thinking.  But rather, I am talking about real hope – divine hope – the kind of hope that has to do with the Gospel.  I am talking about the kind of hope that has to do with Jesus.  I am talking about the kind of hope that has to do with the resurrection of the dead. 

Dear beloved friends, we believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have died in Jesus – those like Ella. 

And so, you must not carry on like people who have no hope, those who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word.  Sure, Ella has died and we will all die because of sin.  This is a painful reality of life that we must reckon with; we cannot escape death because we cannot erase the stain of our sins.  However, since Jesus died for our sins and broke loose from the jaws of the grave, God will most certainly bring you and Ella back to life at the great resurrection.  Therefore, we have hope this day.  We have hope because Jesus rose from the grave; we have hope because Jesus will put us back together someday. 

But why the fork, though?  Why mention the fork in today’s funeral sermon?    

Well, the family has told me that the fork is in Ella’s hands because Ella awaits a dessert that is still to come.  That is to say; Jesus will come again to get Ella.  Jesus Himself will give the command.  God’s trumpet will blast!  Jesus will come down from heaven and Ella will rise from the grave to be caught up with Jesus.  And then there in glory with a resurrected perfect body, Ella will be a part of the greatest feast to have ever existed, a feast hosted by God Almighty.  Indeed, eternal life is depicted in the Bible as a great banquet with the finest foods, the best vintage wines, and the most lavish gourmet desserts.[1]  And just in case you did not know, at this great banquet, death will not be an invited guest, for death will be gone for good.  And with the absence of death at the great banquet, there will be an absence of tears, pain, and fear.  That is right; tears gone; crying gone; pain gone; fear gone; all gone.[2]  Indeed, death shall be no more.  It will be swallowed up never to strike again, thus making this a feast unlike any other! A feast of everlasting joy with laughter, joy, peace, comfort, and assurance. 

Oh, did I forget to mention?  This banquet is not just for Ella; it is for you too.  Christ has prepared a seat for you at this great feast by His shed blood and resurrection.  In Christ’s wounds, you are forgiven of your sins.  In Christ, there is a resurrection of new life for you!  Therefore, grab a fork, dear friends.  Yes, grab a fork and know that in Christ Jesus you have a seat at the eternal banquet.  Know that when you face the darkness of your death that death is not the end for you. Your end is Jesus, not death.  That is right; in death, you don’t just fall asleep without hope, but you fall asleep tucked into Christ’s grave, knowing that even though you die, you will be raised and awaken from the dead – with Ella – at the Last Day.    

We know all of this with complete confidence because we have Jesus’ word on it.  And so, as you grieve this day, you grieve for the loss of Ella with the hope. Indeed, we grieve with forks; that is, the hope of the resurrection of the dead in Christ Jesus on the Last Day to the great feast in glory. 

Now, the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

[1] See Isaiah 25:6.
[2] See Revelation 21:4.

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