Why We Can Both Grieve And Rejoice At Funerals

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

Text: Isaiah 61:1-3, 10

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

In our day and age, many people struggle with death and especially funerals.  And so, many modern-day funerals attempt to steer the focus away from death.  In other words, rather than focusing on the death of a loved one which may cause sorrow, heaviness, and grief, these modern-day funerals, rewind the clock to focus on more joyful times when the deceased was alive.  Now, let it be said that there is nothing wrong with rejoicing over the wonderful memories of the past, especially with our loved ones who have died.  In fact, these memories are precious; may the Lord bless these memories.  However, it becomes problematic when too much attention is put on the person’s life resulting in a funeral service ignoring the person’s death.  A whole funeral service filled with uplifting stories, funny memories, and poems that do not address the fact that a person has died, accomplishes very little, except to ignore the reality of death. 
With all of this in mind, though, what shall we say about Bill today? 

Well, dear friends, Bill has died. That is painful to say, as I am sure that it is painful to hear.  In fact, it should make us cringe.  Right about now, we might even be tempted to want to change the subject of death and focus on something more joyful and positive. 

But what if I told you that we do not have to steer the focus away from Bill’s death today and that we can still have joy?  I am not referring to a manufactured joy – the type of joy that you plaster on your face when you pretend that you are happy.  But I am referring to real joy – a genuine joy amid death.  Yes, what if I told you that we do not have to navigate our attention away from death this morning but can still have joy? 

Think about this for a moment with me. 

We do not obtain joy from death.  The Lord takes no pleasure in the death of His saints, like Bill.  Death is our enemy.  However, for us as Christians, things are different with death – there is joy amid death.  You see, we do not need to ignore Bill’s death this day and try to pretend that he is not dead.  And we do not need to downplay the seriousness of death by trying to convince ourselves that Bill is holy enough for the pearly gates of heaven by a bunch of things he accomplished. But instead, we can boldly acknowledge that Bill died because of sin.  Bill, like you and me, was a sinner.  He sinned in thought, word, and deed.  And Bill is in the grave because the sting of sin is death.  However, in spite of all of this, we can and should have joy this day. 

But why should we have joy, especially when death has struck Bill?

We have joy this day, because of what the Lord has done for Bill.  The Lord has clothed Bill with the garments of salvation.  The Lord has covered Bill with His robe of righteousness.  Indeed, Bill was suited in salvation – he was outfitted in righteousness.  Jesus fashioned a robe from the threads of His perfect life.  Then Jesus wove this robe on the cross and colored it with His red blood.  And then the Lord God freely gave this robe of Jesus’ perfect life to Bill, so that Bill would be covered in salvation.[1]

And so, when we look at Bill, we grieve; however, when we consider that Bill is clothed in Christ’s robe of righteousness, we rejoice.  Yes, we rejoice because the Lord God covered Bill and Bill’s sin with the robe of righteousness in baptism, and the Lord preserved Bill in life and even into death. 

In case you did not notice it, this is the reason why Bill’s casket is covered today.  The garment that is draped over Bill’s casket represents Bill’s suit of salvation.  The garment represents this robe of righteousness.  The garment represents and reminds us that Bill is baptized!  Therefore, we see the casket, and we grieve.  But then we see the white garment over the casket, and we rejoice!    

Dear friends, rejoice this day for we know that the Lord Jesus Christ claimed Bill as His own, marking Him with the sign of the cross.  We know that Bill belongs to Jesus because He has been clothed in the robe of righteousness – Bill was baptized into Christ.  All of Bill’s deepest stains of sins are covered by Jesus’ robe. 

And so, at the great resurrection, Bill will stand before God dressed in this robe.  And God will see Bill clothed with the perfection of Jesus – and the Lord God will welcome Bill into His presence.  And just as the Lord will raise Bill from the dead and welcome him into His presence, the Lord welcomes Bill’s soul into His presence right now, as Bill awaits the resurrection. 

It is quite remarkable!  All of our rebellion, all of our sins, and all of our guilt are covered by the robe of righteousness, which is what Christ accomplished at the cross and delivers to us in Holy Baptism.  Truly, the robe of Christ’s righteousness is long and wide enough to cover every twisted human thought, word, and deed. 

So, today, we see death, and we grieve.  However, we do not grieve as if we do not have hope, for we surely do have hope – and joy!  We have joy that our sin, and Bill’s sin, are no longer visible before the eyes of God.  By the gift of baptism through faith, we know that Bill is wearing the spotless robes of Christ – He is guiltless, righteous, and a saint in Christ!  Rejoice, dear friends.   

Dear friends, let the preached word and promises of God wrap you up in assurance, hope, and joy.  For by the promises of God in His spoken Word, as well as in baptism, you are clothed with a robe of righteousness, so that death cannot end your gladness just as it cannot end Bill’s gladness and joy. 

Isaiah chapter 61, verse 10,

“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness…”

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

[1] John Braun, People’s Bible Commentary: Isaiah 2 (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 335.

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