Funeral Sermon for Ruth Ermel a Celebration of Her Life in Jesus / Wednesday February 12th 2014
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Matthew 16:13-20 / Ruth Ermel Funeral Sermon a Celebration of Her Life in Jesus / Wednesday February 12th 2014
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. In the hymnal there is a Hymn called "Built on the Rock" It's number 645. It starts out with the words, "Built on the Rock the Church shall stand. Even when steeples are falling." The faithful stand on the Rock even when their world is crumbling down around them. Dear ones, a death that comes suddenly can shake you to your bones. Ruth's death came unexpectedly last weekend: Where does her death leave you standing? On the Rock? or on shifting ground?
Hear the Word of God from the Gospel of Saint Matthew chapter 16:
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” [Jesus] said to them, “But who do you say that I Am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered [Simon Peter], “Blessed are you, Simon [son of] Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
"On this Rock I will build My church," Jesus says. Jesus gives Peter the name Peter "I tell you, you are Peter" Jesus says; and in Greek Peter πέτρος (petros) means "stone" or "rock." At first glance people think of Peter as 'the rock' upon whom the church is built but Peter wouldn't say that of himself. When we think of Ruth it's likewise not hard to see her as 'the rock,' the cornerstone of her family, the one whom people relied on and trusted: Yet if you were to ask Ruth about being 'the rock' of her family she would tell you Who it was that she trusted in, Who it was that she relied on, Who her cornerstone truly was and is. The Rock that Ruth put her feet down on was and is and ever shall be Christ Jesus her LORD. Every lesson she taught and the love she showed, all the work she did to serve her family and her church family was grounded in Jesus. All of this was set firmly on Jesus, the same Jesus who Saint Peter calls "the Christ, the Son of the living God." While you leaned on Ruth, she leaned on Jesus: While you point to Ruth; she points to Jesus the Christ.
This same Jesus chooses to live with us in love. "We love because He first loved us," 1 John 4 says. Ruth loved you and everyone, as best as she could, because Jesus first loved her. Was Saint Peter perfect? No, if you remember your Bible, Peter shot his mouth off sometimes, he complained sometimes, he caved under peer pressure sometimes, he thought a lot of himself sometimes, he got angry and cut off a guys ear in the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was being arrested just before Jesus' trial, before Jesus' crucifixion: Peter was even guilty of denying Jesus. We often think of Peter as a giant in the faith yet even giants in the faith like Saint Peter need forgiveness. The Bible isn't full of the best people ascending to God the Bible is full of God coming down to us in our trouble. We like Peter aren't perfect, each and every one of us need Jesus' forgiveness. Jesus forgave Peter for all of Peter's sins recorded in the Bible and for countless other sins not recorded in the Bible because Jesus loved Peter. Peter writing in 1 Peter chapter 4 says, "Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins." Jesus loved Peter and Peter knew this; Jesus loves Ruth and Ruth knows this; Jesus loves you, never forget it. Ruth depended on this love every day and you can depend on it too.
Hebrews 13:7 says, "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith." For Ruth her faith rested on Jesus, Saint Paul in his letter to the Philippians says, "I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." The Him, in "Him who strengthens me" is Jesus. Jesus was Ruth's strength, dear Christian Jesus is your strength.
'You say be strong, but I'm not strong, today of all days I feel weak, and I don't just feel weak I am weak,' take heart dear ones, Saint Paul says "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, ... For when I am weak, then I am strong." Remember "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Jesus strengthens me, and you, just as He strengthens Ruth, Jesus has been and is Ruth's ever present help in her time of need.
It's no secret that Ruth missed coming to church in these last months; She missed her church family and the encouragement she received by being here. She knew what that hymn, "Built on the Rock," that hymn I mentioned at the beginning of today's message, teaches: That "Here [in this place the baptismal font] stands ... before our eyes, Telling how God has received us; The altar recalls Christ's sacrifice and what His Supper here gives us. Here sound the Scriptures that proclaim Christ yesterday, today, the same, and evermore, our Redeemer." She looked upon these things, she participated in these things, she heard these things and they were used by Jesus to give her strength ... all of this was hers and it is all yours. Whether one or two are gathered together or hundreds in Christ, Jesus, builds up His church. The hymn ends with Jesus saying "I know mine own, My own know Me, You, not the world, My face shall see. My peace I leave with you. Amen."
Jesus asks "who do you say that I Am?” and we say 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, [who] was crucified, [who] died and was buried.' We say '[You are the one who] descended into hell. [Who] On the third day ... rose again from the dead. [You are the one who] ascended into heaven [who] sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence [You] will come to judge the living and the dead.' He is the Rock, everything else is shifting sand, Because Jesus is the Rock Ruth was able, with His strengthening, to be 'your rock' but she wouldn't want you to lean on her, she'd want you to lean on the One who she leaned on: Jesus. Jesus who bought her with His precious blood, shed at the cross; Jesus who rose from the dead, that first Easter Morning, for you and for all peoples; Jesus who gives you strength, who gave her strength: Today Jesus asks "who do you say that I Am?”
Jesus took up His cross, and denied Himself to Save Your Life, in Him you now have life: Dear ones "seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory." Ruth is now hidden away with Christ in God because Jesus has done what He promised in John 14 when He said, "if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I Am you may be also." Jesus likewise promises to you that "[He will be] with you always, to the end of the age.” You are not left without a Rock today, today Ruth, like Peter points you to the True Rock, The Rock upon whom you can rest your feet: Stand up and stand firm in Jesus, The Rock of your Salvation. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
"Built on the Rock," Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House 2006, Hymn 645.
 Matthew 16:13-18
 "Built on the Rock," LSB 645, verse 2.
 1 John 4:19
 1 Peter 4:8
 John 21:15-19
 John 3:16
 Philippians 4:12-13
 2 Corinthians 12:10
 "Built on the Rock," LSB 645, verse 4.
 "Built on the Rock," LSB 645, verse 5.
 Colossians 3:1-4
 John 14:3
 Matthew 28:20