Sermon from September 23, 2013/ Funeral for Laura Langmaier/ Jesus is Our Way, Truth, and Life
Jesus said to his disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And 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. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Grace, peace, and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: Dear family and friends of Laura, we are able to learn about God outside of church. Just by looking at our surroundings we can see how good God is. We see a bountiful harvest and we know that God provides for our needs. God blesses us with a good and faithful spouse and children. He even grants us years of life to see our children’s children and even their children. We can see that God loves us by how he provides for us in our daily lives. We remember this love and kindness regularly as we worship.
However, we witness conflicting reports when we look out at the world. We see imperfect crops, bad weather, the weakening effects of aging, and sudden illness. We also see our own shortcomings. We want to know where we stand with God. When we look at God’s creation for answers we find gaps in our understanding. We can’t find everything we need to know about God and how he feels about us from looking at his creation.
Jesus’ disciples know this very well. Jesus tells his disciples that they know where he is going. But Thomas responds, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Thomas asks an intelligent question. We can’t know the Way unless Jesus tells us the Way.
Jesus assures his disciples, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” This is not a riddle. Jesus says in John chapter 10: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand." Jesus’ sheep know his voice. They know the Way, because Jesus has revealed it to them.
Laura knows Jesus and she also knows her Heavenly Father. Shortly after her birth, God made Laura his child through Baptism and he began giving her his gifts. In Baptism Laura became a sheep in Jesus fold. Knowing the voice of her Shepherd, Laura followed Jesus’ voice throughout her life.
Those baptized into Jesus know the Way to heaven, because Jesus connects them to himself. Jesus paved the Way to heaven. He did this by becoming like us in every way except without sin. Then this man, who is also true God took all sin and guilt onto himself. He pleaded guilty before God the Father of everything wrong that any human has ever done. And God punished him for all of it. Not only did Jesus suffer immense physical pain and humiliation, but his soul went through the agony of God’s judgment, so we would not face it. Having poured out his sweat and blood, he emptied himself of his very soul and was laid dead in a tomb.
But Jesus did not remain dead in that tomb. God brought him back to life. By raising Jesus to life, God the Father proclaimed to the entire earth: “I accept the payment. All sins have been washed away in Jesus blood.” Jesus’ body is now magnified to its heavenly glory, yet with the piercings in his hands and feet as a permanent receipt for the payment of our guilt. Because Jesus paid for our sins, we know where we stand with God when we trust in Jesus for his forgiveness and cleansing.
Jesus joined himself to us, when he became a man. And God joined us to Jesus when he baptized us. Those who are baptized into Christ have died with Christ. They are buried with him. And as certainly as Jesus was raised from the dead, we too will walk in newness of life.
Laura knows her Shepherd’s voice, because God connected her with him in the most intimate way in Baptism. Laura knows that Jesus is the Way, because he alone paid for her sins. Laura knows that Jesus is the Truth, because it is an historical fact that God raised Jesus from the dead. Laura knows that Jesus is the Life, because her eternal life is as certain as Jesus lives and reigns forever. Laura held to this truth by faith and by faith she receives the benefits of Jesus death and resurrection. That is why Laura enjoyed coming to church. She knew that is where she hears the voice of her Shepherd. Hearing his Word, Laura’s saving faith was preserved.
Jesus did not endure physical pain so that Laura’s body would remain dead, or your body. Our hope is not that our souls will experience some nirvana, the experience of nothingness. It is true that our souls will experience freedom from the bondage of our weak bodies, but that is not the end. As our souls rest in peace with Jesus, we wait for the day that God will raise and glorify our bodies as he raised and glorified Jesus’ body.
There are farmers here today. God knows a little something about farming. God explains through St. Paul the glorification of our resurrected body by comparing it with a seed growing into a plant. When grain reaches maturity, farmers no longer wish for rain, which just a few weeks earlier was a welcomed gift of life. After the grain matures, rain makes it difficult to harvest; it can lower the grade of the product, or worse, cause it to rot. The mature grain must dry out and die. But when it is planted, this dead seed brings forth new life. That is how our resurrected bodies will be. We are like a dying kernel, that after it dies sprouts to new life.
Although the new plant is genetically the same as the kernel, it is much more glorious. Our resurrected bodies will still be our bodies, but they will be glorious. We will not suffer pain. There will be no effect of aging, like weakness, difficulty seeing, hearing, or speaking. There will be no such thing as a sudden stroke. And we won’t sin anymore. Our bodies will be perfect, like Jesus’.
The hymnist Lazarus Spengler explains it like this:
All man-kind fell in Adam’s fall; One Common sin infects us all.
From one to all the curse descends, And over all God’s wrath impends.
But Christ, the second Adam, came to bear our sin and woe and shame.
To be our life, our light, our way, our only hope, our only stay.
The voice of Laura’s Shepherd told her that she is forgiven, that she is not lost but found, that though she dies, she will live forever with her Savior with a restored body. That same voice calls to you. Jesus tells you that he loves you. He forgives you. He tells you that you have assurance that he will raise your body from the dead, so that you too can live with him forever.
Let us pray:
Lord, let at last Thine angels come, To Abr’ham’s bosom bear me home, That I may die unfearing; And in its narrow chamber keep My body safe in peaceful sleep Until Thy reappearing. And then from death awaken me, That these mine eyes with joy may see, O Son of God, Thy glorious face, My Savior and my fount of grace. Lord Jesus Christ, my prayer attend, my prayer attend, And I will praise Thee without end.