Blog / Book of the Month / Anne Weisbrod Funeral Sermon - John 14:1-7 April 15th 2023 / At Home in Christ

Anne Weisbrod Funeral Sermon - John 14:1-7 April 15th 2023 / At Home in Christ

Anne Weisbrod Funeral Sermon - John 14:1-7 April 15th 2023 / At Home in Christ

Anne Weisbrod Funeral Sermon - Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Saturday April 15th 2023: Season of Easter / John 14:1-7 "At Home in Christ"

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. 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? 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. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “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.”

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 and family of Anne. We are only just into the season of Easter and these words from our Gospel Reading today are from that first Maundy Thursday the night during Holy Week when Jesus instituted His Holy Supper; the night when He gave Holy Communion to His disciples for the first time. Jesus says these words to His disciples knowing what will soon unfold: His cross and passion, the crucifixion and His death and burial. Out of context we often quickly think of the risen and ascended Jesus as the carpenter in heaven, hammering away, preparing a mansion for us there when He says, “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?” However in context, remembering what was actually about to take place these words take on extra meaning: Remembering that they are from that night the place then that Jesus was going to, in order to prepare a place for us, was His cross and crucifixion on that first Good Friday. The cross was the place where He was going to do the finishing work, to put the final touches on your future place of rest. It had been a long road to get to that point from when He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary; to when He was baptised in the Jordon River and His public ministry began; to when the nails were driven into His hands and feet by the Roman soldiers on Good Friday and He was lifted up crowned with thorns. It didn’t happen overnight and He went through a lot to get there to His crucifixion. He had to go through temptations, trails and troubles yet these things didn’t cause Him to sin and He remained faithful to His heavenly Father right through to the end winning for us a home in His Father’s House.

While Jesus didn’t endure cancer He certainly knew suffering and as Saint Paul teaches us in His letter to the Christians of Rome “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,”[1] and each of us are called to look to Jesus as the one who faultlessly had all these qualities in all circumstances especially as He faced and experienced death. For this reason Jesus is the one that we as Christians are to set our eyes on when we are called to endure our sufferings trusting that we will grow in character as He did when we take up our cross and follow Him,[2] trusting that the hope Jesus had will be reflected in the hope we will gain in the face of our challenges in this life. Anne’s long struggle with cancer over the years kept her eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of her faith who, the Book of Hebrews tells us, “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.[3] Jesus’ faithfulness to His heavenly Father in Jesus’ hard times, even in His death, encouraged Anne to be faithful to God in her challenges.

Did you notice what I just quoted to you from the book of Hebrews? “For the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God,” Jesus also invites us always to learn how to have joy even when things are tough, in fact that is also how that passage from Romans is framed, the one I mentioned to you, the one about suffering and endurance, and character, and hope. That passage starts with Saint Paul saying “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” Anne, even with everything going on over the years, knew how to have joy and how to rejoice. This is why Jesus starts the passage from the Gospel of John today saying, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.” With Jesus as the object of our faith—the very centre of our faith—we can now have joy, we can rejoice in the good times and even in the challenging times. The Christian faith doesn’t hide from the tough parts of life, it actually meets those challenges head on because Jesus did so and we follow Him.

As we heard in Psalm 23 the Shepherd in that Psalm both leads us beside “still waters” and is also with us in “the valley of the shadow of death” and when the Psalm says “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” it means that the Lord is also there walking behind us. Our Gospel like Psalm 23 promises that Jesus, who is our Good Shepherd, will be with us all the way through our life whether that life is long or short, easy or hard. And though He went to the cross to prepare a place for us in His death He also promises to us in this passage from the Gospel of John that He would return from the dead. Why else would He say to them “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.” So it is that everywhere Jesus goes His faithfully departed, the sheep of His fold, are then with Him, which means they go where He goes. In life and in death Jesus promises never to leave you behind; He seeks you out even when you are lost in the World. In all that He has done Jesus fulfills His promises, and at Saint Paul says, “All the promises of God find their Yes in Him,”[4] Jesus then, in the hour of Anne’s death, did as He promised to do and took Anne to Himself and now wherever Jesus goes Anne goes with Him too. And when The Last Day comes she will appear with all the faithfully departed, revealed with Christ to the whole World on That Day,[5] and on That Day she will have a resurrected body just as Christ Jesus has even now.[6] Dear ones, there are not multiple ways in this life for these things to happen, there are not multiple paths that lead to the true fulfilment of this promise and there isn’t a way for you to do this on your own. This why Jesus says of Himself, “I am The Way, and The Truth, and The Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me,” and unless you are alive and counted among the faithful on The Day of Jesus’ return this then is The Way for each of us, just as it has proven to be for Anne, The Way that leads through the valley of the shadow of death to the Father, that runs through Jesus’ Good Friday cross and passion into the tomb and out the other side of His Easter Day resurrection; the way that threads through the forty days that follow that first Easter and Jesus’ ascension to God the Father’s throne; the one and only Way established through Jesus Christ His Son and none other.

Saint Thomas and the rest of the disciples, for whom Thomas spoke that night, had not grasped what Jesus was teaching them at that point. For them it was like a lot of quilt patches that had not yet been thread together. They didn’t know where Jesus was going; they didn’t understand that Jesus was talking about His death and resurrection; they couldn’t see the whole quilt yet. We however are blessed with having the opportunity to know the whole of it; we are blessed with the being able to look at how everything fit together. When John wrote the Gospel that bears his name he didn’t just tell us everything up to Jesus’ death on the cross and leave the rest out, no he explained the events that happened after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Gospel’s including John’s Gospel help thread it all together; John even spells out for us what the purpose of this Gospel, found in the Bible, amounts to for us when he writes, “now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”[7]

Dear ones, now that Anne is with the Lord at rest in the home Christ has won for her she will not be actively encouraging you in your faith: today is one of the last chances for you to be encouraged by Anne in a very direct way to remember your Christian faith in your daily life, to set your eyes on Jesus, to consider that it is a very profitable thing spiritually for you to seek the Lord while He may be found.[8] And where will you find Him? You will find Him all thread together in your baptism, in the Lord’s Supper—His Holy Communion—and in His Holy Word; that is in the hearing and reading of the Bible which testifies to Him. Be encouraged today. As the Book of Hebrews commends you, “remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” Remember Anne’s Christian faith and cherish that faith along with all your other memories of Anne because her generosity and kindness was rooted in her faith, she loved because God first loved her.[9] And remember also that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever,” this is why the writer of Hebrews advises us all saying, “Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace.”[10] And as Saint Paul teaches it is “by grace [that] you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”[11] And if, as a Christian, you’re going to boast at all then Paul says “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord,”[12] and, “far be it from me [Paul says] to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the World has been crucified to me, and I to the World.”[13] All of these passages and more from Scripture make for you a beautiful quilt of God’s love for you in Christ Jesus.

So for the Christian our trust is in our heavenly Father who “put all things under [His Son Jesus’] feet and gave [Christ Jesus] as head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all,”[14] the very body in which Jesus has made a room for you and for Anne and for all the faithful, that is for those gathered by the Holy Spirit into Christ Jesus right now in this life and for those that Christ gathers to Himself in death unto life everlasting in Him. Today we can be thankful that this task isn’t up to us, that we aren’t expected by our own works or merits or holiness to forge a way to the Father, we like Anne have one readymade for us by the blood, sweat and tears of Jesus, therefore hold fast to this same Jesus, as Anne did, and remember all along it was Jesus who held fast to her. It was Jesus who took her hand and led her along life’s way, who strengthened her steps toward her heavenly home[15] in Him. This promise is not for Anne only, no this promise is for you in your life too.

Lastly remember when everything looks like bits and pieces of fabric and thread and you can’t see how it will all turn out in The End, trust that the Lord knows the pattern and He is taking all of it, including all the odds and ends, and He is making it all into something beautiful for the sake of His Son,[16] He knows what to keep and what to tuck away, He knows The End from the beginning and He loves you just as He loves Anne.  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.

[1] Romans 5:3–4
[2] Matthew 16:24
[3] Hebrews 12:2
[4] 2 Corinthians 1:20
[5] 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
[6] Philippians 3:20–21, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.”
[7] John 20:30–31
[8] Isaiah 55:6
[9] 1 John 4:19
[10] Hebrews 13:7–9
[11] Ephesians 2:8–9
[12] 1 Corinthians 1:31
[13] Galatians 6:14
[14] Ephesians 1:22–23
[15] “Lord Take my Hand and Lead Me,” The Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House 2006, Hymn number 722 stanzas 1 and 3.
[16] Romans 8:28