Funeral Sermon, Lilli Schulz / Saturday November 25th 2017
Funeral Service of Lilli Schulz
Revelation 2:10: “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
Intr – Good Christian friends: Revelation 2:10. That is the Bible verse I came across this week while thinking about this moment for today. Not from going through the pages of my Bible or from a Christian video on YouTube. I saw this Bible passage in a very special token; a document from Lilli’s life. It is in his Confirmation booklet. On August 24th, 1941 she heard Revelation 2:10 as her Confirmation Bible Verse, or verse that then was hers for a lifetime, so to say.
Earlier this month, we saw a verse of a lifetime become the verse of death time. Lilli was called home by the Father at the age of 90. She was faithful unto death. Now she has the crown of life from the hands of our Saviour. Because that’s what he says in Rev. 2:10: “be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
Now, my dear friends, whose fruit is this faithfulness from? By whose merit is this crown received?
It is not too uncommon to hear expressions like “well, I don’t kill, I don’t steal, I am a pretty decent law abiding citizen. I think I will go to heaven”. That sums up different ways and paths that lead to the same conclusion: if I manage to keep up with God’s will as much as I can, if I try hard to be faithful, then He will accept me in Heaven. This is not what is implied here, though. I am pretty sure this is not what Lilli believed all her life. Salvation and life everlasting come out of faithfulness, for sure. But maybe not in the way our human reasoning is inclined to infer. Not only as a pastor’s wife, but mainly as a Christian, Lilli knew this well. And let me illustrate how it operates in our lives with a couple stories.
Saving and keeping - As huge Golf enthusiast, and as a good Golf player, Lilli was once playing with a friend on a sunny summer day. All of a sudden, midway through her 4th or 5th hole, from the bushes nearby, to their surprise and bewilderment, a mountain lion shows up; a cougar. There he is and here are these two ladies, trying to figure out what to do – or not to do. Seconds that seemed to last hours. Taking the club in their hands they figured out what to do: if it attacked the one, the other would hit the cougar with their club; and vice-versa. But the cougar had other interests. It was chasing after a small animal and down it went through the grass without paying even the least attention to the two good players. After a couple moments, as the cougar appeared from the bushes, it disappeared again chasing after his better interest.
Now thinking theologically, what could Lilly do in her life about the great peril and danger of sin? Can we do something about it? Can we hit it with a golf club to make it go away? Surely not. We are powerless and undefended. We can’t be faithful. We will fail. God, however, remains faithful. He saved us in Christ from sin and eternal death. He keeps us and protects us. He walks by our side. We know that in Him we have salvation and peace. He also deflects perils and protects from dangers in our path. He guards us in is mighty hands.
After a couple moments of silence, the friend asks Lilli: “So what do we do now?” And she says: “We’ll, since we are here, why don’t us just keep playing?” Since we are walking in a fallen and sinful world, engraved in problems, full of dangers, we might as well keep carrying on, knowing that we walk by faith in Christ.
Strengthening – Here’s another story. Pastor David Schulz once needed wine for Holy Supper only to discover he ran out of it. So he starts looking around in the house until he finds a big bottle of the wine down in the basement. Now he had a Service.
But that was not the regular, dry and bitter wine that he would usually serve on Sundays – as I learned from his own children in our Funeral Planning meeting last week. That one was a part of a lot of chokecherry wine that Lilli had made to have at home - a sweeter and better one. Reports tell us that people at the Church thought that was one of the best Sundays ever especially because of the unexpected change in the wine at the Holy Supper. But it was also a Sunday never to be repeated.
Be faithful, says Jesus in Revelation. He is the one who makes us faithful, by giving us the gift of faith. He keeps us faithful, by feeding us with word and sacrament. In the Holy Supper of our Lord, Lilli continually found this faithfulness and strengthening for her life. The same food that is available for us weekly, daily, to sustain us in Him; to strengthen us in our walk in life, to allow us to be faithful unto death. And by the way, as good as that chokecherry wine was on that special Holy Supper, it pales by comparison to the Great Banquet in Heaven that is prepared for the ones who are faithful ‘til death. There are all the saints who preceded us, hidden away in Christ, and awaiting for the blessed reunion with us on the Last Day. What we receive now is a foretaste of that feast to come, in which Lilli now shares.
Revelation 2:10 then really is a verse of a lifetime that comes to its fulfillment in our death time. “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life”. This same verse can be applied to our lives. As we go around daily with our struggles, activities, joys and sorrows, we may feel we are lacking strength; lacking joyfulness; lacking hope. The inevitable conclusion from there is that we may not be walking as faithful as we should or as we would like to be.
God is faithful. He is the one who brought Lilli to Him in the waters of the Holy Baptism, confirmed her faith on that summer day in August of 1941, allowed her to live her life in family and friends, and Church; knowing that it would be Jesus Christ who would take her to Himself and give her the Crown of life..
Cc - In Christ we have the peace from the Good Friday Cross, from the Easter’s empty tomb, and the hope from Heaven. No matter where we are, how we are, with who we are. We can be faithful to the end. For our end will surely come. There will be a death time for us to. When a walk of a lifetime will cease and we will meet our Creator. As we place faith in Jesus who freed us from sin and death, as we are strengthened by Him, as we are hold fast by Him every minute of our life we can walk in this same assuredness, as we sung in “O Come, come Emanuel”, trusting God’s mighty power to save and to give us victory over the grave, so that we will receive the crown of life. We will be reunited with our loved ones. We will live forever. “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life”. Amen.