The text that I have chosen for Gladys’ funeral comes from Psalm 118:17-24.
17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord. 18 The Lord has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death. 19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. 20 This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. 21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. 22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Here ends our text.
John, Kathy, Lyle, Lila, as we focus on the words of the psalmist today, they don’t seem to fit the occasion for why we are gathered. Psalm 118 is a psalm of thanks. It gives thanks and also prophesies of the Christian and of Christ, the rejected cornerstone. This psalm is a general statement of thanksgiving for all the kindness God daily and unceasingly showers on all people. This psalm praises God especially for the greatest benefit He bestowed on the world, namely, for Christ and His kingdom of grace – first promised and now revealed.
But do we really want to give thanks today of all days? A loving wife and mother have been taken away and we are expected to give thanks? That is exactly what we are to do, as this psalm encourages us to rejoice. The psalmist writes, “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.” This verse touches on and states the trouble out of which God’s hand delivers the righteous, namely, death. This is precisely what happened Tuesday morning for Gladys. While Gladys died to the things of this world, she continues to live in Christ.
What a wonderful thing to have put before us today. On Tuesday, when Gladys died, she entered into the kingdom of heaven, where the faithful in Christ have gone before her. The fact that Gladys now stands before God Almighty is not due to anything she did in this earthly live or anything she could do in this life. For as wonderful a person Gladys was, the reality was that there was nothing deserving of Gladys to allow her entry into God’s paradise, because she was a sinner, just like you and I and everyone on this earth. How do we know that? We know it because our sister in Christ is lying before us in a casket as a result of her sin. St. Paul writes, “For the wages of sin is death.” If Gladys were not a sinner, she would not have died. If mankind were not sinners, then no one would die. The reality of the matter is we are sinners and we die.
Though we are sinners, God has done something wonderful for us, just as He did for Gladys. He made us His beloved children. Through the washing away of sin by Holy Baptism, Gladys received a new name: child of God. From the moment of her Baptism until the day of her death, she wore that name proudly. It identified her as one for whom Jesus Christ went to the cross to redeem.
The Lord has done exactly what the psalmist writes: “Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.” Tuesday, Gladys did just that; she entered the gates of righteousness. Now she sits with the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and she gives thanks for what has been done for her and all believers, on account of Jesus Christ.
What a wonderful gift that has been shown to Gladys. Even because of her sinfulness, God still sends His Son to live and die to redeem her so that she would be forgiven of all her sins and granted the gift of everlasting life. That is the greatest gift that could ever be shown to Gladys and that is the greatest gift that she could give to you, her family. There may have been times where you had a lot and times where you had little. In whatever circumstance you found yourselves in, there was one thing that you always had: Jesus Christ. You had the forgiveness that He brings to you. You have His promise that He will be with you always. You have His gift of everlasting life that comes to you because God the Father has called you by name and made you His beloved children. That was a promise made by God to you, one that your mother held near and dear, because God made that promise to her as well. She had no fear of what may happen to her in this world because she had the promises of Christ. That is what she wanted to instill in you, her children. She wanted you to have the same peace and comfort that she herself had.
What the psalmist records is just as true for Gladys and us as it was for the psalmist: “I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.” It is God alone who is our salvation. Unfortunately, we like to put our stock into the things of this world, as if we will be able to somehow earn salvation through other means. However, the things of this world will not grant forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation to anyone. Yes, they may bring temporary joys, but they do not grant eternal life. Gladys knew that and did not trust in the things of this world, but put her faith solely in that of Jesus Christ, who is “the way, and the truth, and the life.”
So what are we supposed to do now? What will the days and weeks be like for us? They will be filled with sorrow and hurt. For some, they may be filled with despair, feelings of loss. While these may very well be our feelings following today, there is one feeling that we have at times like this and that is hope. We have hope in the resurrection of all believers on account of Jesus Christ and His life, death, and resurrection. Because Christ has died and risen from the grave, we know that we too as believers in Christ will rise from the dead as well. Now, Gladys rests in the glory that is heaven because of Christ.
John, Kathy, Lyle, and Lila, there is one verse left of our text that we cannot forget. Remember, this psalm is a psalm of thanksgiving to God. The psalmist reinforces that thought at the end of our text: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” As hard as it may seem, today is not a day of sorrow, but it is a joyous day, as we remember a loving wife and mother, who having finished her course of faith, now rests in her Lord. Let us rejoice and be glad today and always, for God our Father has shown mercy on us, giving us His Son Jesus, who forgives our sins and grants to us everlasting life. Amen.
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