And you were dead in the trespasses and sins  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace 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.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Here ends our text.
Myrna, Vince, Carley, friends of Swede, to say that the events of the last week have been rough would be an understatement. Death seemed to prove the victor last Friday as death closed in around Swede. At first glance, St. Paul seems to confirm that in our text from Ephesians: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air….” Do you want to know what we were? Dead in the trespasses and sins. But notice that Paul doesn’t say that you ARE dead in the trespasses and sins, but rather he says you WERE dead in the trespasses and sins. Isn’t Paul just arguing semantics? Is there really a big difference between are and were? Lying before us is our beloved brother Swede. The fact that we are gathered here indicates that this isn’t just a matter of semantics, that Swede IS dead. But we would be wrong in saying that, despite what things look like to the naked eye.
Death, unfortunately, is very much a part of who we are, but it wasn’t meant to be like that. When God created all things, His last act of creation was the creation of man, creating him in God’s own image. That means that man was created without sin, and for a brief time, man enjoyed a life without sin. But that time would not last, as Satan would enter creation and causing man to fall into sin, thus severing our union with God. God would not be content with letting creation being separated from her Creator. And so, God would make a promise, a promise to restore things the way they were in the beginning, to restore the union between Creator and creation.
By Jesus Christ, creation has been restored to her Creator. By Jesus Christ, we have the forgiveness of our sins. By Jesus Christ, we have life once again. And so says St. Paul, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ….” New life has been given to those who are dead in trespasses and sins. It means that we are no longer dead but alive. But it doesn’t appear to be the case today, or does it? Are we here to focus on death or to celebrate life? The answer is both.
We focus on death because that is what brings us here. And because we focus on death, we must focus on sin, because it is sin that leads to death, as Paul says in Romans, “For the wages of sin is death.” If we didn’t have sin, we wouldn’t have death. If Swede were not a sinner, then he would not have died. If you were not a sinner, then you would not die, but as we know, we all will die.
But we don’t focus just on the point of death. We focus on life. We focus on life because God has made us alive with Christ. Only by what Christ has done are we made alive. That’s why the words of St. Paul are so important for us: “For by grace 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.” Why are these words so important? Because they promise us that our salvation does not come from us, but it comes from Jesus.
For all who knew Swede, you knew that he was a simple man. He liked simple because simple was easy. Jesus makes it simple, for it is Jesus who does all the work of salvation. We don’t have to do anything, not that we could. And for Swede, that was his comfort. He took comfort in knowing that Christ did all things necessary for him to enter heaven. He did nothing, and Christ did everything. That is not something that Swede hoped in, it was a promise that God had made to our first parents, Adam and Eve, a promise that is passed down to all generations, a promise fulfilled in Jesus.
Martin Luther, when writing on Genesis 12 writes the following: “Therefore it is proper for us to contrast the blessing in this passage with the curse under which all human beings are because of sin. The curse has been taken away by Christ, and a blessing will be bestowed on all who receive Him and believe in His name. The remarkable blessing is this, that after being freed from sin, from death, and from the tyranny of the devil, we are in the company of the angels of God and have become partakers of eternal life.”
Swede has been freed from sin, death, and the devil. He now rests in the Father’s loving arms, as do all who believe. Swede joins all who have been faithful until God and His promise of salvation, a salvation that comes only through Jesus Christ. All of this is freely given to all who believe.
Of course, nothing is free. There is always a price to be paid, and the price is great to redeem you from sin and death. But while the price is great, it is not yours to pay: that has already been done by your Savior, Jesus. He’s gone to the cross for your sins—He’s suffered God’s judgment for you and died your death; and because God has made Him alive again, God makes you alive again. How much of the cost is passed on to you? None. Hear these words again: “For by grace 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.”
Rejoice in knowing that Christ has done all that is necessary for your salvation, just as we rejoice that Christ has done all for Swede’s salvation and that he now rests in the arms of his loving Father. Amen.