Funeral Sermon: Barbara Thomas
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Delivered By
Pr. David Fleener
Delivered On
April 6, 2019 at 11:00 AM
Central Passage
Romans 8:31-35, 37-39
Subject
Funeral of Barbara Thomas
Description

Pr. David Fleener

Funeral sermon: Barbara Joan Thomas – April 6, 2019

Isaiah 43:1-3a, 5-7; Psalm 46; Romans 8:31-35, 37-39; John 14:1-7

 

            Dear family and friends of Barbara Thomas, especially you, Scott and Janet; grace and peace be with you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who has prepared a place for us all.

 

            Barbara has a special place in my heart, as she served on the call committee that brought me to Zion. For eight-and-a-half years, this has been a good place for a young pastor in his first call to learn more about the ministry, the expectations of God and God’s people, and the power of God’s grace among human beings. For example, Barbara and I had this kind of exchange during Bible study more than once:

 

Me (totally geeking out): So you see, there were many other gospels in circulation for several hundred years after Jesus’ death and resurrection! Some of them were compiled by these Christian groups called Gnostics, and others were compiled by other Christian communities but never made it into the canon of Scripture. You can see here in the copy of the Gospel of Thomas in front of you that blah blah blah….

 

Barbara (sitting in the rocking chair in the church library with a rock-steady expression): Pastor, that’s all very interesting, but what does it have to do with my soul’s salvation?

 

            For Barbara, what God had done for her in Jesus Christ was primary. Anything said or done in worship or Bible study was to illuminate that all-important faith claim: that human beings are saved from the powers of sin, death, and hell by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, for Christ’s sake alone. Everything else was more or less interesting trivia.

 

            Barbara had a lot in common with the apostle Paul, whose words we read in Romans today. For Paul, everything centered around God’s work in Jesus Christ. As he writes, “He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?”[1] For Paul, as for Barbara, God was Radical Love, a love beyond human comprehension. This God “made his dwelling among us”[2], as the first chapter of John’s Gospel puts it. God gave us everything of God, including God’s own self in Jesus the Messiah. Why? For the sake of the whole creation, including us. So that we could live as the human beings God created us to be, a shalom people, a whole people, a people in right relationship with God and each other, both now and fully at the resurrection. God had enough of sin’s power and decided to put it out of commission once and for all time. How? By taking the world’s sin upon himself. By absorbing every creation-destroying, relationship-denying, love-freezing thing and destroying them of their power. That’s salvation, salvation for now and forever.

 

            That’s what God did for Barbara. And even though she, like the rest of us, was “in bondage to sin and (could not) free (herself)”[3] (one of those “now-and-not-yet” paradoxes of our faith), God freed her, beginning in her baptism and continuing her whole life. God in Jesus Christ has prepared a place for her, a place of wholeness and joy. A place of rest in the presence of God. A place where not only “mourning, crying, and pain (are) no more”[4], but also a place where people are made whole. Re-membered, that is, put back together. Cognitive impairments are no more in the fullness of God’s Realm. God remembers and re-members Barbara. God takes our brokenness, our sicknesses, our sinfulness, and restores our entire being. It’s a restoration we can only see in part now, but we have Christ’s assurance that we will see it in full.

 

            For Barbara, though, that re-membering has already happened. She is out of time’s realm, therefore, she has already experienced God’s welcome home. And though her “now” is our “not yet”; though we still grieve the loss of a beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend, we have a sure and certain hope in Jesus and Paul’s words. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. And therefore, nothing can separate us from each other through love’s divine power. Barbara is still connected to you through that power. The relationship has changed. But it has not been destroyed. It cannot be destroyed. Barbara’s love for you all, your love for Barbara, and God’s love for all of us will not end. God’s love wins over everything, even death.

 

            God comfort you, then, with the assurance of his endless love in Christ which overcomes death; an assurance that Barbara held to her entire life and, in writing, wanted proclaimed at this service! As the old hymn has it:

 

Blessed assurance! Jesus is mine!

Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!

Heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of his Spirit, washed in his blood.[5]

 

            Thanks be to God. Amen.

 

© 2019, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.

 

 

[1] Rom. 8:32.

[2] John 1:14.

[3] Lutheran Book of Worship, p. 56.

[4] Rev. 21:4

[5] “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine”, Evangelical Lutheran Worship #638.