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Rest in peace: Both the living and the homeward bound 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

August 19, 2012
Pastor Boyce - St. John’s Lutheran Church, Reinbeck , Reinbeck Courier

Many pastors use the above words as the opening sentences in the Service of Christian Burial. It is no wonder, for these words deliver exactly what grieving family and friends need to hear at the death of a loved one.

Consider how powerful a time a Christian burial service is. A death has occurred; there is great loss and a permanent change in a family's lifestyle. A spouse has lost his wife after 67 years as husband and wife. A wife has lost her lifelong companion. Sons and daughters lose parents. Parents sometimes have to bury their children, just as my dad did two years ago. Friends bury friends.

In a historical tradition of Lutherans, and some other Christian denominations, is that the casket is placed feet toward the altar, because that is where our feet are in life as we receive God's gifts in the Divine Service. The Paschal Candle stands at the head of the casket pointing to Christ and His resurrection. The funeral pall covers the casket in white, symbolizing Christ's righteousness that covers all our sins, or the Baptismal Font is next to the casket in reminder of how this person was brought into the faith by God's grace.

And then these death-defying words are spoken: "There is comfort from the God of all mercies." And that comfort strengthens the grieving so that, when the time is right, they also can comfort others with the same comfort they have received. God proclaims this comfort very clearly through His Apostle, Paul. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

And this is the comfort? With Christ, the last word is not death, but life. The last word is not burial, but resurrection. The body is laid gently in the ground in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the body, which will certainly come when Christ returns. His forgiveness, His peace, His ultimate victory over the grave brings comfort, joy and peace to all who mourn. And there is certain comfort from the God of all comfort. Death dies, and life lives with Christ.

"Teach me to live that I may dread the grave as little as my bed.

Teach me to die so that I may rise glorious at the awe-full day." (Lutheran Service Book; 883:3)

God's rich blessings as He continues to reign over us in His perfect compassion and mercy!



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