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A Dweillng Place

After B. Schmitz

Almighty God, our Father in heaven, before whom live all who die in the Lord: Receive N. into the courts of your heavenly dwelling. Let N.'s heart and soul now ring out in joy to you, O Lord, the Living God, and the God of those who live. This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP p. 466)

"Receive N. into the courts of your heavenly dwelling." I think that says everything about why we are GATHERED here today. Because we are here today to affirm that to God's "faithful people, life is changed, not ended; and when our mortal body lies in death, there is prepared for us a dwelling place eternal in the heavens" (BCP p. 382). We read in the 14th chapter of the Gospel of John, these words of Jesus: "In my Father's house there are many dwelling places."

We are here today to offer up our prayers that N. be received into God's dwelling place, and we are here to prepare and pray for ourselves, that we would be received into the place of God's dwelling.

What do we mean when we say "God's dwelling place"? What kind of place is it? What happens there?

Scripture has much to say about heaven.

First, it is a place where we do not have to be afraid. Psalm 27 begins, "Whom shall I fear? Of whom shall I be afraid? One thing only I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life." To dwell with God is to not have to be afraid any more.

It is also a place of safety. Again, the Psalmist writes: "For in the day of trouble God shall keep me safe; God shall hide me in the secrecy of God's dwelling." And it is a place of joy and happiness: "Therefore I will offer in God's dwelling an oblation [an offering] with sounds of great gladness; I will sing and make music to the Lord."

It is a permanent, not a temporary, dwelling. Paul writes: or we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling ....

This body, this earthly tent, is a temporary shelter. But God's dwelling place is permanent and eternal in the heavens; as Psalm 23 says, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." God's dwelling place is a forever place. It is a real place. And it is into that heavenly court that we pray N. will be received.


How are we who remain preparing for that heavenly dwelling place? Do we, as Paul wrote, "groan under our burden, because we wish ... to be further clothed" with God's dwelling? Even though our outer nature (our body) is wasting away, is our inner nature being renewed day by day ... are we prepared not for what is temporary, but for what is eternal?

Those who believe and follow our Lord Jesus Christ, at their death, will rejoice to say with the author of Psalm 84: How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of hosts, to me!My thirsty soul desires and longs within thy courts to be;my very heart and flesh cry out; O Living God, for thee!

Beside thine altars, gracious Lord, the swallows find a nest;how happy they who dwell with thee and praise thee without rest,and happy they whose hearts are set upon the pilgrim's quest. ("How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place," The Hymnal 1982, 517) Amen.

"How Great Thou Art"
Funeral Sermon by Joe Barone
 -   : 

Isaiah 40:21-31Romans 5:6-11 and Matthew 24:36-44

A Scriptural MeditationOn An Often-used Funeral Hymn

The depth and power of some of the great Christian hymns amazes me. I must have heard Stuart Hine's translation of Carl Boberg's "How Great Thou Art" sung at least 500 times, but still it moves me.

It's not just that "How Great Thou Art" acknowledges the power of God. It does even more. It contains the message of the gospel.

It talks about God the creator in the same way the psalmists or the prophets would. "The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth," Isaiah says. "He does not faint or grow weary ..."

As we come to say good-bye to ** today, that is the God in whom we put our faith. "He gives power to the faint," Isaiah says, "and to him who has no might he increases his strength."

God is great. God has created all the worlds we know. God walks with us in tough times.

Indeed, "... they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."

But the power of the song "How Great Thou Art" is not just in the God whom it holds up. It is also in the way that it describes God's saving acts.

God gave his Son without condition, as this great song says.

"Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," Paul writes. All that happened while we were yet sinners, the great apostle says. Christ died for us, and so we are justified by his blood and saved from the wrath of God.

What a wonderful message, and it's exactly the message of "How Great Thou Art."

We can't earn salvation. It's a free gift. And we can't deserve the salvation that God gives. None of us is able to be good enough or righteous enough to deserve to be with God. So Jesus does that for us, and in our faith in him we are given new life - here on earth and then through resurrection.

There's real hope in that. I grieve today because I am helping say good-bye to **, a friend and one whom I have come to love.

I grieve today because of my own loneliness and my own pain.

But I rejoice in the message of the gospel, which tells me * rests in the arms of a loving God, and because of Jesus, I, too, can live in hope for her and me.

That's why we so often sing "How Great Thou Art" at funerals. It's a powerful song, not just because it is so well-written or so beautifully composed. It's a powerful song because it carries the message that God is indeed great, yet as great as God is, he sent his Son that we might have the assurance of eternal life with him.

What more is there to say?

There is that final hope expressed in a strange way, really in in Matthew 24. In that passage, Jesus tells the story of the unwatchful householder, comparing him to us as we wait for the last days, and then he says, "Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."

The Son of Man, the one who, in the book of Daniel, comes on clouds of glory, bringing judgment. He will come, and when he does, he will come as the great hymn "How Great Thou Art" says, "with shouts of acclamation." He will proclaim how great God is.

There's the hope. Because we put our faith in a God who is the creator of our world and vast worlds unknown, a God whose love is so great that he sent his Son to die for us, we can live in hope.

We can live for that day when there will be shouts of joy, and when Christ himself will come again to dry our tears, transform this sinful world, and so proclaim how great God is.

Let Us Pray

Gracious and loving God, we thank you for the power of the songs we sing and for the hopeful message that they bring.

As we come today to say good-bye to **, we thank you for her and for the faith she had in Jesus. We acknowledge our own grief and pain before you, and we ask you to walk with us in it. Remind us always of the hope we have in Jesus, and touch our hearts that we might sing your praises every day. Amen.

"How Great Thou Art," was written by Carl Boberg, translated by Stuart K. Hine, who also arranged the melody from a Swedish folk melody. Copyright 1955 by Manna Music, Inc., Burbank, California.

*Person's first name**Person's full name

About A Loving God, Joe Barone, C.S.S. Publishing Company, 1991, 1-55673-355-0

Face To Face
Funeral Sermon by Barbara G. Schmitz
 -   : 

Picture, if you will, a small child learning to walk. The parents stand a few yards apart. The first parent directs the child toward the other parent. At first the child looks back to the first parent for encouragement. But at a critical moment near the middle of the journey, the child starts looking ahead to the second parent, puts out his or her hands, and hurries into the welcoming arms (borrowed from Demetrius Dumm in Flowers in the Desert, page 95).

Such a critical moment in Christ's journey happened shortly after the feeding of the 5,000 and Peter's confession of Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus had just finished explaining to the disciples that he must suffer, and be rejected, and die, and after three days rise again. But they could not hear it. Peter flat-out argued with him, and Jesus had to say, "Get thee behind me, Satan." Jesus' heart was heavy. His death was imminent; his disciples were so slow to understand. The Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus went up to a mountain with four of his disciples to pray.

Luke tells us that, as he was praying, two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared and talked with him. The subject of their discourse was Jesus' forthcoming death, his departure, his exodus from this world. But Jesus did not shrink from what lay ahead of him. He did not succumb to the fear of his mortality.

Scripture tells us instead that Jesus was transfigured, literally, metamorphosized, so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.

Then a cloud passed over, and a voice was heard from heaven. The voice said: "This is my beloved Son, listen to him!" His approaching death did not change one fact, but rather confirmed it: Jesus was the Messiah, the chosen son of God.

The transfiguration marks that critical moment in Jesus' life when he stopped looking back to his beginnings, and began to face forward to the cross and his death, hurrying forward into the arms that would welcome him at the other end. Such a critical moment, a transfiguration, occurs in our lives. It is that precarious moment when we no longer look back to our source, to earth, to life, but when our gaze is turned and we look straight into eternity, ready to run and fall into the outstretched arms of the Father who is waiting for us on the other side. It is because of such a moment, which we call death, that we are gathered here today.

What does Jesus' transfiguration have to say about death?

First, death is not the end: "For to God's faithful people, life is changed, not ended" (BCP p. 382). Jesus, on the mountain, underwent a metamorphosis in which his outer appearance was changed: his garments became white and his face shone like the sun. Likewise, dying is a metamorphosis in which our outer appearance is changed, but our inner nature is renewed and lives on.

Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, testifies to the ongoing inner life: He writes: So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.

So for the Christian, life is changed, metamorphosized, but not ended.

Secondly, when the disciples woke up from their sleep, they saw Jesus' glory face to face. For the Christian, death is but the gate of eternal life, and when we wake up, we too will see Jesus' glory face to face. When he has raised us from death by the power of his own resurrection, we shall see him as he is, and we will be changed into his likeness. 1 John 3 says, "When he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is." This is what we pray for in the collect for Evening Prayer when we pray: "O God, grant that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in you and wake up in your likeness" (BCP p. 123). Seeing Christ is what will metamorphosize us. That is what the Christian longs for, waits for: "Vouchsafe to bring us by thy grace to see thy glory face to face" ("O Wondrous Type!" The Hymnal 1982, 136). Jesus' transfiguration was a critical moment in his life. Our death is a transfiguration moment: the moment our life is changed by coming face to face with Christ's glory. It is the moment when, like a child learning to take its first steps, we let go of what is behind, and fall forward into the waiting arms of our heavenly Father. Amen.

THE LIFE OF CHRIST AND THE DEATH OF A LOVED ONE, Barbara G. Schmitz, CSS Publishing Company, 1995, 0-7880-0364-X

INTRO: There was a little girl who walked to her house through the cemetery every day after school. She loved to feel the breeze in her hair and to watch the birds. Sometimes she just threw herself on the rich, green grass, and watched the clouds turn into castles and angels and great white stallions. She loved hearing the birds singing. As she skipped around gravestones, she whistled her favorite tunes and sang songs. At times she knelt down, and read the names and dates on the tombstones, and slid her fingers over the beautiful pieces of granite.
- One day her friends asked her, "Why do you walk through the cemetery every day?"
-She answered, "Because, it’s the way home".

1. I want to express to Reta’s family our deepest sympathy in the
loss of your beloved mother, grandmother and great grandmother.
2. But we are also here to join with you in celebration of her
homecoming! For I believe there is a joyous reunion taking place
between Reta and many friends, relatives, and especially a man
named Glenn. Let alone the warm greeting she is receiving from
her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If heaven is rejoicing, how can
we not also celebrate and rejoice?

Death is our universal fate because of our descent from Adam, but death is not the end - a resurrection follows. Death is the vehicle that takes us home. We should always remember that here on earth we are pilgrims on our way home. Unfortunately many of us call the wrong place home and live our lives as if everything ends here. This place with so many troubles, pain, anguish and hurt cannot be home. The story is told of a missionary who returned to America after spending forty years in China. When the boat docked in New York harbour there was a large crowd waiting to meet their friends and relatives. By the time the old missionary got off the boat the crowd had gone and there was no one to meet him. Tears came to his eyes and he asked the Lord why no one had come to welcome him home. Suddenly, as if in a trance, he found himself lifted up to heavens gates and heard an announcement that he would be returning in a short time. And as he looked he saw Chinese begin to gather at the gate from the north, south, east and west to welcome him; a crowd far greater than the one that had gathered at the harbour. A smile spread across the old missionary’s face when he realized he was not home yet. He had been calling the wrong place home. Have you been calling the wrong place home? We need to be sure we are on our way to heaven. None of us are going to heaven because we have been good and have lived charitable lives. We are going to heaven because Christ died on that cross for us – because He paid the penalty for our sin. For each of us a time is coming when we will step from time and into eternity. But is it eternity with the Lord? We can only be sure when Jesus Christ is our Saviour.
Our departed loved one has gone home to be with the Lord. She has gone to a place where God will wipe away every tear from her eyes. She has gone to a place where there is no more death, pain, sorrow or crying. She has gone to a place where she can enjoy true fulfilment and eternal joy in God’s presence. We here should rejoice that she is in the presence of God. We should rejoice that she now has the opportunity to know God perfectly, to behold the glory of His presence and to thank Him for saving her and bringing her safely home. This is something we should all remember as we look to the days ahead. The grief we feel and all the emotions that go with that grief should draw us closer to Christ. He is concerned about those who are His during this life and in death. He knows about every breath we take, every pain we endure, and every groan we utter. And in death He gives His beloved sleep. We cannot do without sleep and every living thing must have some time for sleep. Sleep during life brings rest and gives new strength for the new day. But after waking we still have the same problems and worries and aches and pains that we had before going to bed. This sleep can never compare with the sleep God gives to His beloved at death. When we go to sleep in Jesus we wake up in heaven where everything is perfect. This sleep belongs to all those who have received Jesus Christ. It is so easy to receive Christ that millions stumble over its sheer simplicity. When we step over from time into eternity will it be to an eternal future with the Lord? We need to be sure because it is not possible to come back to live in time again. We need to make the right choice now by coming to Jesus Christ who has prepared the way for us. He is the only way to the Father in Heaven.
The time we spend here on earth though short determines where we spend eternity. Our eternal home as Christians is with God in heaven and this is why we are gathered here this morning not only to grieve the death of our beloved one, but also to thank God for her life among us and for her eternal life now with Him. We have gathered not only to mourn over how different our lives will be without her, but also to give thanks to God for how full life was when she was in our midst. We have gathered, not only to consider the shortness and uncertainty of life on earth, but to give thanks to God for his gift of eternal life.
Where will you spend eternity? Will it be in the presence of God? Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. I died, and behold I am alive forever more, and I hold the keys of hell and death. Because I live, you shall also live.” Amen!

God is the God of the living and not the dead. Our hope and confidence in the resurrection rests upon the Word of God and His infinite power. To believe the Word of God and to trust in the power of God should change both our beliefs and our behaviour and the way we live. This is what will decide where we spend eternity. Those who reject the revealed truth of God as spoken through his prophets and in these last days through his Son Jesus Christ will spend eternity in lonely torment. Those who place their faith in God and his Son are declared righteous in the sight of God and thus are considered worthy. They will spend eternity in fellowship with God the Father, his Son, and all the saints from every generation. Jesus says, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work. Amen!








READ PSALM 121:1-8

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