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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.
(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.
"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.
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