Funeral sermon for Rebecca Lynn Schoenke
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Life – in all its forms, is beautiful. Yet, at the same time, life can be ugly – life in this world can by hard. This is a truth that we do not often like to admit to, yet so very often plays out before our very eyes. Life is hard, and yet at the very same time it is beautiful.
Becky’s life was both beautiful and hard at the same time.
We are here today because the beautiful life of Becky – a person loved by God, redeemed by the blood of Jesus has ended. She has fought the good fight, she has finished her race, and in the end, she held on to the truth that in the midst of the sorrows and suffering of this earthly life, Jesus, her savior loves her, forgives her, and has carried her home in His arms, where she now lives in the fulfillment of the promise Jesus made to her in the waters of Baptism. When Jesus put His cross on her, and made her His own by the washing of rebirth and renewal in the work of God the Holy Spirit.
To Becky’s family and friends – grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today, as we reflect on Becky’s life, and attempt to make sense of her death we are invited by Jesus to reflect on His words from the Gospel of John – words that are probably the most known, most memorized words of the Bible – “For God so loved the World, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
These are, undoubtedly beautifully comforting words. That God, the creator of all things so loves you that He would sacrifice His only begotten Son on the cross of your sin that you may not be lost forever in sin and death, is the highest expression of love. For it is the love of our Savior who gives everything. First, in creating us, and second in making us new by the sacrifice of Jesus. By the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Sacrifice is the highest expression of love.
Something a mother, like Becky, knew very well. Sacrifice for the sake of family.
Now – I can tell you, without a doubt that Becky believed in Jesus. As she battled cancer, a terrible disease, she fought knowing that her eternal life was secure, for Jesus’ blood was shed for her. With her mouth she ate and drank the body and blood of Jesus, given and shed for her, for the forgiveness of all her sins, that she may focus, not on wondering if God loves her, or worried that she may go to hell if she died – she knew Jesus wouldn’t send her there, for His love covered all her sin. Rather, because of Jesus’ love for her, Becky was able to focus on the things that mattered to her in this life.
A question I often ask those I have the privilege of caring for near the end of this earthly life, a question I asked Becky in the face of her own fight with cancer was “Are you afraid to die?”
Becky’s answer was very revealing about where her heart and faith were at that time. She said no……. and yes.
Becky wasn’t afraid to die in that she knew, because Jesus told her, that she would not be condemned for her sins. Jesus came into the world not to condemn us in our sin, but to rescue us from it. This Becky knew by faith, and now knows by sight. She, along with St. Paul, and all the baptized saints of Jesus confessed that “To live is Jesus, and to die is gain.”
Her fear of dying then was not for herself. Rather, her fear was centered on those left living here on earth – her family – “The kids” – and her friends. As it is with many of us, she was guilty of believing if she were to leave, then the rest of us would all fall to pieces.
Actually, what this shows is that Becky had a keen sense of what was of most importance in life. First, faith and trust in Jesus, and second, love for our neighbor – love, care, and concern for her family.
The reason there is beauty in this life – the reason Becky’s life was beautiful – the reason your life is beautiful is all of us are created by a loving God. Each person intimately woven together as we grew in the wombs of our mothers, and throughout all of our lives. The Bible reminds us that we are created in the image and likeness of God. That is, Christ Jesus has put Himself into each of us that we may reflect to one another the love God has for us. A love that leads to sacrifice for the sake of the other. A love which finds its full expression in the cross and resurrection of Jesus.
The reason then that there is harshness, ugliness, and death in the word, in our lives is because of sin. What God created to be very good was ruined by our insistence to be our own gods. To decide for ourselves what is good and bad. At its heart, ugliness in life is nothing short of selfishness – putting yourself, what you want, above the needs and considerations of others.
It is this sin that is manifested by things like cancer. Things that eat and destroy our bodies and souls. Things that mar the beauty of God as seen in every human face with the scowl of self-centeredness. The Bible puts it this way, “For the wages of sin is death.” Sin destroys. Sin divides. Sin kills.
But Jesus came, not to condemn the world, not to condemn you. Truth be told, we are pretty good at condemning one another and ourselves all on our own. Rather, Jesus came that we may, in Him, find shelter. Find rest and peace in knowing that our sins are forgiven by His blood. That we may be rescued by Jesus. Baptized into His cross Becky has been raised with Jesus. And even though we are here today because Becky has died – her ashes a reminder of the harshness of this sin filled world, we know by what Jesus says in His Word, that death does not get to have the last word. Not today, not ever.
Yes – Becky died, but she died knowing and trusting in an eternal truth. Jesus loves her. Jesus forgives her. Jesus has taken her to Himself.
By baptism into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit you too have died. You who by faith hear and trust the Word of Jesus are pinned by nails to the cross – for that is where Jesus was, crucified and dead on the cross. And really – this is all we need in the face of death – this truth that all those who trust in Christ, the resurrected Savior, who seek from Him, from His Word His life giving absolution – His forgiveness given by baptism and faith – this reality, born of faith in Christ, received in the waters of baptism is all we need when our loved ones die. For real comfort in the face of death is found only in Jesus. Found only in His Word.
By baptism and faith Becky, who we today both mourn and celebrate, is now at peace and rest with Jesus, even as Becky is no longer with us here on earth. Jesus’ victory is sure and true, even when life here on earth speaks a different word.
Today we shed tears at the loss of a dearly loved woman of God. Yet this is not the end. As Baptized people of God, we are an Easter people. Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. As Christ Jesus lives, never to die again, so Becky now lives in heaven with her Savior, never to die again. As Jesus lives, so we live in faith. Our hope is in this amazing love shown to us in the body of Jesus as He sprung back to life.
Joined to our dear Savior, Becky, and all who place their trust in Jesus will spring to life and be united together in the peace of heaven.
As we lay to rest a beloved Daughter, mom, grandma, and friend we do so in the sure hope that we will see her again. We do so with tears of joy that her trials are ended, her suffering is over, and that she is truly at peace with God.
As Jesus lives, so we too will live. As Jesus was raised from the dead, so too will all who trust by faith in Jesus be raised, and we will stand with Job, with Becky, and all the faithfully departed and see Jesus with our very own eyes! Amen.