51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Here ends our text.
Don, Donna, Gail, family and friends, it is no mystery why we are gathered here today. Today, we lay to rest our beloved sister in Christ, Elsie. For us all, death really isn’t much of a mystery. Because of our sinful nature, we live and we die. Man’s mortality rate is 100%. As much as we would like to see happen otherwise, death is inevitable. Elsie was not immune to death. She too suffered death, but only a physical death.
Paul speaks in our text of a mystery. This is the mystery: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” That statement was one that some in the early Church had a problem grasping. They too knew that death was inevitable and that one day, they would succumb to it. Unfortunately for some, they truly believed that death was the end. What a tragedy that was for them! These were Christians, those who confessed Christ and still didn’t believe in the resurrection. Praise be to God, Elsie was not like some in the early Church. She was a sinner, and not just any sinner. She was a sinner who was damned because of her sin, and she knew it! She knew that she deserved death and hell. Yet she also knew that on account of Christ and His life, death, and resurrection, He declared her to be not guilty and gave to her the forgiveness of her sins. Not only that, she knew that when she died, she would rise again to everlasting life because of Jesus. This was her hope, a victory made possible through Jesus Christ, God’s own Son.
Christ lived a sinless and perfect life in order that man would be saved and have everlasting life through Him. That means that Christ lived a sinless and perfect life in order that you would be saved and have everlasting life through Him. Elsie knew that because of Christ, she would be saved and have everlasting life. All those years ago at the font, when the pastor spoke those Gospel words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Elsie’s life was forever changed. There, she died a spiritual death in the waters of Holy Baptism and all sin that she would ever commit was forgiven.
This was accomplished for you and for Elsie solely on account of Jesus. He lived, He died, and He rose again to provide this victory. It is not accomplished by a person’s life or accomplishments. It’s not accomplished by virtue of whether or not you were a good person. This salvation that Elsie received was granted apart from her. The salvation that Jesus grants to you is given to you apart from you. The reason why it does not and cannot depend on you is because you are dead. St. Paul says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ….”
Even though we are dead in our trespasses and sins, we have new life in Christ. It is granted to us without our doing anything or working for it. As Martin Luther writes, “All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.” It is because Christ lives, we too shall live. It is because Christ lives, Elsie lives too.
This victory over sin and death is all according to God’s plan. As soon as Adam and Eve sinned, God began His plan for redeeming man. That plan involved one thing and only one thing: Jesus. It involved Jesus for Elsie. It involved Jesus for you. When Christ rose from the dead, God’s plan was completed. The reason why all this was done is because of the love that God has for His creation, for you. This victory that Christ has won is meant for God’s people. It is God’s will that all men come to faith and be saved. He does not want to see any perish, but have everlasting life.
That is why Christ was sent into this world, in order to save this world. The world wasn’t saved because it was good, because it was far from it. All one needs to do is read through the Scriptures to see just how corrupt mankind truly is. God punished Adam and Eve by kicking them out of the Garden of Eden. God flooded the earth because it was so sinful. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because they were so sinful. Mankind is inherently sinful and there is nothing redeemable about us, yet God chose to send His Son to live and to die to redeem us.
Out of love for His creation, God sent Jesus. It surely wasn’t because of anything on the part of man. It wasn’t on account of anything that Elsie did in her life. She knew that about herself. She knew that she was a condemned and damned sinner who deserved hell, but on account of Jesus, she knew that she was forgiven. She knew that she was forgiven because Jesus died for her sins. She knew that she would never be able to achieve salvation on her own and she solely relied upon Jesus to grant to her the forgiveness of sins which she so desperately needed, something which you and I so desperately need.
For those of us who remain, there will indeed be sorrow today, for an important part of our lives has been taken away from us: a wife, a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother, and a friend. For as much sorrow as we might express, we should express an equal amount of joy in knowing that our Lord has called Elsie to be with Him. Our joy lies in knowing that one day, we too shall gaze upon the face of Jesus when we enter that heavenly paradise which Christ has prepared for us with His own blood shed for the forgiveness of our sins. Our joy lies in knowing that one day, we shall gaze upon the face of our sainted sister Elsie, who has received that glorified and perfect body. While we mourn today, we look to that joy that we have forever because of Christ, a joy in knowing that we will be with those who have died in the faith, but more importantly, a joy where we will be with Him. Don, Donna, Gail, look to Jesus, for He alone can give victory, a victory that He has granted to Elsie and a victory that He grants to you as well. Amen.