In the name fo the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Dear friends in Christ, all is gift. That’s the message of those blessings which Christ our Lord proclaimed (Matt. 5:1-12), and which the author of Ecclesiastes taught (Eccl. 3:1-14). All is gift. And in Christian faith we know this. We believe this. Tillie knew this. She believed it. How else do you suppose that she always had a smile and that mischievous grin? How else did such a serene soul stay so serene while living with such strong minded people as John and Lisa, except that she knew that all, everything, each experience of life, even those which seem evil—and indeed which are evil—are gifts. For Christ our Lord, who suffered the cross and its shame for you, has redeemed even the evil which people do to you, and the random happenstance of life which seems to make existence itself seem meaningless. In Christ our Lord we can confess and have confidence that all is gift. (Rom. 8:32)
Which means that there is a time for everything. (Eccl. 3:1) A time for the Lord to give and a time for the Lord to take away. (Job 1:21) And in all of it blessed be the name of the Lord. For He who formed your inward being in your mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13-14), who has numbered every hair on your head (Matt. 10:30), knows all that happens to you. (139:1-6) He does not delight in the evil we humans do to each other. Nor the corruption of His good creation which causes so much suffering in this world. People shout at the Lord and blame Him for that which happens in life, saying, “If He is so good, if He is so almighty, why did He let this evil thing happen?” Frankly, I don’t know the answer to that, nor am I here to defend God. But He has not stood idly by in the midst of this fallen creation. He has sent His Son, Jesus Christ, the one who pours out blessing, by taking all evil into Himself and nailing it to a cross. (Rom. 8:31-32) Putting it to death in Himself, so that He can pour out His unmitigated mercy and love on you who do not deserve it. (Rom. 8:33-34)
That is what it means to believe that all is gift from our heavenly Father’s hand. And when trouble comes, when evil strikes, when your heart is rent asunder with grief or pain, He stands beside you. Shepherding you through the valley of the shadow of death. (Ps. 23:1-4) And you shall fear no evil. For your Good Shepherd is with you. He guides you. He comforts you. He feeds you from His own table with the joyous food of heaven. (Ps. 23:5)
He does it in the circumstances of life, nudging you this way and that. Sending people into your life as gifts, even at times as gifts in the form of trials to be born so that your character is tested and formed, and purified like precious metal. (Rom. 5:3-5; 8:28) And He pours out His love and His mercy upon you also by those gifts of people. Family. Friends. Co-workers. Even through the society you live in though, though many times your society is a trial to be born too. But most importantly, the Lord gives, and gives, and gives us the sort of peace Tillie had through His own Son’s holy, precious blood and innocent suffering and death. He Himself has received from His Father’s hand both joy and suffering. The unmitigated joy of going to the cross (Heb. 12:2) to secure for Himself the salvation of all souls who have ever lived and ever will, so that through faith in Jesus you might have everlasting life in His eternal kingdom where you will live in righteousness, innocence and blessedness. But that same cross was an eternal suffering for Him who is the Eternal God in human flesh. For the cross is that place where all the injustice and evil which has ever occurred on this sorry sod was expunged in that six hours that the eternal Son of God hung there. In Christ’s flesh suffering finds meaning and is redeemed. (Rom. 8:28, 34-35, 38-39)
Joy and sorrow. These are the things of life. These too are gifts from our heavenly Father’s hand. So that in the midst of them there is nothing better than to be joyful and do good. (Eccl. 3:12-13) To eat, drink, and take pleasure in your toil on behalf of others, and on behalf of this world. For what better thing do you have to do with your life anyway?
And this is the gift that God poured out on us through Tillie. A life well lived. A constant smile for everyone. A peaceful presence in all circumstances, even in the many hospital stays of the last years. She had this, because her own sinful flesh with its natural resentments and hostilities was drowned in the waters of Holy Baptism and that new person of faith and hope was born in that water by the blessed name of the Lord. (Rom. 6:3-4; Matt. 28:19) And through the years that Baptismal grace was sustained and refreshed in her by eating the life-giving body and blood of Jesus Christ at this altar, over and over again. And even in these last years, in the hospital and at home when I brought her the body and blood of our Lord. For Christ, her Lord, indeed gave her His peace which passes understanding. (Phil. 4:7) Just as I pray He gives you such peace now, even in a season where the Lord has taken away a blessed gift He gave to so many through Tillie. Blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21)
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.