In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
I only knew Elsie these last 3 or so years, so I did not know her in her prime, but her rye sort of smile when you’d ask her how she was doing and she’d say, “I’m getting by,” and her commitment to her faith in Jesus Christ, and the comfort she got from Jesus have made an impact on us all.
She chose these Gospel readings today as some favourites that not only gave her comfort, but she hoped would give comfort to all of you as you carry on in your lives without her physical presence with you. And so these readings from the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. John are worth pondering. So let’s take them each in turn.
The longest one today was from Christ our Lord on the night in which He was betrayed. (John 14:1-6) At His Last Supper He spoke these words: Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, Believe also in Me. For he knew they would be troubled. Later that evening He would be arrested, put through a rushed, kangaroo court of a trial, brutally tortured, and the next day publicly crucified. In under 24 hours He knew He would suffer horribly and be dead. And death always shocks us, even when it is expected, let alone when it comes suddenly like that. He knew his disciples would be troubled, scandalized, their faith in Him would nearly be broken by those events. Just as your faith may be sorely tested and tried by any of the events you experience in life, for it doesn’t matter how charmed your life is, when adversity comes, it strikes each of us differently. And the smallest thing can tip you over the edge into unbelief. Elsie took comfort in these words of Jesus: believe in God. Believe also in Me. For to believe in God is to believe in Jesus. That Jesus is the most important thing that God wants you to know about Himself. Sure, if God exists He is all powerful. But it is terrifying to believe in an all powerful God who is at the helm of this world with all of the evil human beings do to each other, and then the fierce destruction that we see the forces of nature bring down on us from time to time. Apart from Jesus, God is a terror. Elsie knew this. Believe in God. Believe also in Me, Jesus. For Jesus’ death, through gruesome and terrible was an atoning death. A wonder working death. For Jesus said, that by His death He went to His Father, to His Father’s eternal kingdom, which is not part of this world. A Kingdom in which there is no more death, nor suffering, in which, Jesus by His death prepares and opens a place for you. For Jesus’ blood had to be shed. Why? Because of what we humans do to each other and to the world. Even if you are not part of the mass murder and genocide that has happened throughout history, you and I have often stood idly by, we have often stood on the sidelines, doing nothing, saying nothing, being too afraid that evil forces might come after us too. We are not innocent, we are too often self-serving, self-seeking. We do wrong, in thought, in words, in inaction, let alone in the small and large ways we hurt each other day by day. And so, the blood of the perfect Son of God pays the price of your sins. This is why there is comfort in believing in Jesus.
For God, loved the world in this way, that He gave His only begotten Son as the price that would pay for the cosmic injustice of this world, that each of us has contributed to. So that whoever believes that Jesus has indeed paid your price has salvation. (John 3:16) Has strength in Jesus. This, dear ones, is the strength, the steel that Elsie had. She believed in Jesus Christ. That His blood prepared a place for her, made a place for her, despite her flaws, despite her inadequacies, despite whatever sins or failings she had, His blood covered over all her sins, also that she now stands righteous before Him, clothed in a robe dipped in the blood of Jesus in that great gathering before His throne in His eternal kingdom.
Those who don’t believe in Jesus often cynically say that this is just fairietales, wishful thinking. But consider the outcome of such “wishful thinking”. Consider Elsie’s life, her faith, her constant and firm and assuring presence in your life. What was her rock? What was her comfort? It was Jesus Christ.
And when she was distressed she came unto Jesus in prayer. She cast all her anxieties on Him, so that in faith He placed his yoke of guidance on her. (Matt. 11:28-30) He lashed her together, with Himself. For that’s what a yoke does. The lead ox bears the burden, and the subsequent ox simply pull in the same direction as the lead ox. SO that as long as your are pulling in the same direction as the lead ox, your burden is easy and light. And that’s what Jesus does for all who in faith walk with Him, and listen to His voice. He gives you comfort. He gives you rest in the weariness of this world. He guides and protects you, bearing the burden of God’s righteous wrath against wickedness, even including our own own breaking of His will, and He pours that out on Jesus, our burden bearer, so that you are blessed in this life, and especially in the next with His comfort and peace that passes understanding. So that the Christian, just like Elsie, has a strength, a joy, a resilience that surpasses the understanding of mortal men, so that they are people of character, peace, joy, just like Elsie our dear sister in Christ.
So do not be troubled, dear Christians baptized into Christ. Believe in God, believe especially in Jesus. For in Him you have the supernatural peace and faith that He has triumphed over all things, and that in Him, you will see Elsie again in His eternal mansions, which He has prepared for you above.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.