The Funeral for Olive Volker

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“The Will of God Fulfilled”
John 6:27-40

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The will of God is being fulfilled.  Jesus said, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I [Myself] will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:39-40, ESV).  Here, despite everything we see with our eyes, this will of our heavenly Father is being fulfilled.  In this world, the whole will of God is inseparable from life and death.  There’s no way around it.  Death comes among us.  It doesn’t matter how old or how young, how healthy or how sick its victim, death is never a welcome visitor.  We want to live forever, and sometimes we act as if we will.  We ignore death and its symptoms and we try to shove it back in its closet where we don’t have to look at it.  But here, today, we face the unavoidable fact: death comes for each of us, because we are all sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.  We have, every one of us, inherited the sin that belonged to our first parents.  Death is the wages of sin, which means that we deserve to be paid for working in the stuff of sin.  The evidence is all around us, and it has now come into our midst.  And we can’t help thinking that it should not be this way.

You are right to think that; it should not be this way.  And in God’s first creation it was not.  Death had no part in that original perfection.  But in God’s own hidden will, He allowed His human creatures the terrible freedom by which they might cross the line of His command.  And God had attached to that command the consequence of its breaking: death would enter His good creation.  So it did: for you are dust, and to dust you shall return (Genesis 3:19).  But that was not the end of God’s will; death would not have the last word.  The last word would be spoken by the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ.  And that last word, the fulfillment of the will of God, is resurrection.  The eternal Son of God took on flesh, the same sort of human flesh that lies here in this casket before us.  He resisted the devil, the world, and the flesh of sinners, and He perfectly fulfilled the holy Law of God, something that we and Olive could never do.  And then, like Olive, He drew His last breath and gave His Spirit into the hands of His Father.  He went to His grave as breathless as Olive went to hers.  But death, the enemy of humans because of sin, could not hold a sinless human who is also God.  This perfect, sinless Man was the one on whom the Father had set His seal (John 6:27); at Jesus’ baptism, the Father said of the Son: This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17).  And even a sealed grave could not hold the Sealed One.  Thus the will of God was fulfilled in His Son, who died but is alive again.  Those who have been joined to Jesus will have the will of God fulfilled in them.

I wish that I had known Olive better, but, beyond that, I have one regret: that on that day she died, I did not bring her Holy Communion, that blessed assurance of sins forgiven.  I told her that I would bring her Communion on Sunday, but I never got the chance.  But I take comfort in this: that Saturday night her soul was received into the presence of her Lord, the same Lord who fed and sustained her with His Body and Blood at this altar.  Even so, her communion with the Lord is not fulfilled.  She waits, with all the souls of the saints, for the will of God to be completed in her.  “This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”  Now this casket is sealed.  Soon her grave will be sealed.  But, as the representative of Jesus Christ in this place, I tell you now: the Father of Jesus Christ has put His holy seal on Olive.  At her baptism, because baptism means to be clothed with Christ, God said of her: This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.  In Christ, God no longer saw her sin, but His own sinless Son.  And no sealed grave can hold one sealed by God in Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Here is the full hope of Christians: that the Risen One will raise those who belong to Him.  Just as the body of Jesus, the Sealed One of God, could not be held by a sealed grave, neither will Olive’s body be held by this sealed grave.  Christ has conquered death and because Olive is in Christ, she, too, has conquered death.  “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5, ESV).  Dear family and friends of Olive Volker, your only hope and comfort is in this fact: Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father.  On the final Day, that Jesus will also raise all bodies from wherever they lie.  Whoever comes to Him because the Father draws them Jesus will never cast out, nor will He lose a single one of His children on whom He has put His Name.  “Everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him [will] have eternal life, and,” He promises, “I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40).  It is clear that Olive was loved by many people.  She was generous and humorous.  To those who loved her, I say this: trust in Jesus Christ alone, as Olive did!  For everyone who believes and is baptized will be saved (Mark 16:16).  Olive is at rest.  When Jesus reunites her body and soul, He will do the same for us, and everyone who trusts in Him will see Him face to glorious Face.  We will one day join with Olive on the recreated earth beneath the recreated heaven, and we will sing with her the everlasting song of the redeemed children of God.  Until that day, she is not so far away from us.  When we gather around the living Christ at His Supper, we join with angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven.  Olive is among that great cloud of witnesses because she is still joined to that same living Christ.  In the comfort of that reality, and in the hope of that great resurrection day, we await our joyful reunion with Olive and all the saints who have gone before us in the presence of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  And thus will the will of God be finally fulfilled.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV).  Amen.

–Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 9/2/08

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