Stop Doubting and Believe


Second Sunday of Easter – April 23, 2017

 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

24Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” 26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 

29Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  30Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:19-31)

Martin Luther once remarked, “The disaster of unbelief began with a small and innocent-looking doubt.” God’s Word shows us so many of those little doubts in the minds of people we cannot possibly count them all. Adam and Eve doubted that they would really die if they ate from the Tree. King David doubted anyone would notice that he committed adultery. And in the New Testament, during Holy Week, Peter doubted that Jesus could protect him – and he denied knowing Jesus.

Doubt is so dangerous because it seems so small, and it seems to make so much sense. That isn’t just true in life. It is also true at death.

One day in Jesus’ ministry, a ruler of a local synagogue named Jairus, was at his wits end. His daughter was sick. In fact, she was dying.

Then, miraculously, Jesus had arrived in town. Although Jairus was a leader of the community, “He fell at Jesus’ feet and pleaded earnestly with him.” This was it. If anyone could help his sick daughter, it was Jesus. After all, Jesus had been healing sick people throughout Israel.

Jairus said the words no parent ever wants to say, “My little daughter is dying Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” Jairus thought they were against the clock now. His daughter could die at any moment. They had to hurry!

But then Jesus stopped in the crowd. He took the time he didn’t seem to have to heal someone else who had come to him. Jairus waited patiently – perhaps more patiently than we would have been if we were waiting for Jesus to heal our dying child.

Then, while Jesus was speaking to the woman he had healed, some men came from Jairus’ house. They told him the news no father would ever want to hear. “Your daughter is dead.” That was it, Jairus thought. In fact, that was the consensus. The men who told him the news also went on to say, “Why bother the teacher anymore?” Why indeed.

In that moment of despair, when everyone around Jairus was telling him it was the end, after he had just lost his daughter to death, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” But how could he? His daughter had died. What else was left?

On Easter Sunday, Jesus’ disciples had the same thoughts and fears and doubts that Jairus had had a year ago. Jesus had been betrayed by one of them! He was captured and crucified. Jesus, the Son of God, died. Their teacher, their leader, their Savior was gone. The disciples thought they would be next so “they locked the doors for fear of the Jews.”

But locked doors are like stones rolled in front of tombs – they never stopped Jesus. On that Easter Sunday, Jesus had risen from the dead. The women had gone to the tomb and seen him alive! Peter and John had found the tomb empty! And two disciples walking to Emmaus actually talked and ate with a man who ended up being Jesus!

And now, “on the evening of that first day of the week…Jesus came and stood among [the disciples].” He said those beautifully fitting words, “Peace be with you!”

Those disciples needed peace. Their inner turmoil, their doubts and fears had paralyzed them. Now came peace. Now came Jesus. To be in that upper room on that first Easter evening must have been a sight to behold. But Thomas missed it.

We don’t know where he was, but we do know what he thought about the event. When the other disciples told Thomas “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas retorted, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” Thomas had responded to Jesus’ resurrection with the words we remember him by – he doubted.

“The disaster of unbelief began with a small and innocent-looking doubt.” How can someone rise from the dead? It doesn’t make sense logically. We don’t see things coming back to life anywhere else in nature or in the world around us. We are trained by this world to “believe things only when we see them.”

Jairus had his doubts a year earlier. If only Jesus had made it to the house when his daughter was sick…now she was dead. Doubt filled the father. But Jesus looked right at him and had said those words, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Jesus took Jairus to his own home. They found his daughter just as they said. Lovingly, Jesus took the girl’s hand and said the words Jairus would remember forever: “Talitha Koum!” It meant “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” Immediately, the girl was alive again!

That power over death Jesus showed in Jairus’ house was just a foretaste of his own resurrection on Easter Sunday. But Thomas couldn’t believe it. One week after Easter, Jesus arrived in the house again. This time Thomas was there. Once again Jesus appeared, saying, “Peace be with you!”

Then he turned right to Thomas and said, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

There is more to Jesus’ words than we can see in our English translation. Jesus literally says to Thomas “Stop being an unbeliever and believe!” That is what is at the core of doubt – unbelief. To put it another way, either you believe in Jesus or you don’t – you doubt. That is why Jesus addresses doubt so strongly. It is one of the most dangerous temptations you and I can face.

Jairus had his doubts about Jesus’ power…until Jesus raised his daughter back to life. Thomas had his doubts about Jesus’ power…until Jesus himself rose again and he could see it with his own eyes. We’ve had our doubts too. Can all of God’s Word be true? Can Jesus really be the right answer in a world of different religions?

Jesus has an answer for that. In the Gospel of John, chapter 20, verse 29, Jesus looks ahead to you. Did you know you are talked about in Scripture? Jesus says to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

By faith, that is you. Don’t let doubt creep in. Don’t let it chip away at your faith. Your Lord has risen. He lives! And until you see him in heaven, let his words give you peace every day, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Amen.

The Sign of Jonah Fulfilled


Easter Sunday – April 4, 2017

He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry. 3 You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. 4 I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ 5 The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. 6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God. 7 “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. 8 Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. 9 But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.” (Jonah 2:2-9)

“Jews demand signs.” That was as true in the Apostle Paul’s day as it was during Jesus’ ministry. One day, “Some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to [Jesus], “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” Do you know what they were getting at? These leaders of the Jews didn’t like what Jesus had been preaching about, and so they wanted to discredit him. In other words, they were saying to Jesus, “Prove it! Prove you are from heaven! Prove you know what you are talking about!”

Of course, Jesus had been proving who he is with miracles throughout his ministry. But it was never enough for the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. They always tried to explain away Jesus’ miracles. Jesus healing a blind man must have been a trick. A lame man walking was probably done using a “stunt double.” And driving out demons? They had a special way of explaining that. “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”

That was why the Pharisees and the teachers came to Jesus demanding a sign. They thought that if he performed a miracle “on command” he would finally be able to “prove” he was really something special. This wasn’t the first time people demanded a sign from Jesus, and it wouldn’t be the last.

Jesus always gave the same answer to these demands for a sign. “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Jesus didn’t come to entertain. And he certainly didn’t come to follow the sinful commands of his enemies. He came to fulfill the sign of the prophet Jonah.

And he goes on to say what that sign was. “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” It seems pretty straight forward. Jonah was in the fish for three days and nights. Jesus will be in the ground for three days.

Those three days and nights in the fish couldn’t have been easy for Jonah. But he deserved it. In the Old Testament, God had told Jonah to go and preach to the city of Nineveh. Jonah didn’t want to. So he sailed in the opposite direction, trying to escape his job and ultimately his Lord. It didn’t work. A storm came up. Jonah went overboard. And the great fish swallowed him.

Talk about a sign! The Lord showed Jonah that he means what he says. If the Lord tells you to do something, you do it. That warning was also true for the Pharisees and the teachers of the Jews. It is true for us, this morning, too.

It sure is tempting to ask God for signs. How do I know if I am doing the right things in life? Should I get a different job or not? Should I marry that person or not? Should I retire or not? Wouldn’t it be nice to have some sort of sign from heaven to answer life’s daily questions? Of course, God doesn’t operate that way. Certainly he could – but he chooses not to. Instead, he gives us his Word, which tells us what he expects – perfection.

There are more pressing questions that we ask. Will this illness end in death? Are my sins really forgiven? Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Where do we turn when those questions arise?

Look no further than the prophet Jonah, who was stuck in the fish with nowhere to run. He said, “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.”

When Jonah felt the guilt of his sins, when he was ready to confess what he had done, he went to the Lord in prayer. Are we any different? Like Jonah, we have questioned what the Lord is doing. We have wondered whether God’s commands are worthwhile. And at times, like Jonah, we have run away from living for the Lord.

We can’t save ourselves from the pit of despair and death. All we can do is cry out for help in the middle of our distress. And like Jonah, the Lord heard us. Jesus came, performing miracles, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind and driving out demons. But all of those signs paled in comparison to the real reason Jesus came.

This past week we saw the extent of Jesus’ love. He came to suffer for our sins, and to die. Or, to use the words of Jonah, Jesus went down to “the depths of the grave.” He was “banished from [God’s] sight.” He let the “waves and breakers [of death] sweep over him.” Jesus died, once for all.

And just when it looked as though “the death beneath [would] bar [him] in forever”, Jesus was raised to life again. Jesus’ resurrection is the one sign that matters. Those he healed during his ministry eventually got other sicknesses. The paralyzed whom Jesus miraculously made walk eventually lost their strength. Even those Jesus raised back to life eventually died again.

But the miracle that stands for all people of all time is that sign of Jonah. “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” We don’t need to ask Jesus for daily signs. He has given you his Word to guide your life. And when difficult decisions do come your way, take them to the Lord in prayer. And trust that no matter what your decisions is, he will continue to work for your good. Of course he will! He died for your sins and rose again. Of course he will be with you always.

You Lord lives. And so will you. The words Jonah spoke in the fish we can say and sing forever: “Salvation comes from the Lord.” Alleluia! Amen.

You Will Not Die But Live


Palm Sunday – April 9, 2017   

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. 2 Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.” 3 Let the house of Aaron say: “His love endures forever.” 4 Let those who fear the Lord say: “His love endures forever.” 5 When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. 6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? 7 The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies. 8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. 9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. 10 All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the Lord I cut them down. 11 They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the Lord I cut them down. 12 They swarmed around me like bees, but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them down. 13 I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me. 14 The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. 15 Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: “The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things! 16 The Lord’s right hand is lifted high; the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!” 

17 I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done. 18 The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death. 19 Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. 20 This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter. 21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. 22 The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 23 the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad. 25 Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. 27 The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine on us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. 28 You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you. 29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. (Psalm 118)

“After every redemption that came to Israel, enslavement followed.” A Jewish rabbi wrote those words before Jesus was born. As we look at the Old Testament, we can see he was on to something. Years after God saved Jacob’s family from famine in Egypt, the Egyptian enslaved the Israelites.

Once God saved the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, they found themselves complaining in the wilderness about food and water. They were attacked by nations on their way to the Promised Land. As soon as God saved his people from those enemies and helped the conquer the Promised Land, other enemies arose and threatened to enslave Israel. After a whole host of wicked kings the Lord finally sent his people into captivity. Indeed, “After every redemption that came to Israel, enslavement followed.”

But it wasn’t just physical enslavement Israel needed to watch out for. Spiritual enslavement threatened them even more. After God saved the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, they made a golden calf to worship. After God conquered the Promised Land for the Israelites, they worshiped idols. Israel continued to enslave themselves to sin.

Psalm 118 speaks of that slavery. The writer describes how Israel continued to sit precariously on the edge of destruction. “All the nations surround me…on every side…They swarmed around me like bees…I was pushed back and about to fall.” Physical and spiritual slavery seemed imminent. Israel needed deliverance.

On this very day, April 9, in 1865, our nation thought they had fixed the problem of slavery. You see, April 9, 1865 was also Palm Sunday, and on this day General Robert E. Lee surrendered his forces to the Union Commander, Ulysses S. Grant. But the problem of slavery wasn’t solved. Physical slavery continued to be a problem. Americans continued to turn against one another. They still do today.

Nations still struggle to try and obliterate physical slavery. Yet spiritual slavery continues to run rampant. The world continues to be slaves sin, chasing after everything that doesn’t matter. Sinful nature continues to look out for itself rather than others. And the devil daily tries to get us bound up in his eternal shackles.

That spiritual slavery threatens us, too. We struggle with our sinful wants and desires. And everyday we fall in to that sin. Spiritual slavery isn’t just a problem for others. Jesus reminds us, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” Even us.

That’s where this Old Testament psalm looks to a New Testament answer. Psalm 118 calls it like it is. Israel was a nation of sinners in need of a Savior. We are sinners in need of a Savior, too. This Psalm looked ahead to the royal coming of that Savior, and it did so in a memorable way.

Psalm 118 was to be spoken responsively, either between the priest and the people, or between two groups of the people. This always took place at the temple. It had to. Only the priests were allowed in the inner sanctuary of the temple.

But the words of this psalm looked ahead to an important and beautiful day in Israel’s history. Even in the midst of enemy nations, even when Israel was about to fall down forever, the psalm writer confidently states, “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”

He goes on. “Shouts of joy and victory resound int he tents of the righteous: ‘The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!’” The Lord certainly had. He had saved Israel from Egypt, from rebellions within and enemy nations without.

But Psalm 118 takes it another step further. It says to God, “You have become my salvation.” That salvation was coming. In fact, we see him today riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he fulfilled a whole host of prophecies. The prophet Zechariah prophesied in our first lesson: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey.”

Psalm 118 says to “Open the gates” and told the people “with boughs in hand, join in the festal procession.” And then we heard the very words of our psalm shouted by the people on Palm Sunday, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” And most memorable of all, “O Lord, save us.” We say that as one word: “Hosanna!”

As Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the people’s words were fulfilling Psalm 118. And they knew it. They had been waiting for centuries for their Savior and redeemer to enter through those gates. They had been waiting, “in their anguish”, for the Lord to finally answer them.

Jesus came, answering every question and fulfilling every prophecy. He rode in humbly, gently and peaceably. He rode on to die. The prophetic shouts of Sunday would soon give way to the angry cries on Friday, “Crucify him!” The crowds that lovingly surrounded Jesus on this Palm Sunday would give way to his vengeful enemies, who would “surround him on every side” and “swarm around him like bees.” He wasn’t just “pushed back and about to fall”, Jesus allowed himself to die.

What that rabbi said was true, “After every redemption that came to Israel, enslavement followed.” But that isn’t where it ends. He continued, “But from now on no enslavement will follow.” How could he say that? Because this Psalm 118 points to Christ’s death for our sins, once for all.

It seems that some in the crowds on Palm Sunday genuinely understood that. Do we? Yes, by faith those words of the psalmist are now our song: “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”

There are over 30,000 verses in the Bible. And of all of them, verse 17 of Psalm 118 was Martin Luther’s favorite. This morning, on Palm Sunday, I think we can see why. It reminds us why Christ rode in to Jerusalem, why he suffered and why he died. He did all that to save you.

“I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.” Amen.

Faith Is A Matter Of Life And Death


Fifth Sunday in Lent – April 2, 2017

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. 2 Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. 3 The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow. 4 Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!” 5 The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. 6 The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me. 7 Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. 8 For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, 9 that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

10 I trusted in the Lord when I said, “I am greatly afflicted”; 11 in my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.” 12 What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me? 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. 14 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. 15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants. 16 Truly I am your servant, Lord; I serve you just as my mother did; you have freed me from my chains. 17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord. 18 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, 19 in the courts of the house of the Lord—in your midst, Jerusalem. Praise the Lord. (Psalm 116)

Of all the nations of the earth, Egypt has experienced the best of power and wealth and the worst of pain and suffering. It seems that Egypt was one of the first kingdoms to be established after the flood. Along the dependable Nile River the people of Egypt found life in the middle of a dead desert. Egypt’s grand, ancient pyramids towered over people long before even Abraham was born. Everyone from Alexander the Great, to Julius Caesar to Napoleon has tried to find Egypt’s treasures, hidden away for thousands of years.

But Egypt has also experienced some of the lowest moments in human history. The famine that occurred in Joseph’s day may have been the worst in history. After King David came along, Egypt stopped winning wars and started losing them. The Greeks took her over, then the Romans, and then the Arabs. Christians have been persecuted in Egypt perhaps more than anywhere else. The crusades destroyed entire areas of Egypt. And in the twentieth century, Egypt has only known war, and destruction, rebellion and sadness.

So when did Egypt’s fortunes change? When did this grand and ancient civilization fall apart? It all happened in the worst series of events in the nation’s history. In the Old Testament, God’s people, the Israelites, became so numerous in Egypt that the Egyptians decided to enslave them. The Israelites cried out to the Lord, and the Lord sent Moses to perform 10 plagues to break Pharaoh’s hold on Israel. Water turned to blood. Frogs and then flies, locusts and gnats ransacked Egypt. Hail rained down from the sky. Boils covered both people and animals. And thick darkness covered everything else.

And at the end of it all, came the worst plague any nation would experience…ever. The Lord said through Moses, “About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave.” This final plague on Egypt would be so complete and so sad that God says, “There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again.”

It happened just as God said it would. The first born son of every Egyptian family died. And for that night, the worst Egypt’s history, death reigned. “Evildoers foster rebellion against God; the messenger of death will be sent against them.”

Then, in the middle of the night, as death hung over everyone, as wailing could be heard throughout Egypt, Pharaoh summoned Moses and said these final words to him: “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go!”

On that night, the Egyptians learned all too late that “Death is the destiny of everyone.” That is especially true for those who stand against the Lord. But the proverb doesn’t end there. “Death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.”

It is easy to forget about death. After all, who wants to dwell on that sadness? Who wants to be daily haunted by the inevitability of life? No wonder our culture has tried to remove all semblance of death! Death is moved to out-of-the-way hospital rooms. Funeral homes are hidden away in building that look like houses so people aren’t scared of what goes on. Death certainly isn’t talked about, and perhaps it isn’t even thought about.

And yet try as we may, we can’t avoid death. The psalm writer’s words might as well be ours. “The cords of death entangle me, and the anguish of the grave found me; I find trouble and sorrow.” Death is coming, and it is coming for you. Do you remember why? The wages of our sins mean death. We heard in our second lesson that “If you live according to the sinful nature, you will die.” That’s not just true physically, that’s true eternally.

The writer of Psalm 116 understood that. He understood death surrounds us all. He understood there is no escape from death. No wonder he cried out, “Ah, Lord, please save my life!”

But the psalm writer also understood that he was not alone. In fact, Israel was never alone. Even when death covered Egypt on that awful night, God kept Israel safe. God’s Word tells us that while the sons of Egypt were dying, “The Lord kept vigil that night to bring [the Israelites] out of Egypt.”

The Lord kept vigil. That word comes from the Latin, and it literally means “awake.” While the sleep of death washed over everyone else, the Lord remained awake. In our sanctuary, that constant, eternal vigil of the Lord is represented by the eternal flame candle. God’s vigil meant Israel’s physical salvation.

But what of their spiritual salvation? What of the enemies of sin, the devil, and even death? How would they be defeated and destroyed? That would take far more than plagues. It took our Lord and Savior becoming a human, like we are. It took Jesus willingly walking to the cross and suffering on that cross. It took death. On that cross Jesus, the Son of God, let death wash over him. There was no vigil that night. Darkness hung over the world.

By his death on the cross, Jesus won eternal life for you. He defeated all your enemies: the devil, our sinful nature, and even death itself, so that you and I can say, “For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.”

And here is how that changes your life. Jesus died for you and rose again so “That I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” Live this life for the Lord, serving him and serving one another in love.

Yes, death is coming. It is inevitable. But because of Jesus’ victory over death, we don’t have to be afraid of it. We know what comes immediately after death – eternal life. That is why a Christian funeral can be a joyous occasion. For you and me, and all those who have lived their lives in faith and now rest with the Lord, we have a sure and certain hope.

May these words of the psalmist continue to give you eternal comfort, even in the face of death: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.” Amen.