20. December 2022
Funeral of Beverly C. Depies
Isaiah 11:1-10; Revelation 22:1-6; Luke 1:67-79
My brothers and sisters in Christ—Gregory, Gary, Garrett, Geoffrey, spouses, grandchildren; brothers and sisters—grace, mercy, and peace are yours in Christ Jesus the LORD. Amen.
Our LORD Jesus has kept all His advent promises for Bev. He came to her to make her His own in Holy Baptism. After being born at home amid a snowstorm, Jesus gave her new life again at home through the water and the Word. Jesus came and stayed with her daily in His Word, just as He promised. Jesus came and nurtured and sustained Bev’s trust by feeding her with His body and blood. And now Jesus has given Bev a holy death, and we will lay her to rest in hopeful expectation of the resurrection and new life when He comes again on the last day. Our LORD Jesus has kept all His advent promises for Bev.
The promise of the resurrection of the body was a particular comfort for Bev. For more than 25 years, Bev has struggled with M.S., acutely suffering the debilitating effects of the disease and the slow decline of her body. That body the LORD gave her, born in the snowstorm and reborn by Baptism, was slowly decaying under the weight of sin’s effect. It was a little easier as her beloved Ron was by her side as a caregiver. But it’s been a challenging, daily struggle for the last five years.
She suffered but was not despairing but trusting that the good work God had begun in her would reach its completion in the LORD’s day. The LORD may not have removed the death sentence of M.S., but He daily promised the life sentence of the resurrection, as she confessed, “I believe in… the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” Her hope was always that that new life given to her baptism by promise would be realized fully on the day of resurrection.
But not just Bev’s body was held captive to disease leading to death. St. Paul says, “that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.”
The subjection to futility and the groaning of the whole creation is something that this parish knows better than those I’ve served in suburban Indiana or urban Chicago. The farmer’s life is a constant struggle, not just with the thorns and thistles of Adam’s curse but with rising costs, erratic weather, labor shortages, and breeding failures. I expect daily life’s struggle was acutely known on the Depies farm. Sometimes I’m sure Ron, Bev, and all four sons collapsed after a long day’s work and let out the kind of groan that Paul talks about. We hope for a better, but life often seems like futility.
But wrapped up in our hope of the resurrection of the body is also the hope for the new heaven and earth, as the holy city Jerusalem and the new Eden. Bev’s love for horses reflects that not everything of the first Eden was lost. The original gift of dominion and stewardship of creation is part of our nature. Raising and breaking in a horse to be ridden is far from easy. But we are restoring in part creation to something like what we would have experienced in Eden, although now through hard work and effort. The animals can be trained to listen and obey, but it doesn’t come easy. We can imagine that at the beginning, these animals, like the plants, followed Adam’s word as if it were the Word of God that made them and sustained them. Bev loved horses because, in them, she saw a little piece of heaven, incomplete and dim but still a glorious creature God had made for both His and our delight and pleasure.
The Rod from the stem of Jesse, the branch that grew out of his roots, is Jesus, as we sang in our hymn. In Jesus, we are ransomed from our captivity and free from our lonely exile. In Jesus, Satan’s tyranny is broken. In Jesus, we have salvation and victory over the grave. In Jesus, the key of David, the doors of heaven are open, and the path to heaven, away from all suffering, pain, and sorrow, is made safe. In Jesus, the dark clouds of these gray and latter days are dispersed, and even the long shadow of death is put to flight.
And in Jesus, we have the promise of a new heaven and new earth, Eden restored. As Isaiah foretold, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; Their young ones shall lie down together, And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den” (Isaiah 11:6-8).
And is it too hard to imagine that the unbridled stallion or mare will kneel to be ridden by Bev, resurrected and whole again? She will go galloping along the river of water of life, clear as crystal. She and all creation will rejoice in the salvation of the Lamb (Jesus) on His throne. And as she rides down the middle of the streets, she will see the tree of life, bearing its twelve fruits and leaves for the healing of the nations. There will be no more curses. No more M.S. No more obstinate animals. No more land that refuses to yield its fruit.
The hope and promise of God’s covenant promise to you, His people, is the resurrection of the body and heaven. And that heaven for you and Bev is full of life, physical life abundantly furnished and supplied by God. The clear biblical promise is that the present earth, which is suffering God’s judgment and thus is wasting away, will be restored to its original state—even as Bev and all God’s people will have their bodies restored in the resurrection so that they will be like Christ’s own glorious resurrection body (Phil 3:21).
While Scripture gives you such beautiful glimpses of the age to come, the fullness of its glory is beyond our ability to comprehend now, for “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor 2:9). Still, these things have been revealed to you by the Spirit in the promises of your Baptism, His Gospel, and His Sacrament. God promises, “Behold! I make all things new!” (Rev 21:5). What He promises He does for you and for Bev and all those who wait for His reappearing.
My brothers and sisters in Christ—Gregory, Gary, Garrett, Geoffrey, spouses, grandchildren; brothers and sisters—Now Jesus has given Bev rest from her labors, and we will lay her to rest in hopeful expectation of the resurrection and new life when He comes again on the last day. He has given Bev “ the mercy promised to our fathers And [remembered] His holy covenant” for her. Our LORD Jesus has kept all His advent promises for Bev. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin