2 Tim 4:6-8 ... the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
You never know what a spring day in Iowa will bring. Its one of those things for which it is necessary that you be prepared for anything. Our Lord has said similar things about always being prepared, Iím not certain we always take them to heart. He said to be prepared to meet him at any time, and give an account of your life.
While I didnít know Viola well, I do know that she was prepared to meet her Lord, she often told me about that. I guess in a real sense, I was the one who was not prepared, for I kind of thought that she would be greeting me at the nursing home for many more years. Her cheerful voice of greeting often carried across the room, or down the hall, and it seemed that she often had a story to tell, usually they had something to do with the grace of God in Jesus Christ and salvation. She knew the way to heaven, and she was ready to go home to be with Jesus. But if God didnít come today, that would be OK, ....
While the calendar says spring, somehow it doesnít look much like it. Part of it may be the snow on the ground, and part of it may be the somber season we are in, for Lent is a time of penitence and preparation. Once Easter comes, well then its probably Spring. And that would be the one thought that I believe the Viola would want you all to be considering. Easter is coming, the feast of the Resurrection, Jesus who died for our sins, risen from the dead, and in him our sins are forgiven and we too are given the hope and the promise of the resurrection.
How does this come to us, well, we all know the scripture, Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Someone has to tell us the law, so we can repent of our sins, and the someone tells us the good news of forgiveness and everlasting life in Jesus Christ. In a very real sense that is why we are all here, to hear the good news, and to be tellers of the good news.
You see salvation isnít a personal thing. It may be true that you cannot believe for anyone else, but faith is not meant to be just between you and God. By grace through faith in the water of Baptism, we become the children of God, part of Godís family, and so faith is a family thing, we are joined by the other children of God to strengthen, encourage, and accompany one another on our path together to the place Jesus has prepared for us.
I was glad for the time God gave me, to share the journey with Viola. I was glad for her bold and fearless confession of faith. I was glad for her smile and her stories. But I am also glad that she has received that crown of life which the Lord promises to all who remain faithful, even unto death. I am glad that, though I will morn her absence, I can rejoice in the resurrection, the hope of glory, and thought of a reunion with all who have died in faith in Christ Jesus.
The seed is sown in the ground, but new life rises. The hope of the resurrection, and the assurance of the forgiveness of sins is the comfort God brings to us. For us there is still time to turn from our sins and to turn to God. For us there is still time to prepare to meet the Lord Jesus, for He is coming again. For us there is still time to speak words of encouragement to those who journey with us on the way to Heaven. For us there is still time to thank God for each new day, knowing that each day, is a day that God has filled with opportunity and hope, blessing and promise.
For us there is time to comfort one another with the good news of Jesus Christ, and the hope of the resurrection. But now is the time when we say good-bye to our sister in faith who sleeps in Jesus. God has blessed her these many years, we give thanks for the blessing she has been among us, and we give thanks that she has been take to the place that God has prepared for he in Christ Jesus our Lord. Oh death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory. The sting of death is sin, the strength of sin is the Law, but thanks be to God who gives us the victory in our Lord Jesus Christ.