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03 Epiphany 02 Louise Leslie Memorial 1 Thessalonias 4.13-18

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Dear Claire, Cristin, Jim, Cathy, Dori and Friends, I greet you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We are here this afternoon to give thanks to God for Louise, and to find comfort, hope and strength in the Scriptures. 

Louise Leslie was born in St. Louis, Missouri on May 8, 1914 to Henry and Carolina Kraft Meyer. She lived in California for 60 years where she was a member of Faith Lutheran Church in Carpinteria, CA. Louise moved to Caley Ridge Assisted Living in Englewood, Colorado in August of 2003.  On January 7, 2008, God called home Louise to be eternally in His presence. She was preceded in death by her husband, Tom, and sons, Don and Lee.

Now, believe it or not, today is a day of celebration.  Today is a sad day.  Today is a sad celebration.  We are sad that Louise has fallen asleep.  But, because she belongs to Jesus, one day she will wake up, therefore we are able to celebrate.  

Now this isn’t the kind of celebration where there is dancing and singing and good times for all.  But this is a celebration because we know that Louise is with Jesus.  That one day she will wake up.  And on that day you and I, and all who belong to Jesus.  On that day, you and I will be with Louise and with Jesus. And beginning with that day you and I will live forever on the new earth, with Jesus, and with Louise. 

This future reality is what we are celebrating.  This future reality gives us hope.  It won’t make the pain go away.  But it will help to ease it.  Know that you have hope.  That hope is the hope of everlasting life.  It is the hope that is given in baptism.  That hope will help you get through the hard times.  That hope will help you get through this time.  That hope is why today is a sad celebration and not just sad. 

This message of hope is the same one that is found in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians.  He writes, “But we do not want you to be uniformed brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.”  Now after hearing this you could think that grieving is a bad thing.  But that is not true.  Grieving is normal.  It is ok.  What is bad is grieving like those who have no hope.  Because when we grieve in that way, we deny the hope that you and I have.  This is what Paul is saying.  In the midst of your grief, know that you will see Louise again.  And as comforting as that is it gets even better.  Because on that day you will also see Jesus.  And it still gets better.  Because beginning with that day, you will be with Jesus forever.  This is the hope that you and I have.  This is the hope of eternal life.

How do we know that we have hope?  You and I have hope because of baptism. It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

Now let’s think about this for a moment.  Baptism works forgiveness of sins, and rescues from death and the devil.  The forgiveness of sins enables us to be in the presence of God.  To be his children.  This forgiveness was won by Jesus through his death and resurrection.  Because of his sacrifice, death cannot win.  That seems like an inappropriate statement to make at a funeral.  And it would be if we were not at a Christian’s funeral.  Louise was baptized.  All these promises are the same for her.  This is the hope that we have.  We can be sure of this.  Louise is with Jesus.  Louise will rise and Louise will live forever with Jesus.  So this is only temporary.  This will not last.  This will end when Jesus returns.  When Jesus returns, he brings with him resurrection, new life and eternity.  That life will not be temporary.  That life will last.  That life will never end.  This is our hope.  This is the hope of everlasting life.  This is why today we are able to celebrate, to have a sad celebration.

Paul continues in his letter, “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”  This is what we have been talking about today.  This is the hope of everlasting life.  This is the scriptural proof that you and I will see Louise again.  Therefore we have hope, the hope of everlasting life.  Paul continues, “For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fall asleep.  For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” 

Did you hear it in there?  Did you hear the hope?  The dead in Christ will rise first, and then those that are left will join them.  And all of them will always be with the Lord.  That is the hope of everlasting life.  That is the hope that you and I share. 

This is great, but what do we do until then?  We are still hurting over the loss of Louise.  We would rather be with her now.  So what do we do?  Paul answers this question with the last verse from our reading, “Therefore encourage one another with these words.”  We encourage one another.  We grieve together.  We pray together.  We spend time together.  We encourage one another.  Because we have the hope of everlasting life.  It was given to us by God.  Therefore we know that we will see Louise again.  We know that we will live forever with her, and with our God.  This is the comfort.  This is what we are to encourage one another with. 

Louise had a sign that hung on the wall in her room, it read, “Good Morning!  This is God, I will be handling all of your problems today.  I will not need your help.  So, relax and have a great day!”  These words too are words of comfort and encouragement, because they remind us that our God is indeed able to handle all of our troubles, and that he will not ever leave us or abandon us, no matter how big the burdens we have to bear are.  They are good words for this sad time, for they remind us that God cares for us in the midst of our sadness, and that that is not outside of his power.

We will always remember Louise.  She has touched our lives in more ways than can be counted.  She will be missed for sure.  But there is an eternity that we will share with Louise when Jesus comes back.  This is most certainly true.  And so I pray that our God would be with you in this sad time.  And that the hope of everlasting life will bring you comfort.  Today is indeed a sad day.  But it is a sad celebration.  Amen.

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