1 Peter 1:10-20
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you.
Lee, Who Held Tightly to Christ’s Cross
Lee (short for Lina) came to us in retirement after she had been widowed and had moved from the Midwest to be closer to one son, a daughter-in-law, and a grandson. She lived for several years in some nearby rent-controlled senior apartments. As long as she was able, Lee came to worship having been picked up by her Stephen Minister. Later, she was homebound and received visits from her Stephen Minister, from Pastor Dale, our longtime Visitation Pastor, and from me in the summer months when Pastor Dale was in his boyhood home in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Lee did not have a sunny faith. She was very gracious and not at all unpleasant to be with in her home. But I suspect that Lee had always suffered with bouts of depression and being often alone was not good for her. It may well have been that Lina and her husband Ralph had enjoyed a kind of comfortable silence which many longtime spouses share. Perhaps when they were home alone after their boys had grown up and moved away, he would do those things he enjoyed and she hers and occasionally there would be the intimacies of hands clasped for table prayers or cold feet touching under the covers at bedtime. Companionship, literally breaking bread together, does not have to be accompanied by endless comments. But, then, when death parts longtime spouses, the loneliness of not being together is amplified in all the little habits that suddenly are unshared.
In infancy, Lee was baptized into that story that says God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son Jesus of Nazareth to live the obedient life we cannot live and to die the innocent death we cannot die to destroy the power of sin, death, and the old evil one. God’s Son was from eternity truly God and in His conception, gestation, and birth through the Virgin Mary He became truly human. Throughout His earthly life, God’s Son battled incessantly against the evil one. And finally He bore the sins of the world and Lee’s own sins and ours on His cross, and by His dying and rising from the dead, God’s Son Jesus destroyed the power of sin, death, and the old evil one. As Luther often said, in Baptism, we receive the happy exchange. Jesus takes our sin and our death and gives us His life and righteousness as a free gift. Even faith itself is God’s own gift. Baptized into that story, Lee received the promise that whether she lived or died she would be God’s dear child forever. And Lee departed this life almost six years ago with the promise that she would be with God forever and would receive a new body that would not suffer or die again.
Until Lee’s health deteriorated, she regularly gathered with the Church where she was fed and strengthened by God’s Word and Sacraments. Shaped by God’s Word and Sacraments, Lee devoted herself to serving children and youth in daily life. What to those outside the Church looked simply like volunteerism was much more than that. Lee was using the gifts God gave her and doing the good works for which God created her. Baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection, Lee was doing the loving service for which God designed all people even before He created us. And Lee had a tremendous impact on the lives she touched. Only God knows the extent of Lee’s influence, but those who knew and loved her best, especially her grandson, knew how Lee’s loving care made a great difference.
On this Good Friday, we ponder those words spoken over us as we were marked with ashes in the shape of Christ’s holy cross each Ash Wednesday: “Remember, O man (O woman), you are dust and to dust you shall return.” I remember pouring the ashes of almost forty parishioners into holes I dug in the Memorial Garden. I remember their loved ones taking turns pouring shovels of dirt back over them. Whether we return to dust more slowly in a casket or more rapidly in a crematorium, we remember this day the wages of sin is still death. Thanks be to God that our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true man, has on this day conquered sin, death, and the devil. We share by water in His saving death!
Dear Father, thank you for Lee and all those whose hope is in your Crucified Son to whom they cling tightly. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Put forty-five pennies, nickels, or dimes in a bowl or box today to help to provide food for the local food bank to share with the poor.
Pastor Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS
St Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.