Dearly beloved in the Lord, family and friends of Lillian: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In 1 Timothy 6, we heard St. Paul say, Fight the good fight of the faith. For 98 years, Lillian fought that good fight. Thing is, who wants to be in a 98-year long fight? Don’t get me wrong, it is a good fight and Lillian had the Lord on her side. But fighting can be wearisome, and our adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
98 years is a long time, and while the Lord was on Lillian’s side the entire time, certainly she experienced her share of affliction at the hands of Satan. Luther described the work of Satan by saying, He is a murderer, who cannot bear to see you live one single hour. Luther reminds us that the devil has many knives, darts, and arrows aimed at us every moment (LC, V: 81—28).
For this reason, St. Paul writes in Philippians 1, for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (v. 21). Jesus doesn’t leave His children defenseless against the attacks of Satan. To live is Christ, the apostle says. Lillian’s life was saturated with Christ. Not because of what she did for Jesus, but because of what Jesus did for her. She wore Jesus, for in Holy Baptism He clothed her with the robe of His righteousness that covered all her sin. We just sang about this:
Lord, when Your glory I shall see and taste Your kingdom’s pleasure,
Your blood my royal robe shall be, my joy beyond all measure.
When I appear before Your throne, Your righteousness shall be my crown,
with these I need not hide me.
And there, in garments richly wrought, as Your own Bride shall we be brought
to stand in joy beside you (LSB, 438; v. 4)
Beloved in the Lord, our dear sister Lillian has been liberated from the assaults of Satan, the world, and her own sinful flesh once and for all. She is now numbered among that great multitude in heaven, which no one can number (Revelation 7:9). We feebly struggle, but she in glory shines. Her burdens are no more.
During her earthly pilgrimage our Lord graciously sustained Lillian with His Word and Sacraments. She knew the joy of laboring in Christ’s vineyard during this life. When she fell, our Lord graciously restored her. To live is Christ. The body and blood of our Lord nourished her faith. The blood of Christ was the lifeblood of her faith.
To live is Christ and we thank our gracious Lord this day for the gift of living life together with Lillian. We thank the Lord for the good works He accomplished through Lillian (Ephesians 2:10). While I never had the privilege of meeting her myself, I am told she was a hard worker and overcame a good deal of adversity- this is a good and godly quality. And we especially thank the Lord that He was merciful to Lillian in her weaknesses, as He is to all who are baptized and believe. For the Lord Jesus has delivered her both from her sins and from this present evil age (Galatians 1:3—4).
To live is Christ, but to die is gain. Eventually our burdens become too heavy, and death is one enemy that no amount of hard work or effort can overcome. But those who die in the Lord die a blessed death. Thanks be to God that our Lord has borne our burdens and overcome the grave! As it is written:
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed (Isa 53:3—5)
Lillian’s burdens are no more. Her Lord bore her griefs and carried her sorrows in this life, and now she is at peace. He was wounded for her transgressions, and with His stripes, she is healed. The Lord Jesus says, Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). The Lord would comfort you even now, just as He comforted Lillian during her lifetime. And now, His eternal comfort and peace is hers.
When we pray deliver us from evil, we pray that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven (Small Catechism, explanation of the Seventh Petition). Today we rejoice in knowing that the Lord has done this for Lillian. And in the meantime, when the fight is fierce and the warfare long, listen closely. For in the distance, you can hear the distant triumph song: Christ is risen! And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong! Alleluia, Alleluia! (LSB, 677; v. 5).
The peace of the Lord Jesus be with you always, Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria