Sermon audio here.
Today we give thanks to God for the life of Eva. But even more than that, we thank God for the eternal life He’s granted to her, and to us all, through His Son. God is not cruel. He did not give Eva to us only to rip her away, never to see her again. As wonderful as the gifts God has given us in this life are, the best is yet to come.
The prophet Isaiah describes the Christian hope in this way:
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.[i]
Notice how physical Isaiah’s description of our redemption is. Every illness will be healed, and every need will be met. The desert will blossom with life when our Lord makes all things new, and His saints will have nothing but gladness and joy. We believe in the resurrection of the Body, even our Lord physically rose from the grave on the Third Day.[ii]
And while Eva awaits the day of resurrection when Christ will raise up her body and restore His Creation to its original, pre-fall state, she rests with Christ in the meantime. As Jesus told the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” And, as the apostle says, to die is gain.
We, on the other hand, still walk through the valley of the death shadow. We still groan with all creation as in the pangs of labor. We still hurt, we still mourn. The joy is sure to follow and we don’t mourn as those who have no hope, but we’re not out of the wilderness yet.
And because of that, God’s people have always found comfort in rehearsing the goodness of God, of remembering His past faithfulness during times of sorrow. This is why the Scriptures are filled with references to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to the fact that God led Israel out of Egypt with a mighty Hand and an outstretched arm.
The mere mention of those names, places, and events would bring to mind some of the most wonderful things God had done for them in the past, inspiring confidence in His love for the difficult times. We can trust God even when it hurts because He’s proven Himself trustworthy. As St. Paul writes,
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?[iii]
That’s how much God loved the world—how much He loves you, how much He loves Eva—that He gave His only Son, who suffered and died for the sin of the world, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
The Holy Spirit strengthens faith and gives us peace as we remember and give thanks to God for His gifts. David begins Psalm 8 by meditating on God’s work of creation, a favorite biblical theme. David extols the majesty of God’s Name, which is evident in all creation, if only you have the eyes of faith to see it. David gets so caught up in the beauty of it all, for a moment he even begins to question his own significance. He prays:
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.[iv]
God’s creation, the work of His hands, is marvelous, indeed. But it’s not as if we limit our meditation on God’s works to the ancient past, to His work of creation, His dealings with the patriarchs, in bringing the children of Israel out of Egypt and leading them to the Promised Land, as wonderful and important as those all are.
We also thank God for Eva, who was herself a marvel of God’s handiwork, as amazing and beautiful as any of the works of God’s hands. We give thanks to God for Eva and remember all He did for her and through her. In this way, her life, along with the lives of all our Lord’s saints, might inspire us to greater confidence in the never-failing goodness and mercy of God.
In particular, we thank God for Eva’s faithfulness as a Christian. With Eva, there’s no doubt where she stood with our Lord. Yes, she was a sinner who could be stubborn and perhaps even harsh—though I must confess, I would never in a million years have guessed her husband would have nicknamed her “the warden.” She was about as gracious and forgiving as they come—it’s not just any woman who would not only forgive the guy who almost ran her over in the parking lot, but actually marry him.
But I have to say, I really like the fact that Bert nicknamed her “the warden.” Even this nickname, believe it or not, can reassure us about where Eva stood with Jesus. He didn’t come for the righteous or the healthy, but for sinners, for the sick, the stubborn, and the harsh, even for those given to warden-like tendencies. Being a sinner is prerequisite to confessing Christ as Savior, and that’s something Eva confessed gladly.
It was one of Eva’s greatest delights to receive the forgiveness of sins here in the Lord’s house, to hear the preaching of the Gospel and to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, her Savior. She didn’t want anything to come between her and Jesus, not even when the doctors told her maybe she should cut back on the driving. “Oh, I’m just going down the road to church,” she’d say.
And now she has joined that great cloud of witnesses in the Church Triumphant. You see on the cover of your bulletin an image of the beautiful Shine of St. Francis Xavier Cabrini in Chicago. Above the altar on the ceiling are a number of paintings, including one of the saints and angels in heaven.
And as many of you know, Eva and her husband actually had the honor of posing for one of those paintings. The Italian artist found inspiration for one of the knights in her husband Bert, and he painted one of the angels in the likeness of Eva.
As wonderful of a privilege and honor as it is to have your face included in such a beautiful painting in such a magnificent chapel, we rejoice this day in knowing that Eva’s presence in heaven isn’t just limited to a painting.
She is now part of that great cloud of witnesses who stand in God’s presence, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice,
“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”[v]
To Him be blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, forever and ever.[vi]
Soli Deo Gloria
[i] Isaiah 35:5–7a, 10
[ii] cf. 1 Corinthians 15
[iii] Romans 8:32
[iv] Psalm 8:3–5
[v] Revelation 7:9–10
[vi] Revelation 7:12.