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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

04032013 Funeral Sermon for Ila Dale Smith Zeigler

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer!!  AMEN!!

Let us pray!  Gracious Heavenly Father, we come together today mourning the loss of Ila on Good Friday,  but reassured of the empty tomb we celebrated Easter morning because of the promises You made to her and each of us in our baptism.  We are assured of the promise of life and salvation given to Ila and now fulfilled with her entrance into the Church Triumphant.  For today Ila has the resurrected perfect body that no longer has cancer, neither pains nor ills and now rests with You in Your loving arms.  Though the veil of death separates us today from Ila, may we be comforted by Your Gospel and hear clearly the promise of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of salvation offered through Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection for all of mankind, but especially the saints of Ila’s family and all the saints gathered here at Emmanuel to say goodbye.  AMEN.

Here in Goodland there is a tradition that Michele, Sarah and I enjoyed since our arrival.  It is the Cancer Society walk that occurs on the high school track.  When we went, Sarah was so desperate to be involved that when the Cancer survivors, including Ila, walked or rode the first lap as an encouragement and remembrance of those who have battled with this disease and for those who had lost the battle with this dreaded disease, we had to hold on to her and keep her separated from the group in honor and respect for those walking.  Ila was one of those being honored who had battled cancer many years and her dedication and determination were an inspiration for all who witnessed and knew her history and story.  But Sarah didn’t understand the history nor story so keeping her separate and away from those being honored was a challenge, because of her determination and drive.  In a similar way our Epistle lesson for this morning asks a question about being our being ‘separate’ that God has an answer for us today.

Paul’s question that he is speaking to the Romans states, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?”  For the faint of heart or someone who does not have any faith, this question could easily make us question God and His love and commitment to us His children.  As we gather here this morning to say goodbye to Ila, we might question God as well.  But the truth of the matter is that we cannot be separated from God, but we do have someone who is against us and it is Satan.  Satan at every turn reminds us of our sins and that we were conceived in sin and attempts to strip us away from God and the faith.  Whenever the cares of life like “tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword”, hunger and sickness smash into our lives, Satan is right there trying to get us to question God and fall victim to our sins, both the ones we remember and the ones that we cannot remember.  I know in Ila’s life with her nearly forty year battle with cancer, she daily fought the battle against Satan and the unmerited and undeserved manifestation of all human sin with cancer in her body, but God had given her a gift that made her life and her battle against sin and cancer not a struggle, but a constant reminder of the promises of God.

You see it was through Ila’s baptism in February 1962 that she was given not only the greatest gift of salvation, but Ila was given the answer that buckles Satans knees and set Ila free from sin, death and the devil this past Good Friday.  On the day of her baptism, Ila clearly understood Paul’s response inspired by God that buckles Satan’s knees.  Paul answered our initial question of separation with, “God is the one who justifies” or keeps us from being separated from Him and has now set Ila to be free with her heavenly Father in heaven.  For Paul further says, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  This firm conviction we can be comforted with today.

For it is in the promise of life and salvation that God offers us the assurance of Ila’s presence for eternity with Him in His kingdom and through her baptism which knocks the wind out of Satan and his attacks and clearly with the our baptism into Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection sets us free.  Yes, we lost Ila to this earthly life on Good Friday, the same day we mourned Jesus Christ earthly death on Calvary, but on Easter Sunday we came to the tomb and found it empty of Jesus.  We did not find His body, because Jesus Christ rose from the grave.  In His rising Jesus Christ offers Ila and all of us who gather here life as well.  For in our baptism God promises our being with Him in His kingdom.  Just as Ila is now with Him in His kingdom for all eternity waiting for all of us to be called home and set free.

When I would visit with Ila in her home since my arrival here at Emmanuel, I felt my calling was to visit and provide comfort and assurance during her daily struggles through sharing both the Word of God and the Sacraments.  But what is ironic is that I would leave, not having ministered to her, but being blown away by the model of her faith and life and how in this gift of faith given to her by God she ministered to me.  Though she daily experienced the pains of the disease, Ila’s faith in God was rock solid and modeled for everyone who knew her the strength of God that clearly connected her faith, with her life and clearly pointed to the answer that Paul gave the Romans.  “God is the One Who justifies.”  And that justification was and is found in Jesus Christ Who lived on this earth, walked among the Jewish people, healed the sick, bound up the broken hearted and suffered on the Cross of Calvary for all of mankind and ultimately died, but was raised on the third day.  Jesus Christ the cornerstone of our faith, the faith which Ila was baptized into and which we celebrate today in her life as a child of God.  This is the faith that clearly was modeled and articulated in Ila’s life and was the ultimate gift given to her and now fulfilled with her entrance into eternal glory.

May we who gather here this morning also share this gift of faith with one another, and clearly hear God’s calling us through His Word and promises where He makes us His own through our baptism into His Son Jesus Christ, life, death and especially His resurrection.  For the answer and the promise Ila found through Jesus Christ is offered for all of us who gather here to say goodbye.  The answer is clear, Jesus Christ died for Ila, for all of us and nothing can separate us from the love of God found in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  For the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ is offered to all of mankind, but especially for all of the saints of Ila’s family and friends gathered here to say goodbye.  AMEN.

Now may the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard our hearts and minds and comfort us today, because of what Jesus Christ did for Ila and each one of us!  AMEN! 
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