Sermon for Marge Pezley Funeral
Text: Romans 5:12-21
Rev. Paul L. Beisel
8 February 2007
In the name of the Father…
Dearly beloved family, relatives, and friends of Marge Pezley:
When God created the heavens and the earth and everything in them, He called them “Good.” “Very Good,” in fact. Like a proud architect who looks at a finished building, God surveyed everything that He had made and was satisfied with it. It was “Very Good.” He said this also when He made man and woman in His own image and likeness. There was no such thing as death, illness, sadness, injury, pain, or suffering. These were unheard of, except perhaps in the mind of God. Adam and Eve lived in perfect harmony with God, with each other, and with all other created things. They ruled the earth, even as God rules the heavens. They had dominion over all creatures great and small. Their hearts beat with perfect love for God and for each other. They wore no clothes for there was as yet no shame in nakedness. They were perfectly safe from all evil, or so they thought.
Indeed, all things were very good, but Satan was not satisfied with such goodness. He hated God and wanted to ruin what God had made. So he tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God, to eat of the tree of which God had said: “On the day that you eat of it you will surely die.” He twisted the words of their Creator, making Him seem like He was holding out on them, holding something back from them. “He knows that you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” And thus having stirred up the naïve curiosity of Adam and Eve, they took of the forbidden fruit and ate. They succumbed to the prospect of having something greater than what God given them. The Serpent had succeeded! He brought Adam and Eve into sin, and with them, all of humanity. And with sin came death, for the wages of sin is death. God’s good creation was now infected with a terminal disease, a cancer like no other cancer, one that brought guilt and condemnation from God. Adam and Eve, created in the image of God, had lost that image as far as spiritual things were concerned. They became spiritually blind, dead, and enemies of God. And from that time on the whole creation was wrapped in a blanket of death, a death which spread to all men because all sinned, as the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. This, my friends, is the reality in which we live today. It is why our loved ones get sick and die. It is why we ourselves are inclined not towards good but towards evil in our hearts. It is why man who was made to live forever with God must now age and eventually die and decay. Today we marvel at how well this aging, this death can be concealed by cosmetic surgery and makeup. A Funeral home can even make a person look like they are not dead but only sleeping. No one likes to face death, because to face one’s own mortality is ultimately to come face to face with our sin and unbelief. It is to see the final result of man’s disobedience and rebellion against God. But this is the curse which God pronounced upon the world. No one can escape its dreadful grip. No technology, no matter how advanced, has been able to prolong a person’s life indefinitely. All must go to the grave.
All must go to the grave, but it is not necessary that all suffer God’s eternal condemnation. For St. Paul goes on to say to the Roman Christians: Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Adam’s sin led to death and condemnation for all men, but the one act of righteousness by Jesus, the greater Adam, has brought life and justification for all men. By the obedience of Jesus Christ, by His suffering and death on the cross God has taken away the sins of the world. He who knew no sin became sin for us. God has removed the curse of sin and the sting of death from all those who have been reborn as children of God by water and the Holy Spirit. He has given to all men an escape route, a way of victory over our great enemy Death in Jesus and His resurrection. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
That means, of course, that there is now no condemnation for Marge Pezley. For she was buried with Christ through baptism into death, and raised with Him. Her body will lie in the grave not to await eternal punishment and damnation but rather to await eternal glory in heaven. For Paul says that if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.
Where then does our comfort lie as we commit Marge’s body to the ground, as we bid farewell to the one whom we called mother, aunt, cousin, and friend? It lies in this promise: that even as Christ is risen from the dead never to die again, so also will Marge rise again at the last day to eternal life. For our faith never rests in ourselves or in the things of this world, but only in Christ Jesus, who now sits at the right hand of His Father. Marge was a good friend to all, and we will all miss her dearly. But we do not mourn as those who have no hope. Jesus said: I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.
So take this promise with you today, and cherish it in your hearts always. In Christ God’s Eden is restored, and perfected. God’s image has been restored and renewed in the hearts of the baptized; God’s good creation has been remade in His Son. Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Amen.