John 14:1-6 Bertha Santini Funeral July 6, 2017
Among everyone where today I probably hold two distinctions. On the one hand, I probably have known Bertha the least amount of time – a mere four months. On the other hand, though, I probably know the most about her spiritual life just prior to her death since I was her Pastor here at Faith Lutheran Church.
We all deal with the death of a loved one in our own ways. As we try to deal with our loss we desperately want to find that which will not only give us comfort in our hour of need but also strength to carry on our lives without the presence of our loved one.
Here is where God’s Holy Word, the Bible, can come to your aid. For it was in the Bible that Bertha always found her comfort and it is where you can find yours. Bertha had learned the importance of “being still” and getting out of God’s way so that God could be God. Bertha knew that God is in charge of everything, in control of everything. She knew that God’s will would be done whether she followed it or not, whether she liked it or not.
It is for that reason that St. John records Jesus saying, “Trust in God, trust also in me.” If you do that, then you “do not (need to) let your hearts be troubled,” even by the death of loved one.
I know that Bertha “trusted in God” because she told me. But she did not believe in just any god. She believed in the one and only true God of the Bible, described therein as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. She believed the God of the Bible when he said, “There is none beside me.”
Bertha also “trusted God” to have compassion and mercy on her, and to save her from the consequences of her sins. She knew that she was a sinner; that she had been born that way. She knew that she had been born with a sinful nature that only knew how to sin. She knew that sin is a breaking of God’s laws. She knew that she sinned by failing to do all of the things that God had commanded and by doing all of the things that God had forbidden her to do. She knew that God is a just God and must punish her for her sins and sinfulness. She knew that the punishment for her sins was physical death and an eternity on hell.
But she also had come to know that God loved her despite her sins and sinfulness. She had come to know that God took no pleasure in the death of any sinner and that it was not his will that any sinner should spend his or her eternity in hell. She also had come to know that God loved her so much that he sent his one and only Son into this world not to condemn it but to save it through him.
God the Father sent his Son into the world to serve as a substitute for the entire human race. God demanded totally perfect behavior to his laws 24/7. The human race was not rendering and could never render that perfection. But the fully human Jesus could and did. God the Father accepted Jesus’ perfect obedience to his laws and then credited it to each of us as if we had rendered that perfect obedience ourselves.
As a just God, though, God cannot just wink at our sins or dismiss them or “sweep them under the rug” so to speak. God must punish sin and, thus, the sinner. But instead of punishing each of us for our own sins by death God chose to use his Son once again our substitute.
Jesus took all of the sins of the world upon himself as if they were his own. When God went looking for sinners to punish he only found one – his Son, the fully human Jesus. And he punished him with death, even death on a cross. Jesus suffered the punishment for our sins while on the cross. Jesus death took all of our sins away. God accepted Jesus’ death as the full payment for all of our sins. Since the debt of sin had been paid in full God the Father has forgiven every sin of everybody.
Bertha believed all of this as recorded in the Bible. But she never made any conscious decision to do so. She never invited the Holy Spirit to take up residence in her heart. She never woke up one morning and said today is the day that I give my heart to Jesus and become a Christian. She knew that none of that was even possible. She knew that she was spiritually blind and dead and an enemy of God because of her sins. She knew that no amount of worship or Bible reading or prayer or the doing of good things could change the fact that she was and always would remain a sinner.
But the Holy Spirit called her by the Gospel portion of his Holy Word, enlightened her heart and mind with the gift of saving faith in the Jesus of the Bible, the one called “Christ,” and with that faith in Jesus sanctified her, that is, made her holy in God’s sight. Through the Holy Spirit working in her through the Bible she was made a child of God, she was made a saint, and she was given an inheritance in heaven.
Bertha believed that heaven was a real place. She believed that in heaven there were many “rooms.” She believed that Jesus had ascended into heaven to prepare a place for her. And she firmly believed that one day Jesus would come back and take her to be with him so that they could be together in heaven.
Friday of last week that is exactly what happened. Without any warning or “heads up” to her or to us Jesus came to take Bertha home. While none of us may have been ready for the events of last week Bertha was. On more than one occasion in the mere fourth months that I knew Bertha she told me that she was ready to go and depart this world and be with her Savior in heaven.
Bertha didn’t say those words because she felt that her life was bad, or that times were getting too tough for her or that her health was deteriorating, or that she just wanted out of this evil world. She said those things because she was a Christian and that while continuing to live on this planet was okay, to die and go to heaven was far better. So she waited. She waited patiently for her Savior to fulfill his promise of coming and getting her and taking her to her heavenly home.
Her “trust in God,” the God of the Bible and her “trust in Jesus” was not without its rewards. From the day Bertha was baptized in the name of the Triune God her life of Christian faith has been winding its way to an exit from this world and an entrance into eternal glory.
Thomas had said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way.” To which Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Bertha knew and believed that the man named “Jesus” in the Bible was her Savior from sin and thus the only WAY to heaven. She knew and believed that what he said about how to get to heaven was the TRUTH. And she knew and believed that he was the LIFE. His perfect life was her perfect life. His death on the cross was the death of her sins. His resurrection to physical life would be her resurrection to eternal life.
While Bertha had her share of difficult, challenging times in this life, her heart was not troubled about when and how she would enter the next life. She knew that she would die one day. And she was prepared for that day through her faith in her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
If Bertha was still here she would join Jesus in saying to each of us gathered here today, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me (Jesus).”
In the end, it all boils down to this: through faith in Jesus Christ you can and will be reunited with Bertha one day so that together you can experience the everlasting joys of heaven. AMEN.