Homily for the Memorial Service of Bev Hoff.
January 10, 2010
Text: John 11:21-27
Dear Friends in Christ,
Why are we here? The answer may not be as obvious as we might think. We are here to remember Bev Hoff. Yes, that’s a part of it. We are here because we need closure. Yes, that’s a part of it. But we could do that in home or at restaurant. The setting would probably be more comfortable in many ways. Why are we here at a church? Because Bev was here all the time. No. She had attended occasionally, and I must confess that I thought she was a member of another church in the area. If I had known she was not a member elsewhere I would have offered pastoral care in her last months.
So why are we here, in a church? Why are we here in place that to some degree should always make us a little uncomfortable. To remember Bev in a way the world cannot. A church building like this is God’s throne room on earth. It’s where God transacts official business - like a judge’s courtroom. Bev was a sinner. I can say this because we are all sinners. St. Paul devotes much of the Letter to the Romans to this point. But St. John hammers on this as well in his first Epistle. We sometimes quote from I John in our services - “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” A couple verses down, John continues, “If we say we have no sin, we God a liar.” We all sin. In fact everything we do is tainted with our sin.
God, from the first had His plan in place. Thus already in the earliest portions of the Bible we have talk about sin, forgiveness, redemption, and resurrection to eternal life. To understand this we must understand that God is incredibly complex. There is more aspects to God than we can ever imagine. Yes, God is loving and kind, merciful and forgiving. But He is also holy, just, righteous, jealous, and even vengeful. God does not wink at sin. It must be paid for. We call this atoned. Sin must be atoned. Christ came to die on the cross for our sins. He atoned for our sins. We could not pay the price. Christ did and a horrific price indeed, that God died for us. But death cannot hold God and He rose from the dead. And so now God, that is Christ Jesus, gives life to all those who believe in Him, as He told Martha before He raised her brother Lazarus from the grave.
Some might say, but Bev was not a member of the church? True enough. But we are at a time when we have many like Bev. We are a society of nomads. People move about and sometimes they don’t reconnect with the Church. But earthly membership, while important, is not what saves. Christ saves. Faith in Christ connects us to that salvation. Bev, I would say, could have had more comfort from Scripture and the Lord’s Supper. This really is the purpose of the earthly church, to proclaim sin and grace, and thus bring comfort to all people. It is a comfort that is well understood in the absolution, when the pastor says, your sins are forgiven. This why being part of a Christian congregation is important, so that you are constantly reminded that you have a Savior, Jesus Christ who died for you and gives you life. Bev didn’t have that constant reminder. But she does now. And this is why we are here. We are here so that we remember Bev also in this special way - that we remember Bev, with Christ, who died for her sins, just He has also died for each of our sins.