“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith– more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire– may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
I assume that you all knew Irene Fechner. And we all just heard once more at least a few of the most vivid fragments from Irene’s life. Now we have a time to reflect not only on Irene’s life, but, what is even more important, on our lives as well, as we reflect on the wonderful words from the letter of Peter the apostle.
We have a time to reflect on what is this all about? Who are we, why are we here, what is wrong with this world, and what can we expect when this life is over? For every time when we face the fact of our mortality, these questions come up.
So, what do you think about Irene’s life? What was it like? Was it easy, or was it hard? She certainly didn’t have many of the challenges that people have these days. Life probably seemed simpler, less confusing.
Easier? I don’t know. Remember Irene’s childhood and youth. Different times. Tough times, hard work, a lot of hard work. Losing loved ones. And as you go through life, sickness doesn’t help to make it easier either.
Ninety-one years. Is that a long life? It seems a very long to me. But now it is gone. All of it. God speaks about our lives as about a grass. In morning, it springs up and flourishes, in evening it withers away. It’s gone.
This life is not easy. Never has been and never will be. Times change and we may have different challenges, and different hardship and different sufferings, but the longer you live the more you see the vanity of this life.
The longer you live, the more is taken away from you. Finally, the death comes and robes you of the last thing left, that is, – of your life. And we can’t keep it. No one can. That’s the way of all flesh in this age.
Was Irene’s life empty, or was it filled with many things? From what I have heard it was a rich life. There was a room for all of you. For each one of you. There was enough room and time for all the many relatives and friends, both in Irene’s life and in her heart. And many appreciated it.
As Irene’s family told me, there was a special place in Irene’s heart for one very special person, – Jesus Christ. For me as a Christian it is always so heartwarming to hear that for someone, their relationships with the Triune God through Jesus Christ are of foremost importance. For it means that there is also joy and hope in their lives.
That’s why the words from Peter’s letter are very fitting for this occasion. Peter didn’t write his letter to Christians who lived as comfortable and complacent lives as many do these days.
The words which we heard today were written to brothers and sisters in Christ, who were in the midst of sufferings and death, who experienced persecutions for the sake of Jesus. To Christians who knew the hardship of this life, and had learned to put their trust and hope in Jesus.
For the words of Peter give us the right focus. As more and more is taken away from us, we need to be reminded of the things that cannot be taken away, that have eternal significance. And if you are a Christian, a follower of Jesus, as Irene was, there are quite a few of these things.
As Peter wrote: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”
Mercy of God. It will never be taken away from those who love Him. Regardless of how many times we fail. A new birth through the Holy Baptism, this new identity, – a child of God. Once you have it, it can’t be taken away. Irene received it right here, in Tabor church.
Heavenly inheritance. The inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for all God’s children. We don’t know what it will be like, but those who have seen glimpses of it, are not anymore much concerned with the troubles and temptations of this life. They have far better hope.
You know that our health may fail us. Our finances may dry out. Even our family and friends may turn against us, or we may lose them. But the gifts of gracious God are secure in His hands, kept for His loved ones.
That’s why this hope not only keeps us looking forward to the day when we’ll finally see our Lord face to face, but it fills our lives with joy already now. For this hope is a living hope.
For it is a hope in our Living Lord, who rouse from the dead as the firstborn among many, to reveal to us a glimpse of what is to come. And all who are united with Jesus by His Spirit, will follow Him where He is. That’s His promise to all His brothers and sisters.
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith […] may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
Joy and hope, these are God’s gifts to all His children already in this time. More of this joy and hope – is what we need so often, when we are grieved by various trials. Divine joy and hope, – for they lift us up and allow us to see and experience how much more is to come, how much more our Lord has prepared for those who love Him.
I pray today, as we say farewell to this child of God, Irene Joy Fechner, that when your last day comes, your family could say about you, that for you, your Savior Jesus Christ was of foremost importance, and that now you are in His presence, to receive the fulfillment of your hope, the joy of the imperishable inheritance that was prepared for you.
And the peace of God which surpasses all our understanding, keep your minds and hearts in Jesus Christ. Amen.