“Precious was her death.” In memory of Judith Wiebrecht. Ps 116.

I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.

Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.

Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful.

The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.

Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling;

I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.  

I believed, even when I spoke: “I am greatly afflicted”; I said in my alarm, “All mankind are liars.”

What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord,

I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.

You have loosed my bonds.

I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.

I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 116)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!

When I began to pray and reflect on what I may preach today, this verse from Psalm 116 immediately came to my mind. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of Judith.

It was last Friday evening when I received the news that Judith had died. It was unexpected. I had just seen her a few weeks earlier. Our conversations took an unusual turn – we remembered events from our early childhood, some of things she and I hadn’t remembered for decades; from the time when the life seemed easier and the world nicer. How do you see this world? What kind of place is it for you?

We all have different fates. Some of us seem to be blessed more, and some less. For some this life may go smoothly with a few bumps here and there. No one is spared from those. For others there seems to be bumps after bumps, after bumps, a never-ending road of challenges and sufferings. Except that it does end. One day we are here, all seems well and good, and the next day we are gone. And no one knows when ours – when mine and when your last day will come.

So, how do you see this world? How do you experience it? What sort of place is it for you? This is how psalmist described it: “The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.”

Unfortunately, this is too common. How many of you could related to these words? How many of you have experienced the life in this world as “the snares of death encompassed me, I suffered distress and anguish.”

I imagine that I wouldn’t be the only one. Sometimes it seems that there is no one who would care to listen to us, no one who could help. Then, where to go? “Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”

As Christians we can do this. Not only we can do this, we should do this. We are invited and encouraged by our God, whom we are privileged to call – our Father, to turn to Him, to pray to Him, to cry out to Him whenever we have a need.

Because as psalmist said – “gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, He saved me.” Our Lord is gracious and merciful. The more we know Him, the closer we move to Him, the more we know that to be true.

Our God, He doesn’t look at us the way this world looks and us … no. This world cares about the externals. If you are influential or powerful, of high achiever, or famous or wealthy… then this world will bow before you in reverence.

They will look at you, want to be with you, they will want to benefit from you, they will treat you nicely and politely. It is very different if you don’t have any of those things. If you are just a simple and a lowly person, as most of us are.

The world may not even notice you; it may reject you, abandon you, ignore you, it may push you around, it may treat you like you are not worthy of their attention. The sad reality is… we as Christians live in this world, and too often we act like the world – beings harsh, self-righteous, unforgiving, arrogant, rude. Especially with those lowly ones, where we can get away with such attitudes.

Not so with our God, not so with Jesus. He doesn’t look at who we are in this world. It doesn’t matter to Him, what we have achieved, or how much we possess. He sees into our hearts. He looks at us as loving Father at His beloved children.

He loves us, He cares for us, He worries for us more than we realize. If anyone treats badly His beloved children, that is like touching His eyeball. This is how precious His saints are in His eyes.

He never abandons us. He never turns away from us. The more challenging our situation, the closer He draws to be with us, to support us, to embrace us, to comfort us with His presence, to assure us of His unceasing love.

“Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.” We don’t like suffering, but often it is in our suffering, in our loneliness, when we experience the presence our God the most.

Those are the moments, when we are blessed to experience the peace that surpasses all our understanding, when there is no reason, no hope for peace in the world around us, but our gracious God comes and deals with us bountifully.

He never forgets His people. As psalmist says elsewhere that even if our father and mother would forsake us, our gracious Father and our dear Brother and Lord Jesus Christ will take us in. Even our closest people may fail and hurt us, but our Lord will always be here for us. Thus, Judith too longed to be with Her gracious God.

“What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?” How should we respond to the grace and love and commitment and self-sacrificial care of our Lord that He has so vividly revealed us in Jesus?

Yes, we should “offer [to the Lord] the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on His name, and praise Him.” But there are a few more things. We can learn from our Lord, to see everyone as He sees us. To see everyone as wonderfully make in God’s Image, to remember that Jesus gave up His life for that person.

To remember that our Lord dwells with the lowly and hears their cries, that those who are cast away by this world are especially precious in His eyes. And then we can speak. We should speak, for our Father has given us His message.

We should remind everyone how previous they are in God’s eyes, how loved they are by Jesus, how treasured they are by the Holy Spirit, who even makes home with them. It is not an arduous task, but it has the power to change peoples’ lives.

I pray that God our Father use our memories of His beloved daughter Judith to encourage us to look at one another as He looks at us. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of Judith Wiebrecht.

Amen.

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