Wednesday, August 31, 2011
A Tale of Two Temples
In Nomine Iesu
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
August 30, 2011
Karen Schulz Funeral
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus,
Dear family and friends of Karen Schulz,
Be still, my soul. That was the refrain of the hymn we just sang. It’s a simple, little sentence which expresses the quiet confidence of all those who trust in Christ. Karen’s soul possessed that quiet confidence in these last weeks. Karen’s soul departed this life to be with Christ late last Friday afternoon. And that fact is what brings a measure of quiet confidence to our souls, as well. You probably expected to hear something about the soul as a part of this evening’s service.
But to speak of the soul only tells half the story. For with every soul there is also a body. Both soul and body are important. Both are created by God. And both are destined for eternal life. One of the most astounding statements about the Christian body is found in 1 Corinthians 6: Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. The body of every Christian is a temple—a dwelling place inhabited by God the Holy Spirit.
These words about the body as a temple made me think of Karen; because Karen had great concern for this temple—this house of God. All of us here today knew Karen in different ways—as a family member, a friend, a neighbor, a sister in Christ. But I knew Karen uniquely as the head of the altar guild here at Our Savior. As head of the altar guild, Karen oversaw that dedicated group of volunteers who care for this temple in special ways, who set-up and clean-up for our weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Banners, flowers, candles, paraments, communion ware, linens—if it has to do with the area here around the altar, the altar guild is involved.
For all the years I’ve been privileged to serve as pastor here, I’ve been privileged to have Karen leading the altar guild. The work isn’t for everybody. It’s sometimes tedious and time-consuming. It often involves washing and drying, polishing and filling, cutting and gluing, cleaning and organizing. And, when you’re done, nobody gives you a standing ovation. Nobody applauds for the altar guild. Karen saw things here that others overlooked. If something was a little stained or dented, chipped or bent, worn out, wrinkled, or otherwise unworthy to be used at this altar of God, Karen noticed it. Karen told me about it. Karen fixed it, replaced it, recovered it, or found something newer and better.
This temple mattered—all of these little things mattered—to Karen because she knew that God dwells here. Here in this temple Karen confessed her sins to God and received absolution. Here in this temple the Words and promises of Jesus were placed in her ears and in her heart. Here in this temple she received the body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. Over the years, there were baptisms, confirmations, weddings—all happened here in this holy temple.
It grieved Karen in recent years that she wasn’t well enough to make it here as often as she would have liked. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. One Saturday she came with Bob to set up Communion and I found her sitting on the steps resting. Eight stairs were more than she could handle that day. She would probably be embarrassed to have me mention that today. But it showed me just how determined she was that this temple would receive the care it needed.
This temple is pretty important. But this temple isn’t nearly as important as that temple of the Holy Spirit, the body of our sister Karen. This temple isn’t nearly as valuable, precious, and priceless as that temple. Remember our text, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?” Karen’s body, too, was a temple of the Holy Spirit. Karen’s body, your body, my body—temples of the Holy Spirit. God dwells here. That doesn’t mean that you and I are God, far from it. But it does mean that these frail, fragile bodies have been claimed by Christ the crucified. You were bought at a price, the Bible declares. Not with gold. Not with silver. But with the holy, precious blood of Jesus, that you might be His own.
And all this is true of Karen’s body too. All the care and attention she gave to this temple is nothing compared to the care and attention that her body received and will receive from the Lord Jesus Christ. Karen’s body was not a random collection of DNA or a product of evolution. Karen’s body was carefully and lovingly knit together in her mother’s womb by God Himself—the giver of life. Karen was born into this world (body and soul) on January 11, 1942. And then Karen was re-born in the waters of Holy Baptism later that year. In those cleansing waters, Karen’s body became a temple—a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Her sins were washed away. She became a child of God. Her body became a precious, priceless piece of real estate, purchased and paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ, her Savior.
Karen needed a Savior. We all do. For rather than honor God with these bodies of ours, we so often choose to dishonor Him. We abuse our bodies, misuse our bodies, as if our bodies were our own private property—rather than temples of the Holy Spirit. The good things that we ought to do with our bodies often don’t get done. And the bad things that we ought to avoid with our bodies—well, those are the very things we end up doing. It’s called sin; and it runs death deep in every human body. You can try and deny that awful truth—hide it, run from it, blame somebody else. But no matter how you slice it, the wages of our sin is always death. And that’s a payday that none of us can avoid for long.
Jesus didn’t avoid it either. Jesus came to save His people from their sins—came to save Karen Schulz, body and soul. Jesus lived a perfect life as your sacred substitute. As a true man, Jesus always honored God with His body. That means so much more than that Jesus was always a good boy. For all His good counts for you who trust in Him. His perfect obedience counts for sinners like us. His holiness is your holiness by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith. A gift! Jesus takes all our bad and gives to us all His good.
And all His good includes victory over death—victory not just for the soul, but also for the body. We confessed it in the Apostles’ Creed just moments ago: I believe in the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Of course, these bodies of ours aren’t yet outfitted for eternity. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. But we await the resurrection—the sure and certain hope that because Jesus lives—that because Jesus’ body was raised from the dead—He will transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body.
I told you a moment ago how Karen could spot what needed fixing and replacing in her work on the altar guild. Little flaws that didn’t seem important to anyone else caught her attention. And at home too, Karen had an eye for things. She was a collector. Beanie babies, knick-knacks, animals of various kinds, collectables too numerous to mention.
But I mention it because our God is a collector too. I mention it because our God, like Karen, has an eye for what needs fixing and replacing—namely, our bodies, His human temples. We know by experience that these bodies are weak, frail and fragile. They wear out and break down. They are susceptible to all kinds of sickness and disease, including cancer. But I tell you with confidence that in a flash, in the twinkling of eye, at the last trumpet, we will be changed. Our bodies will be raised, restored and resurrected. Today it’s dust to dust and ashes to ashes. But on that day our God will collect and resurrect these bodies of ours. God the Father created these bodies. God the Son redeemed these bodies with His blood. God the Holy Spirit made these bodies His temples. We are not our own. We belong to Him. We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. And nothing can separate us from that love.
Be still, my soul. The Lord is on your side. May those words give confidence and peace to all of us who today mourn the loss of a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a friend. You are here today, in a sense, because you were one of Karen’s collectables. You caught her eye, and she was glad to have you along for the ride. You were the ones who mattered most to Karen. If she had a story to tell—if she had an opinion to share—you were in on that. You are also one of those collected by Jesus the Christ, along with Karen. That means you are in on all Jesus has to offer—and that is everything. Let not your hearts be troubled. If God is for us, who can be against us? Be still, my soul. The Lord is on your side. Amen.