Monday, April 23, 2012

The Healing Jesus Gives

In Nomine Iesu

St. Mark 2:1-12
April 20, 2012
Karen Schiesel Funeral

Dear friends and family of Karen Schiesel,
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus,

When someone you love is seriously ill, what do you do? When your world turns upside down and you’re powerless to stop it, what do you do? When the crosses you bear begin to feel unbearable, what do you do? For us Christians, it’s a no-brainer! You take your trouble to Jesus. You place your sick loved ones into the Savior’s hands. You take them to the Lord in prayer.

That’s exactly what we did for Karen—for all of the years since she was first diagnosed. And in these last weeks, when doctors and medicine were powerless—when we were powerless—we placed her into the Savior’s hands. For we believe that He is powerful. He is the help of the helpless. His grace is sufficient; for His power is made perfect in weakness.

Whenever a loved one is in need of a miracle, it always reminds me of the paralyzed man in Mark chapter 2. Jesus was at a nearby home, preaching and teaching. So a group of the paralytic’s family and friends decided they would take him to Jesus. For they believed that Jesus could help and heal. They carried the man to the home where Jesus was; but they couldn’t even get near the front door because the crowd was so large. Some people might have given up at that point; but not this crew of friends and family. They scaled the walls, climbed onto the roof, ripped an opening in the roof, and somehow, someway, managed to lower their paralyzed friend directly down to Jesus.

Wow! Friends and family like that are hard to come by. But I’d say there’s a similar gathering of friends and family gathered right here tonight. For all of you loved Karen and would have done anything and everything to help her. You would have moved heaven and earth. And if ripping a hole in the roof of some house and rigging up some kind of contraption could have brought Karen into the presence of Jesus for healing, you would have done it. In fact, that sounds like just the kind of project that the men in Karen’s life could have pulled off in under twenty minutes.

The truth of the matter is: You did move heaven and earth. Every prayer and plea you offered placed Karen directly into the nail-scarred hands of Jesus. And best of all, we didn’t have to fight a big crowd to get her there. We didn’t have to wait in line or climb on the roof. For those with faith in Jesus have direct access to the throne of God, twenty-four-seven. Our prayers for Karen were heard and received, loud and clear.

But sometimes, as every Christian knows, God’s response to our prayers can be surprising. What we receive isn’t always what we asked for. In fact, that’s kind of how it was for the paralytic whose family and friends went to such great lengths to get him to Jesus. For you have to admit that there’s really only one big reason to bring a paralyzed man to Jesus. That man and his friends and family were hoping and expecting that Jesus would give the man healing. They were full of faith and confidence that Jesus could and would fix that man’s broken body.

But Jesus gave them a surprise. Jesus gave the man what he didn’t expect and what he didn’t deserve. St. Mark tells it like this: “and when they had made an opening [in the roof], they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” St. Mark doesn’t tell us, but I suspect a few jaws dropped at that moment. Really? Your sins are forgiven? I mean, that’s nice, but that’s not exactly why they had gone to all this trouble. There was a bigger problem there. . . . Or was there?

The fact of the matter is that Jesus had His priorities straight. And Jesus is teaching us a thing or two about priorities as well. Forgiveness of sins was what that man needed more than anything else. His biggest problem was not paralysis, but sin. Karen’s biggest problem was not cancer. Your biggest problem is probably not what you think it is. Now more than ever, a lot of people are tempted to chuckle when they hear the word “sin.” It’s so old fashioned—so antiquated. But if you’re going to laugh about sin, then you might as well laugh about cancer or laugh about paralysis; for sin does far more damage.

In a sense, you could say that our sin paralyzes us—stops us in our tracks—prevents us from loving our neighbors as ourselves—prevents us from loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind. Sin causes us to love ourselves above all else. And just like cancer—just like paralysis—there’s no medicine that can cure it. Our sin runs death deep. It’s fatal. The wages of sin is death; and that’s a payday that none of us can avoid for long.

And this is why Jesus came. This is why God sent His Son—to save His people from their sins—to bear our sins in His broken body on the cross. He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. He took your place under the wrath of God; and gives you His place as a dearly loved child of the heavenly Father. He takes your sin; you get His righteousness—and this as a free gift, by grace, through faith. For God so loved the world—for God so loved Karen—that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. Karen knew that and believed that with all her heart. That’s why Karen was here so often, so regularly, for so many decades: to confess her sins, and to receive the forgiveness that Jesus Christ earned for her.

When Jesus forgave the sins of the paralytic, the scribes and Pharisees, of course, objected. They didn’t get it. They didn’t get Jesus. So then, as the icing on the cake—to show that His forgiveness was the real deal—Jesus then did the easy thing. Jesus tackled problem number two. Jesus healed the broken body that had been placed before Him. “So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” Jesus said, “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And the paralytic did just that. He rose, picked up his bed and walked away. And all were amazed and glorified God. That’s how our God operates! First things first! Forgiveness first, and then the icing on the cake—then the perfect healing—then the miracle.

Beloved in the Lord, I’m here to tell you that Jesus Christ did the same thing for Karen. He addressed her biggest problem first. For seventy years, beginning in the waters of Holy Baptism, Jesus forgave her all her sins. As far as the east is from the west, so far did He remove her transgressions. Forgiveness first; and then just a few days ago, the icing on the cake—the miracle, the welcome into the Savior’s arms—the end of tears and mourning and pain—then the life that lasts forever. We prayed for healing for Karen; and the God who loved her has now given her that perfect healing which she never could have had here on earth. Last Tuesday morning Karen fell asleep in faith, and woke up to see her Savior. She lacks nothing. She is home. And one day we who believe will join her.

We placed Karen into the hands of Jesus every time we prayed for her; but, actually, Jesus was already at work in Karen’s life, long before any of us ever prayed on her behalf. It began when she was washed clean in the waters of Holy Baptism on Valentine’s Day 1942—just down the road at Holy Ghost Lutheran Church. Then and there her body became a temple of the Holy Spirit. And for all the years that followed, as she listened to the Word of God—as she received the body and blood of Jesus—Jesus Himself was at work in Karen’s life, giving her strength and energy to work and sacrifice for those she loved, giving her peace through all the ups and downs.

Jesus gave her the strength and energy she needed to raise a family, and go to work, and keep a ginormous garden—strength to watch her husband go off to do a job that was fraught with danger and risk—strength to raise three children and to manage a household with an ever-changing population of pets. Jesus gave her the joy of seeing her family expand to include a son-in-law, and daughters-in-law, a dear neice—and to see her children’s children grow up to share the same faith in the same church. (We should all be so blessed.) In fact, this congregation was just like family for Karen. She was here all the time, cleaning-up the kitchen, packing up food donations, organizing the storage, serving snacks for Bible school, and countless other thankless jobs which most of us will never know about. Why? Because Jesus was at work in her, so that Karen could bear her crosses with patience, including this final cross of cancer. She met that illness with quiet courage and steadfast faith.

She did it all because her Savior was at work in her. And when Karen was at her weakest, Jesus was at His strongest—to save her and carry her right through the valley of the shadow of death. She’s where we all long to be—with Jesus. And to all of Karen’s family, even though your grief may feel paralyzing at times, you can count on the fact that your church family here tonight will be bringing you to Jesus in prayer in the days and weeks ahead. We’ll help you bear your burden, because we are one family in Jesus Christ, our Savior. He is the way, the truth, and the life that lasts forever. Amen.

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