Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Anne was blessed to have 98 years of life and the last seven of these, years in which I knew her, had certainly had its challenges, but Anne seemed to approach them with the joy and grace of God.
That was my experience of Anne. Whenever I went to visit her, she greeted me with a smile and a laugh. I’m sure that said less about me and more about who Anne was.
Indeed, the Spirit of the Lord was upon Anne because in baptism Anne had been anointed with the forgiveness, life and salvation that Christ had won for her through his life, death and resurrection.
Despite times of grief and struggles Anne knew the comfort God had given her in Christ. Her smiling face revealed that spirit of gladness and praise that covered her. Christ had made her righteous no matter what her shortcomings may have been, and He had planted her in the midst of His people, the church, the body of Christ.
Now when you’re young and healthy, it’s easy to trust in yourself or in the resources you can access. However, the older one gets, the more dependent you become. Much of what we heard from the Psalmist (118) today would have resonated what Anne depended upon:
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in man.
14 The Lord is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
Anne enjoyed the hymn singing at the Michener Centre. I would often find her listening to some group singing down below as she watched from the second floor. Today, I trust that she is not singing alone but rather with everyone else who has died trusting in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour and who could have sung with the Psalmist today:
17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the Lord.
It is unfortunate that Anne represents a diminishing group of people in our current culture; a people who still believe in the resurrection of the body. There are many people from all kinds of religions who believe the spirit lives on after death. However, we as Christians don’t just believe that the spirit leaves this earthly body to go to be with Jesus, but we also believe that when Christ returns, He will reunite our spirits with new physical bodies in a new physical world.
We who confess this faith have so much to look forward to because Christ not only has overcome death but had promised to destroy death and bring to life all who are in Him.
Like I said earlier, Anne and many of us belong to a diminishing group within this society; people who still believe in what sometimes seems like the unbelievable.
Perhaps that’s why Jesus declared (Matthew 11), “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
There are many like Anne who have died in faith, simply trusting God’s Word to be true. That doesn’t mean you have to be simple or uneducated to believe. It does mean though, that when it comes right down to it, faith is not the product of how much you know or even if you agree with it, but is the gift God gives to those whom the Father chooses to reveal the crucified and risen Christ to.
Many times, this revelation occurs in the deep, dark valleys of life, where the shadow of death covers us and suffocates our own spirit. John Newton, the writer of the song, “Amazing Grace,” was in one of those dark valleys, when the Word of Christ came to him as he cried out for help.
But even before our cries go out, Jesus (Matthew 11) is already calling out to us: 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Jesus walked with Anne for some 98 years, giving her rest, easing her burdens and finally carrying her over the threshold of death. Now Anne waits for the fulfillment of this victory, when Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead; and when all the faithful will be raised to life.
Until that day, we who are still living will continue to face battles against our sinful selves, the world and the devil, but thanks be to God, that the victory is won and Jesus invites us to walk and work and live and serve and worship, trusting that whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. This was Anne’s faith and we give thanks to God for that gift that can be ours too.
Now may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Saviour. Amen.