Nothing in this life can separate you from God’s love in Christ. And of course, not even death itself.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The funeral of Eunice Ruth Hafemeister
Texts: Romans 8:31-39; John 14:25-29; Isaiah 61:1-3
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Paul’s promise to the Romans is the best news we could hear today.
Talking about the challenges and suffering of our lives and of the creation, he says: “nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And he specifically says even death can’t. Death cannot keep you from God’s love in Christ. And in his death on the cross and resurrection to new life, Christ made this absolutely clear and trustworthy and certain.
Today we carry our sister Eunice to her rest, and it’s tempting to focus only on this amazing promise: death cannot separate us from God’s love in Christ. So Eunice, who has died, is in God’s arms now, in the life to come. That’s what we came here to hear and trust.
Except it’s only part of the promise. And only part of the truth.
Paul included a whole lot of other things in the “nothing”: life can’t separate you from God’s love in Christ either, he said. What’s happening today can’t, what happens tomorrow can’t. Except for death, everything else on Paul’s list happens in this life. Paul’s promise is mostly for here. Here, you are always in God’s love.
So while Eunice absolutely is in the arms of God right now, that’s nothing new. Because life, and the present, and the future, and nothing in the whole creation could separate her from God’s love in Christ, she has always been in the arms of God.
And she knew that. She’d want you to know that you are, too.
Dear friends, this gift of God in Christ is for you now.
The promise of God’s peace Jesus makes in our Gospel today is for you and for now.
He says so specifically. He’s going away, but he wants those who trust in him to know that they will not be alone, they don’t need to be afraid of this suffering world, and they don’t need to have troubled hearts.
God is with them. So God is with you. And that peace that the world can’t give, because the world lives in selfishness and anxiety and fear, that peace from God is yours now. You can be confident in that.
If you knew Eunice you heard this witness from her.
Of course she was human like us. She had doubts and fears and anxieties, and I’m probably not the only one who talked with her about her God questions.
But she had a deep and abiding confidence that God loved her always, and loved this world. She lived her life fully in that confidence, traveling, going on adventures with friends and family, always being of service to God and others. She taught countless people and shared her wisdom and faith with them. She lived every minute of her nearly 97 years as gift from God and was a blessing to her huge family of siblings and cousins and aunts and uncles, and even more to her family she raised with Lester.
This is her witness she leaves behind for us: that life can be lived trusting God is with you, giving you peace and hope that makes this life worth living. And also peace and hope for the life that’s yours to come.
Today, Eunice is just where she trusted she would be, where she was confident God was taking her.
We grieve because she’s no longer here with us. But we grieve with joy for her.
And the witness of God’s Word is that you don’t need to be anxious about you or your life or this world, either. Nothing that has happened to you or will happen, no matter how painful or difficult, can keep God from loving you in Christ. And giving you peace through God’s Spirit.
Living in this trust, life becomes a blessing with a joy and hope that transforms you. Life becomes a gift to live. As Isaiah says, you get your faint heart, your faint spirit, strengthened in God’s love and you become like a great oak tree.
But don’t just take my word for it. Or Eunice’s. Or even Paul’s.
Christ gives you the Holy Spirit who speaks in your heart and teaches you what you need to know to find God’s peace in this life. Reminds you of God’s love when you doubt or are afraid. Listen for that Spirit. God’s Spirit lives in you so you’re not alone, and God’s love shapes your life here. And gives you confidence in a life to come that is yours.
Trust God on this. Where else do you think Eunice got all her faith and trust? She got it where we all get it, from God living in her. And God now lives in you.
Nothing in this life or the next can separate you from God’s love. Nothing. So live in that peace now. Until you, too, go to that wonder that is to come that Eunice now knows fully.
In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen