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Memorial Service for Jo Engdahl

John 11:32-45

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Sat. after Trinity 13
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Sat, Sep 4, 2021 

Grace, mercy, and peace to all who loved our sister Jo and are saddened by her passing, from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

King David the Psalmist says, “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” Our sister Jo also loved to be here in this House because she loved the voice of her dear Lord.  Here He spoke His Word to her.  In this way, listening to His voice, she knew that her Lord loved her.  He described to her the incredible depth of His love for her and the lengths He had been willing to go for her.  So she knew how greatly He loved her.

When Christ went to the tomb of His beloved friend Lazarus, some of the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” but others said, “Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

In the same way, our trust in Christ may be challenged.  Christ loved Jo, yet He did not stop her from dying.  Does that mean that He is unable to save?  Of course not.  Or does it mean that He did not love her, after all?  No.  His love has been demonstrated and proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, and will be proven again.

Christ allowed Jo to enter the grave, but He has already gone before her there.  He died, and He was buried.  He has therefore made holy all the graves of His beloved saints.  He has made the slumber of her body in the earth a blessed sleep while her spirit enjoys the presence of her loving Lord.

This is not to say that death is altogether a good thing.  We are rightly troubled and saddened by death.  Mary weeps before Christ, and He does not rebuke her as if her tears were sinful.  In fact, He is also deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled.  He adds His own tears to Mary’s.  Death even makes the Lord Christ lament.  So we need not be ashamed of our tears. 

Yet we do not weep without hope.  That is the difference between us and those who do not believe.  We know that death, although it is a tragic result of sin, is still beaten by Christ, and its sting removed by His death and resurrection.  The grave must temporarily claim our loved ones like Jo.  Yet death will be completely reversed, and any victory death might claim is already hollow, since Christ has conquered death.

We should not deny death.  Diminishing death’s reality lessens the victory of Christ in our minds.  If Christ has saved us from a thing that is small or nothing at all, then He is not that great a Savior, is He?

Jo knew.  She understood how great her Lord’s love was.  He has saved her, and will save her again on the Last Day.  He will reverse this bad thing that has been done to her.

We see a picture of what Christ will do in the Holy Gospel.  Lazarus, four days dead, lays in his tomb.  But Christ calls loudly, “Lazarus, come out.” That voice pierces through the vale of death.  The soul of Lazarus is called back at the call of the Lord of life who has authority and power over both death and life.  The body becomes alive again, and Lazarus walks out of his own tomb.

Can death hold onto Lazarus when the Lord speaks His powerful Word?  No.  Death is no match.  So also, at the Last Day, when the Lord calls out to the graves of the dead, death will not be able to hold onto our sister Jo, or any of the dead.  Jo will be raised as Lazarus was raised, walking out of her own grave.  If her body was scattered to the four winds, that still would not prevent the powerful voice of her Lord from raising her.  His Word that brought order from chaos at the beginning of the earth will most surely also bring Jo to life again.  His command will pierce the vale of death when He calls loudly, “Come out!” Jo will hear and obey gladly, leaping from the ground with joy at her dear Lord’s voice.

We know that Christ will raise Jo and give her eternal life most certainly because He loves her.  He will reverse the damage death has done.  He will restore her body to life, and more than that, give her perfection such as she never experienced in her earthly life.  She will stand firmly on strong legs that can run and jump as never before.  She will be so full of health and vitality that nothing will ever diminish or take that life away again – no disability, no sickness, nor even fear or sorrow or tears, since nothing will cause sadness again.  Jo will be forever alive and blessed and happy.

Christ proved that He will do all this by dying in Jo’s place.  He took her sins and the sins of all men upon Himself on the Cross.  He died her death and removed all guilt and judgment from her.  Death has no lasting claim on Jo.  When Christ rose, He proved that this was so, and demonstrated that His love for all His saints will show itself in raising His saints to be like Him: immortal and glorious.  So will our sister be, because her Lord loves her.

He made sure that Jo received this gift by speaking to her during her earthly life.  He spoke His Word, and her soul was brought to life.  Once dead in sin, she was raised by her Lord’s voice.  He gave her faith to trust in her Lord and see that He is loving towards her.  His voice pierced the deathly deafness of sinful ears and soul.  She became a saint, living and forgiven, destined for immortality.

In this life, it did not look this way.  She was subject to illness and weakness.  Jo often surprised us with how strong in body and sharp in mind she remained, even in her advanced age.  Yet eventually her body had to give out, as all our bodies eventually lose their strength.

But the life Christ put in her with His Word remains.  She is now with the saints in glory, although still without her body.  That will be remedied soon enough when Christ speaks to her again and raises her one more time.  Now she is happy with her loving Lord.  Then she will be happier still as all things are made perfect by the love of her Lord.

Of course Jo loves the voice of her dear Lord.  His voice is life and resurrection.  His voice has become her salvation, even in the midst of death.

The Spirit grant that we all love the same Lord’s voice, and listen for it on the Last Day.  Amen.

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