More Than Victorious – The Funeral of Ina Schlichtmann

Text: Romans 8:31-39

Dearly beloved in Christ Jesus our Lord, especially you – family and friends of Ina: Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father and from Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd of the sheep and the Redeemer of our souls.

St. Paul writes, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (vv. 38-39) Neither death nor life, nor anything in all creation can separate us or divide us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. In all things we are more than conquerors, we have a surpassing final victory through Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave Himself for us, to redeem us from eternal death, the due penalty of our sins.

I.

The text begins, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (v. 31) Paul is speaking a rhetorical question. He has just finished expounding upon the life that the Christian has in Jesus; that in Christ there is no condemnation. That is, in Christ and through faith in Him, we have been set free from the law of sin and death. Those redeemed in Christ are forever free from the guilt and shame of their sins because Christ took their sin upon Himself and died on the cross in their place. Death no more has any dominion over them, and it no longer has any hold over our sister Ina.

You see, it was on February 22nd, 1925 that Ina was set free from the guilt of her sin and given the gift of eternal life. Ina Ione Tonn, the daughter of John and Bertha, was brought to the baptismal font here in Hillsboro. She was baptized with the water and the Word; she was washed and made clean in the blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Though in the flesh she remained a sinner, a confession she freely made all her life, yet through Baptism she was given the gift of faith and brought to eternal life in God through Christ Jesus her Lord. How fitting; the word “Ione,” can mean “flower,” but it is also the word that means “eternity” in Greek. Daily she awoke in the remembrance of her Baptism, knowing that though her sins were as red as scarlet, they had been made as white as snow.

If God is for us, who can be against us?” Nothing. “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (vv. 31-32) If God is for us, nothing can stand against us; though it often doesn’t appear that way. Though we were yet sinners, at the right time the eternal Son of God took upon flesh to bear our sin and be our Savior. No longer could our heavenly Father stand to see His children perish eternally, and so He sacrificed His only Son to make payment for our sin. How will He not then give us all things and bring us to eternal life? After all, there is no one left to condemn us. The devil lost all power and hold over us when Jesus Christ burst forth from the ground and left the grave empty. Now He sits at the right hand of God interceding for us until He should come again to take all who believe in Him to eternal life.

II.

Who shall separate us from this love? “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (vv. 35, 37) The life of a Christian is not a bed of roses. It is not an easy life, as Ina herself could testify. Instead, life is filled with suffering. It is filled with trials and tribulations, distress and hardships, danger and eventually, death. A Christian experiences all of these things and more. We live in a broken world. We are beset on all sides by terrible situations. Death and destruction, the due consequences of sin, confront us at every corner. We are even weighed down by the guilt and shame of our own sins, and our fear of death. Sometimes it feels like the water is almost above our chin, and we’re tempted to just let keep rising and take away our sorrows.

But shall any of these things, shall tribulation, strife, fear, guilt, lies, destruction, death; shall any of these things separate us from the love of Christ? ABSOLUTELY NOT! The Apostle writes, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height or depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (vv. 38-39) This was Ina’s good confession. There was nothing in all creation that could separate her from Christ her savior. No troubles of life, no fears, not guilt, not even death separated her from the love of Christ Jesus. The life that she lived, she lived through faith in the Son of God, who loved her, who loves you, and gave His own life on the cross, to redeem us all from eternal death.

Through the preaching of God’s Word and through the washing of Holy Baptism Ina was given the gift of faith. She was given the forgiveness of all her sins and welcomed into eternal life. This was not because she was a perfect person. She knew that if salvation were left up to her own powers she would get nowhere. Instead, she rested comfortably in the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. She was strengthened in faith and love by often receiving Christ’s body and blood in His Holy Sacrament. And now, she is before the throne in heaven with all the saints who have gone before her in the faith, including her beloved Walter.

Today we do not mourn as those who have no hope. No, we give thanks to God for the eternal life He bestowed upon Ina through faith in Christ Jesus, her Lord. We give thanks that the Good Shepherd of the sheep has taken His little lamb upon His shoulders and brought her to the green pastures beside still waters. And we know, that for those who have faith in Him, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. No, we are more than victorious over the powers of sin, death, and the devil through Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave Himself for us, that we might not die, but live eternally. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

The Gospel Advances

Text: Philippians 1:12-14, 19-30

The Apostle Paul writes, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” (v. 12) What’s happened to him has served to advance the Gospel. Now Paul, he didn’t have such a good life. He was hated, beaten, thrown out of cities, screamed at, stoned and left for dead – not once, but twice, imprisoned unjustly, and, eventually, beheaded for his faith in Jesus Christ. But still he writes to his beloved in Philippi, “What has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.” (vv. 12-13)

In the Old Testament reading last week Joseph told his brothers – the ones who out of jealously stripped him, threw him into a pit, and sold him into slavery – “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Gen. 50:20) The Christian life is one of paradoxes. We are in the world, but not of the world. We have rejoicing, but we also have suffering. We are saints, and yet at the same time we are so often proven to be sinners as well. We are saved by grace through faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, we have the gift of eternal life; and yet, each of us still going to die someday. Have you ever stopped to wonder why? Well today we have the answer as to why we are here as Christians, as the Church. In Christ, and through the salvation we have in Him, we stand firm in faith so that others may know His love.

I.

We don’t know where Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians from, but it’s clear that he is imprisoned. Tradition states the Paul wrote this letter from prison in Rome in about 59 A.D., but it could have also been from Corinth or even Philippi. Whatever the case, it is clear that Paul is imprisoned for the faith that he has in Jesus Christ. And he’s okay with it. He’s okay with it because the more that he is persecuted, the more he is beaten, the more he is treated harshly, it’s actually that much more that the Gospel goes out. The more the world tries to diminish the faith of Jesus Christ, the more it actually spreads and is talked about. In Paul’s case, it’s such that all who are guarding him, even all those who are connected with him, know that it’s because of Jesus, and nothing else, that he is in chains.

Paul says that’s okay because, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (v. 21) To live is Christ. To live for Paul is to belong to, and be in, the life of Christ. He says in Galatians 2 that, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (v. 20) To live for Paul, and for us, is Christ. Jesus, our Great High Priest, has sacrificed His own body in our place on the cross. He loved us by taking our sin and shame upon Himself, and carrying it to the grave to separate us from the guilt of our sin forever. He did this to bring us out of darkness and into His marvelous light. For us to live is Christ, for through Him we are dead to sin and alive to righteousness.

For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” The life we now live in the flesh we live through faith in the Son of God, who took our sin and shame upon Himself. To live is to live in Him, and to die is gain. Jesus promised the thief on the cross that he would be with Jesus in paradise. I think we can all agree that the world we live in right now is not paradise. I used to work at a Lutheran summer camp in northern Wisconsin. There was this one counselor who was from Minnesota. Whenever the topic of Minnesota came up in any sort of way, he always made sure that everyone knew that Minnesota is “God’s country.” It was all in fun, and I’m now being tempted to call North Dakota “God’s country;” but none of us can really deny that we live in broken world. We long for the place where God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, where all things are made new. But we’re not there yet. Why?

 II.

Paul says, “If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for memy desire is to depart and be with Christbut to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your accountfor your progress and joy in the faith.” (vv. 22-26) This is the answer to why we are still here. It’s why we, having received the forgiveness of sins freely through Jesus Christ, are still here. We remain so that others may learn of the saving work of Jesus Christ on their behalf and come to share the same hope that we do. St. Peter writes, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9) God our heavenly Father desires that all be saved by hearing the Word of Jesus Christ and being given the gift of faith in Him. It is to this end that we gather as a church.

It says in Ephesians 3 that we are, “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand.” (Eph. 2:10) Though apart from Christ we can do nothing, in Him we can do all things. Without Christ all that we do and are is filthy rags, but by Him we are built like a city on a rock, a light for those who struggle in the darkness of this world. And because we are in Christ, and live in His life, good works proceed naturally without our even thinking about it. The Holy Spirit works within us the boldness and confidence that we need to speak the Good News of Jesus Christ to those around us, to share God’s love with those in need, and to live in that same love, both towards God and our brothers and sisters in Christ.

III.

As new creatures in Christ, “Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (v. 27) Paul knows that we are sinners. The only way we can do that is to stand firm in the one spirit and mind – the confession that though we were nothing but sin, Christ died for us. He died for you to make you a perfect, blameless, child of God. Our worthiness is not found within ourselves, but in Christ. In Christ, in the salvation that we receive from Him alone, we are made to stand firm in the faith. And standing firm, we are led by the Holy Spirit to reach out.

The text says to not be “frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvationIt has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake.” (vv. 28-29) Know this, that being a Christian means that not only is a cross placed upon your back, but a crosshair as well. Satan will try day and night to rip your faith from you. He will bite and tear and pull to get your mind off of things of God – the forgiveness of sins – and onto yourself and the things of man.

But do not fear, and do not lose heart. God knows how to use bad things for good. As Christians we have been called not only to believe in Jesus and receive the free forgiveness of sins in Him, but also to suffer as He suffered. The funny thing is, and Paul knew this, the more the world persecutes us and hates us, the more that Jesus is actually talked about. God’s Word is living and active, and even in the mouths of those who hate us, it still runs its course.

Sometimes I wonder why Jesus doesn’t just take us to heaven now. The answer is that He doesn’t want anyone to die but that all receive life through faith in Him. This faith comes through hearing the Word of God. This is why we are here: to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a world in desperate need. It will be hard. Jesus says, “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33)