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.
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.
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)