Second Reformed Church

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Frances Joseph Funeral

“Frances Joseph Funeral”

[John 3:16-18]

May 9, 2015 Cotton Funeral Home, Newark

            The first thing I think of what I think of Frances is her firmly, loudly, and faithfully calling us as a congregation saying, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalm 118:24, ESV).

            When Frances was reading the Scripture or the Prayer of Confession, she – almost without fail – would call us to listen and hear with those words from the Psalm.  Sometimes she would also sing for us – helping us to come into worship in that way.

            My experience of Frances was that these words were her life:  “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!”  Not to say there weren’t days of struggle and difficulty – but Frances’ central theme was that this is the day that the Lord has made – He has made it – He has given it to use – to enjoy – to praise Him for.  This day, the Sovereign God reigns overall of Creation and meets the needs of His children – and He has invited each one of us into it that we would rejoice in Who God is and what He has done.  And as we rejoice in Who God is and what He has done and consider all these things in each moment and each aspect of our lives, we will have joy – we will be filled with gladness.

            Are we able to say those words and believe them as we mourn Francesnow in death?  Are we able to be crushed in our hearts, with tears in our eyes, and say, even so, this is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!  Not to deny the sadness we feel – even Jesus cried at the death of His friend, Lazarus – but cry – and cry out – with faith and in hope that this is not the end, and Frances shall rise from the dead on the last day.

            In our Scripture reading from John, we heard that God the Father loved the world – despite our sin – God so loved the world that God the Son came to earth in the Person of Jesus so that everyone who would believe in Him – as God the Savior – would not perish under God’s Wrath, but would have eternal life with our Triune God.

            God the Father did not send God the Son on a mission of judgment – He did not incarnate in the Person of Jesus to bring judgment, but to make the Only Way for anyone who will believe to be saved – to be made right with God.

            And “believe” is the correct word, because it doesn’t matter who we are or what we have done or what we do in the future – what matters – as far as salvation is concerned – as far as being right with God is concerned – is if we believe in Jesus as the incarnate Son of God Who lived and died to make us right with God, then we shall be saved.

            And if we do believe, it not only changes our everlasting future, but it changes our life today – it moves us from future condemnation – when Jesus does return as Judge – and gives us abundant life now.

            Paul wrote, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility not willingly, but because of him who subjected it in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in childbirth until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:18-25, ESV).

            I saw that joy for “the day that the Lord has made” in Frances – even in the midst of pain – time and time again:

            As she struggled as her knee pain got worse, and as her eyes grew dim and she saw less and less through them, we would ask her how she was and we would pray with her and for her, and she would thank us and say, “I am just so thankful I was able to get to church this morning.  I am just so thankful I can still get around.  There are so many people in worse shape than I am.   I am just so thankful I can be with you this morning.  I am just so thankful I can be with my family.  I brought pictures of this child or grandchild or this family member – isn’t he handsome, isn’t she beautiful?  Let me tell you about what she is doing – what he’s doing.  I am so thankful that my children and grandchildren and other family members remember the stories and the songs and the Bible verses I taught them.  How is your mother, sister, brother, and this person and that person?”

            This was Frances.  This was real – it was not an act – she overflowed with love and thanksgiving because of what she believed about her God and Savior.  And that love and thanksgiving overflowed to each one of us. 
            Frances believed in her God and Savior – and she believed that no matter what she suffered in this life – life with Jesus in the Kingdom is far, far greater.  And that enabled her to have joy through the pain and the frustration and failings of her body, until God took her home.

It was a rare privilege to know Frances and be loved by her as part of her response to her faith and belief.

It was also a rare privilege to know someone with such wisdom about the Scripture.

Frances participated in our Bible studies and adult studies at the church, and I quickly came to value the wisdom God gave her for handling the Word of God.

I remember – early in my ministry – that Frances pointed me to the words of Moses:  “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of the law” (Deuteronomy 29:29, ESV).

I don’t know if I ever told her how profoundly that affected me and how it helps to guide me in ministry now:  Moses was affirming that God has told us a great deal in His Word – in fact, everything that we need to know for life and salvation in the presence of God is to be found in the pages of the Bible.

But there are things that God has not explained.  There are things God has not seen fit to answer.  There are times when wisdom calls us to say, “thus far and no further” – “thus says the Lord, and no more.”

St. Augustine was once asked what God was doing before He created everything that is, and Augustine said, “Creating Hell for people who ask stupid questions.”

What has God told us?  God is and was and will forever be.  God has not revealed anything more, so let us put on hands to our mouths on such questions.

Frances taught me that.  There is a time when the answer is “I don’t know.  God doesn’t tell us.  Shhh.”

Frances is with Jesus now.  I am sad that I will not see her or talk to her again in this life.  But I look forward with great hope and expectation for that final day when Jesus returns, and Frances rises from the dead – incorruptible – and all we who believe will proclaim, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

Let us pray:

Almighty God, we come to You with tears, mourning our mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, family member, friend, fellow believer in Jesus Christ – a woman of faith and love and wisdom.  We thank You for Frances, and as we mourn her, we ask that You would bring her life and words to our minds that we would continue to learn from her – especially about Your Son – as we look forward to the Day of Resurrection.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

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