Revelation 5:1-14; John 14:1-6
Scroll, [W]hen [the Lamb] had taken the scroll, [with]the prayers of the saints … they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God … and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God …” (vv. 8-10).
Dear [Harold, Bob, Stephen], family and friends of our parted sister in the Lord; what do you see of Karen? I used the term “parted” advisedly; it is St. Luke’s manner of describing Jesus’ heavenly ascent on clouds amid an angelic promise of his like return. The promise is both of sacramental of presence and as St. Paul explains, on the Last Day attended in the company of his saints.
So again, I ask; what do you see of Karen? As always God’s word directs that which we behold in faith; first by Karen’s ash’s God’s word is manifest on account of sin, “dust you are and to dust you shall return.”
But there is more to Karen’s witness for us than the legal consequences of sin. Karen, baptized into Christ, gives us pause to reflect that her life and death speaks a greater testimony; that, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints”; how so?
If St. Luke leaves us staring into space as Jesus “parted” from the Mt. of Olives, St. John, in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, no doubt as the mass was being celebrated, reveals what is patent to the eyes of faith, the majesty of the man Jesus coronated and enthroned to the right hand of Power as the One worthy to receive, from the Ancient of Days, and open the seven-sealed Scroll.
We might ask after the contents of the Scroll, but that is a study for another day or year; rather we return to our question; how is Karen’s death precious in the sight of the Lord?
Precisely in this, that Karen’s story is part and parcel of Jesus’ Scroll being opened at the right hand of the Father. Fulfilled here is Jesus’ promise, “everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 10:32). What is Karen’s story, other than: baptized and of a piece with her crucified, risen, and exalted Lord?
A pastor in his pulpit is like a stylist, a writing instrument whose preaching inscribes God’s Speech onto receptive hearts with the goal of delivering in repentance God’s mercy, forgiveness, and eternal life by the power of his Word.
Over the years of our acquaintance, Karen, continued her advance from faith to faith in God’s word and Sacrament with the result that her life’s witness magnified her Lord.
So, Karen’s life continues in glory, whose heart and soul have been a tablet on which God’s inscribed word exploited through her talent in leading the congregation in heaven’s “new song”.
Karen now abides, as she lived, in the place Jesus prepared for her, in his flesh with the myriad saints beneath heaven’s altar of prayer, privileged to attend the holy conversation between the Ancient of Days and Jesus who now witnesses to Karen’s story and her fidelity to grace bestowed.
There, at Jesus’ opening the Scroll, Karen’s story of baptismal death and life, trusting in God, as Jesus trusted in God at the cross, is a part of his revelation before the Father, making her death precious in the sight of the Lord;
There beneath heaven’s incense altar the prayers of the saints continue the church’s new song proclaiming that which has been eternally written upon her, “the mystery of Christ preached to principalities and powers in heavenly places” (Eph. 3:9, 10).
This day Karen’s baptismal testimony to God’s work in Jesus for her salvation and thanksgiving to the Father for his love and glory, has come to fruition; to this end Jesus reveals the contents of the Scroll to which in this life she witnessed on her heart, speech, and music vocation, that “[Jesus’] blood didst ransom men for God … and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God”.
If you are asked what you see in the death of God’s saints that make them precious, then follow Karen, your sister in the Lord, permitting your Pastor to inscribe your hearts with God’s word to the praise of Jesus’ salvation and the glory of your Father in heaven; and this will be memorial enough. Amen.
But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.
R: Thanks be to Thee, O Lord!