Friday, January 20, 2023

Genna Biermann funeral sermon - Rom 8:31-39


Genna Biermann funeral

                                                                            Rom 8:31-39



          The first time I met Genna Biermann in the summer of 2006, she had dreadlocks.  The Biermann’s had just returned from a vacation in Jamaica, and her hair was stilled styled from her time there.  It did make an “interesting” first impression, and Genna commented on this in laughter at that time.  As I look back, it just fit because Genna Biermann was a fun loving person who was not concerned about trying to impress other people.

          Genna was simply a wonderful individual, and that is why losing her is so sad for so many.  She was a loving and faithful wife as she and Dan shared life together.  In a true a case of opposites attract, their personalities complemented each other, and they loved spending time together.

          Genna was a dedicated mother and grandmother.  She was a blessing to both her children and grandchildren.  Her involvement in their lives and the time they got to spend with her was something that enriched all.

          Genna was an outstanding teacher. Her own love of learning never ended – in the summer she was always working on some scientific project or opportunity for learning. This translated into the deep interest she took in her students and the way she taught them. My own son will be pursuing a career in science, and Genna played a very important role in guiding him on that path.

          More than anything, Genna Biermann was a remarkable woman of faith.  Genna joked that Dan brought her into the Lutheran church kicking and screaming. But once here she embraced the biblical teachings as her own, and was eager to talk about them with anyone.  Genna trusted in the Lord and the Gospel absolutely.  Her witness to faith in Christ in the face of imminent death was moving. We should all hope to have such deep and profound faith.

          In one of my last visits with Genna, she charged me with preaching the Gospel at her funeral.  That I will certainly do.  But as a Lutheran, Genna also knew the importance of distinguishing Law and Gospel.  She knew that the Law prepares us for the Gospel.  Sadly, this morning Genna herself is the illustration of Law.

          Genna Biermann has died. I do not understand why she died so young.  Only God knows that.  But I know why she died.  She didn’t die because of the cancer that spread through her body.  That was just the instrument that brought about death. Instead,  she died because she was a sinner.  Paul says in this same letter, “The wages of sin is death.”

          Genna was indeed a wonderful person. But that doesn’t change the fact she was a sinner.  Paul says in Romans: “For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one;

no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’”  She did not fear, love, and trust in God above all things.  She did not love her neighbor as herself in all ways at all times.  God is the holy God, and Jesus tells what is necessary to have fellowship with him.  He said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” 

          Genna knew this was true. She confessed her sin.  She did every Sunday when she attended the Divine Service. She confessed her sin one last time in the Commendation of the Dying.  Genna also knew that it was true of you.  That is why she wanted the Gospel proclaimed at her funeral.  She knew that on your own you are sinners who will face God’s wrath and judgment. That can be the only outcome for you apart from Christ.

          Genna Biermann died because she was a sinner.  But she has not received God’s judgment, and she never will.  Paul says in our text, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 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?”

          God did not spare his Son.  Instead, he sent his Son into the world as he took on humanity and became man.  True God and true man, Jesus was in this world to die in Genna’s place – to die in your place. On the cross he received God’s judgment against sin.  He was the sacrifice by which our sin was atoned for and forgiven.

          In fact Paul asks, “Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.”  God will not bring a charge against Genna, because he did it against Christ in her place. Genna believed in Jesus Christ the crucified Lord. And so Genna was justified by God’s grace – she was declared by God to be righteous and innocent. The verdict of the Last Day has already been spoken about Genna.  Paul says earlier in Romans, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Genna died at peace with God – her sins forgiven.

          We are here today because of death.  But because Genna believed in Christ and was baptized into his death, death does not get the final word.  Paul says in our text, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”

          Jesus Christ died on the cross on Good Friday. But on the third day, God raised him from the dead.  Jesus passed through death in order to defeat it for Genna – in order defeat it for you.  Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, Genna lives now.  Paul told the Philippians, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” As the apostle contemplated his own death he said, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”

          Genna has departed and she is now with Christ. We will take her body and bury it in a cemetery. But because Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, God is not done with her body.  Just before our text 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.”  Then he explained what this glory will mean when he said, “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.”

          Resurrection – that is what awaits Genna’s body. That is what awaits Genna. The Lord who has risen from the dead will return in glory on the Last Day.  The apostle told the Philippians, “we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

          This is the love that God has shared with Genna.  It is the love that God has shared with you – the love that is proclaimed to you this morning. Through baptism and faith this love from Christ is yours. Paul says in our text, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”  Not even the death of a beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend can separate us from Christ’s love.

          Like us all, Genna’s life was not without troubles. She faced challenges. But because Genna knew Jesus Christ the crucified and risen Lord she lived in the knowledge that victory was hers. She lived in the confidence given at the end of our text where Paul declares: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For 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.”

          Genna is held securely in God’s love today as she is with the Lord.  She will share in that final victory when Christ returns in glory and transforms her body to be like his.  In life and in death, nothing can separate her – and all those who believe in the crucified and risen Lord – from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.


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