On the passing of a grandmother

We honored Rosemary Mueller’s life on November 2nd, a week after her passing. Below is a transcript of the message Seth preached at her funeral.


“All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass” (Isa 40:6-7)

Death is a strange and foreign thing. Foreign not in the sense that it is rare, but that it is unnatural. We were not created in order to die. We were created in order to live. That is why when one dies it seems as though something is wrong. One author made the observation that “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.” We desire life. We desire a life longer and fuller than what we can find on this earth.

But death is here, and we are told that it is here because of sin (Rom 5). Sin entered the world, and then came death.

The unnatural presence of death is seen even in our gathering today. We don’t come together today to honor Rosemary Mueller’s death, but her life. We look back on the life she lived and remember that:

She was generous. If she knew that someone needed something and she had it, she would give it.

She had a kind heart.

She respected your decisions even when she didn’t agree.

She was selfless, always wanting her kids to be happy. That is what she asked for at Christmas.

She was content in her circumstances.

But even in honoring her life, we still feel as though something were wrong. Is that all there is? Is there no more than this short existence and then endless darkness? Around 1000 BC, David, the great king of Israel penned these words “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!” (Pss 39:4-6). Life is short, a breath a shadow, a mere span of a hand.

While life has not changed as much from the 1st century AD as we would like to believe, death has not changed at all. Jesus stood before death and felt the hollowness of existence. He stood before the tomb of his friend Lazarus, who had died four days earlier. He heard the weeping of his close friends. He felt the loss. The book of John records “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept” (John 11:33-35).

He was not a stranger to reality. He understood death. The one who had spoken the world into existence (John 1) knew that life on this planet was short lived for every individual. He not only understood death, he felt its ugly presence deep within his soul.

But he also knew more.

Listen as Jesus stands and speaks with the sister of Lazarus. “Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (John 11:21-27).

Jesus, the Son of God, the promised Christ, claimed to have the power over life and death.

You see, Jesus understands death. He has felt death. But he also is greater than death. As he stands before an occupied tomb he makes a promise, “You will be empty.” Jesus promises those who believe in him that they will live again.

Now, if the story ended there we could chalk up the promises of Jesus with the other ramblings of psuedo-saviors who continue to plague our cable tv. But the story doesn’t end there. John continues, “Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Jesus’ words were not empty promises, but completed threats on Death himself.

Death is foreign. It is the very fact that death is foreign that it had to be conquered. And conquered it was. Jesus Christ defeated death in his own sacrifice on the cross, and now it holds no real power for those who have placed their hopes of eternity in his hands. As was read earlier, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die’.” Life is possible, not by doing more good, or doing less bad, but by believing in Jesus Christ as your substitute for sin, as your savior.

We gather here today and remember a life. We honor a woman who has passed on, not ceased to be. But each of us here today not only looks backward, but forward. We stand in the present and consider what will come. Are you here today with only the painfulness of the felt loss, or do you have the hope of eternity in Jesus?