Things you don’t want to hear at a funeral: “I dunno about you…but I think she’s probably in heaven.” “You just have to…you know…believe whatever makes you happy.” “Well…I mean…I don’t want to get hung up on the details here…”
Lutherans don’t preach that way. There’s no opinion. There’s no subjectivity. Jesus died on a cross for sinners. Jesus rose from the dead. You are baptized into His passion. You will rise from the dead. There’s no room for anything else. The Jesus we preach is too big to leave room for hunches or a nice sounding wish designed to placate without offending. And if you ever have to sit in a pew at the funeral of someone close to you, I pray you hear nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified – the Gospel.
This gospel brings comfort like nothing else. It is our rock, our refuge, and our shield. It’s solid. It’s sharp. It cuts right through doubt and fear. The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart [Hebrews 4:12]. You can be certain of it, and that matters, because nobody wants to hear anything less than certainty in the face of death.
We can be so sure because it isn’t about us. It’s based on something outside of us. It’s about Jesus.
The gospel is so audacious that it refuses to be limited to something as insignificant as whoever is preaching it. This lets us stare down death without flinching. Our confidence is in the sure word of God. But this certainty is a two edged sword. The hope that does not put us to shame also makes us say the one word nobody wants to hear.
The sinner in all of us hates that word. Believe it or not, your pastor hates saying it. I have never once thought to myself, “You know what sounds fun? Having my members mad at me! I hope they’re really disappointed! It will be great!” We don’t say “No” because it’s fun. We say it because there’s too much at stake to say anything else.
The reason our preaching is filled with hope and joy is because it stakes itself on Christ, our rock. We sing Jesus loves me, this I know, for the bible tells me so. If the bible is true, then it is true. If we pick it apart to get rid of the bits we don’t like, there’s nothing solid to stand on anymore, and all we’re left with is that list of things you never want to hear at a funeral.
Certainty cuts both ways. If we must be sure of God’s Word when it speaks of salvation, then we must be sure of God’s Word when it speaks of sin. We must cling to God’s Word as truth whether we like it or not. That’s a tall order, because the rock of our salvation is also a rock of offense.
So we pray.
Hallowed be Thy name. We know that God’s name is certainly holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may be kept holy among us also. How is God’s name kept holy? God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!
We pray that we would see the truth. Even as God’s Word rebukes sin, in forgives sinners and gives life everlasting. We pray that when we hear the word “No” to sin, we would cling to the far more important “Yes” to salvation. We pray Hallowed be Thy name because there’s too much at stake for anything else.