Pastor Sean Willman
Good Shepherd Pleasant Prairie
Esther Crowley Memorial Service
3 March 2018
Esther was no stranger to suffering. In the short time I knew her she spent many days in the hospital because of illness. She spent many days in rehab trying to recover from surgery. She spent many painful hours in therapy trying to gain some mobility back. And throughout it all we prayed together and I’m confident she prayed on her own that God would have mercy upon her and take away some of this suffering. That isn’t to say that she didn’t live a life filled with joy. I can’t tell you how often our conversations turned to you and your successes and kindness and love toward her. Esther was proud of her family and she gave thanks to God for you. Not to mention the countless other gifts that God showered upon her in this life.
But the reality was she was facing death. She was facing the consequences of her sins. That’s hard to stomach sometimes, but it’s true. St. Paul reminds us that the “wages of sin is death,” and “no one is righteous, no not one.” We have a just God, who does what He says He will do. And so when He told Adam that if he ate of the tree in the midst of the garden he would die, God fulfilled that promise, and Adam died. As descendants of Adam we were conceived in sin, and like Adam we too have sinned, and so we bear the curse that is common to all men: death. Every bit of suffering we face in this life is the result of sin. It’s the result of our own sin, the sin of others, and the sin that has corrupted all of creation. Because all men sin, all die. Because we sin we face the wrath of God over our sin and are put at odds with Him. Enemies of the Creator.
It’s no surprise then, that all of us spend our days trying to avoid suffering, and outlast death. And every one of us first looks within ourselves to find a solution. You see if the problem is sin, can’t the solution be obedience? If Adam died because he sinned, if we suffer because we sin, what if we took care of the problem by being righteous? That is, if we keep the law as best we can, will that satisfy God and let us avoid suffering and maybe even death? By no means.
Which of us has ever kept the law perfectly? Which of us could have hope for life by means of our works? No one is righteous. No not one. Not even your beloved mother, grandmother, and great grandmother Esther. No, when I came to visit we would chat for some time, and I always so enjoyed our chats, often staying longer than I intended, but then we would get to reason I came: to give her the forgiveness of sins. I would speak the general confession of sins and then look to Esther and ask, “Is this your confession?” The answer was always a clear, “yes.” Why could Esther so clearly admit that she was a sinner, at odds, and enemy of God because of her own works? Because she knew her Savior.
Listen again to St. Paul’s words that the Holy Spirit inspired him to record,
“31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[i] against us? 32 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? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 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.[j] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 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.”
Your Savior Jesus suffered and died for you. And when He did so He bore the wrath of God for your sins. The perfect and sinless Son of God completely fulfilled the law of God, and then put Himself in your place, made Himself an enemy of God, and suffered the consequences of your sins. Jesus died for you, to make you a child of God. He took away the wrath of God and made you righteous like Him so that you are no longer be an enemy of God, but an heir of eternal life. In Christ you have conquered all sins. You have conquered all suffering. You have conquered death. In Christ, you live, now and forever.
So, yes, Esther was no stranger to sin or suffering. But nor was she a stranger to Jesus. So she faced life, and all that it entailed, not fearing death, but knowing that in Christ Jesus she had conquered death. She confessed her sins, knowing the Jesus had covered them with Him blood and given her life. Jesus died for you, but more than that, He was raised from the dead! He lives, in His flesh, and sits at the right hand of God, declaring you to be righteous, like Him. And as your Savior lives, so too will you live. As your Savior rose from the dead, so too will all who believe in Him rise to live with Him forever.
Esther lives. This very day she is standing before the throne of her Savior in heaven, a conqueror of all of that suffering she knew in this life. No more assisted living. No more hospitals. No more rehab. No more therapy. No more confessing sins. Only Jesus and the life He won for her, and you, and all who believe in Him. For nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.