Sermon for the Funeral of +Gloria Jane Tonn+, October 29, 2021


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A sermon preached on the occasion of the Funeral of +Gloria Jane Tonn+, October 29, 2021 at St. Peter–Immanuel Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI, on selected verses from John 14. You may play the audio of the sermon here.

A transcript of the sermon follows the jump:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The text this day is from the Gospel according to St. John, the 14th chapter:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Thus far the text.

Mike, Stephanie, family, and my dear friends in Christ,

I’ve mentioned it to a few of you, but there are not many times a pastor finds himself speechless. The morning Stephanie called me to tell me that Gloria had fallen asleep in Jesus was one of them. How could it be Gloria? I mean no offense, but there are other people that make a whole lot more sense to go before her. And I have found that many of you have thought and felt the same way. How could it be Gloria? Gloria, so full of life, so full of comfort, so full of Jesus; it doesn’t make sense. I think I managed to say some of the right words to Stephanie and Mike when they came to meet with me, but it’s still troubling. After all, if Gloria can be taken to her Lord, ain’t nobody safe. Am I next? Are you?

Let not your hearts be troubled, our Lord says. And so we should not. But that’s easier said than done. Still, remember that Gloria spent so many years teaching you, her students, this. She encouraged you, her friends in this. She stood by you in life and reminded you, edified you, exhorted you to remember this. And I know that because she even did that for me.

Gloria had a faith of which all of us could be envious. She believed. If ever there was a believer, it goes St. Paul, St. Peter, Gloria, the rest of the apostles, and we all fall in down the line there. She believed in God. She trusted in Christ. And this wasn’t of her own doing, but it was God’s gift to her. He gave her the faith that she shared with all of us and He gave her the talents to do it in a way that reached to each and every person she touched. He did it. Give God the glory for Gloria, because, man, He knew what He was doing with her. And so did she. She used her gifts for all of us, to teach, to tend to the business of the Church, to prepare the Supper for us to receive in this place, to lift you up, to make us laugh, to point us to our Savior.

Gloria’s faith endures. Let not your hearts be troubled. Gloria is at peace and, because of her good work, by faith in Christ, you will be at peace someday, too. She is with her Lord, seeing His face, living for now in the place prepared for her, and awaiting His return and hers to this earth to live forever with Him and with us. And yet, Gloria is still here. She’s right there, in that urn. That’s Gloria. It’s not just her body; it’s her. Death has made it so that she in two places at once, here with us now and soon in the ground and with her Savior. Don’t let that scare you; she is not suffering but is at peace, and soon, very soon, we pray, she’ll be at rest when this body is raised from the ground and is joined together with her soul, with her, again to live forever in the light of Christ.

Death is in front us, and it awaits us, too. We are gathered here because of death, we are called to this place because of death. And seeing the effect of death, we know that we will soon be called into it as well. It’s what awaits us. If it can take Gloria, it can take us. It’s the wages of sin. It’s how we know that Gloria was indeed a sinner.

We’re sinners, too. We know this. We’ve grown older, some of us creakier. We get sick. We suffer. We grieve. We die. We’re sinners. And still, let not your hearts be troubled. Rejoice, believers. Rejoice always, and give thanks in every circumstance, for you are not in darkness. You do not lack the knowledge of what it is to be saved. The faith that clings to Christ is here for you; grasp it, hold on to it. You have been ministered to by Jesus Himself who tells you, just as He did Gloria, that, in Him, in His death, your sins are forgiven. He tells you that He has died for you, to save you, and He rose from dead that you might have eternal life. Isn’t this what Gloria has been telling you for years? Isn’t this what she was pointing you towards? Or did she waste her time and energy? All her work was done that those who gather in this place would receive the forgiveness of Christ through the Word, through Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. All her work was done that those who came under her care would receive eternal life in Christ’s name.

Gloria knew the way to God, and she taught it to you. Gloria knew the way, and His name is Jesus. He will not leave you as orphans, wandering alone, but will come to you, and He has come to you this day even through the reading and preaching of His Word. He will not let you struggle and falter and fail, but will guide you just as His Father commands. He is the way and the truth and life, and He is calling to you this day to follow Him, to learn from Him, to live in Him. What a glorious calling we have, that our stronghold, our fortress is Christ who protects and brings to us all that we need.

It’s more than appropriate we are having this funeral Reformation Day weekend, a day we have set aside to give thanks to God for protecting His Word, guarding it and us, letting us see the free salvation won for us by Jesus Christ, because this is what Gloria was all about. She was a Reformation Christian, one who knew that all she had was a gift from the Lord, one who knew that she would live again, one who knew that she was not forsaken by God but beloved by Him. This is what she was about, and it is what we are about, too.

We have peace with God in Christ Jesus. We have peace and reconciliation with the Father, and that gives us the peace that passes all understanding. We have peace with God through the death and resurrection of Christ and thus we do not let our hearts be troubled, but we rejoice. Is it sad that Gloria has died? Yes! Of course it is. We grieve, but not as those without hope. We grieve because we aren’t with her now, but we will be again. And even while we grieve, we rejoice. We give thanks. We honor God with our lips and our hearts for all that He has done for us and for Gloria.

Let not your hearts be troubled. If you have been given the gift of faith, you need not fear. You will be taken care of, you, even if you die as you leave this place, will be taken into the fortress of your God, Jesus Christ, the bulwark never failing. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. The Lord has saved you and He will one day bring you from the ground, just as He will Gloria. The Holy Spirit guided her in life, and now guards her in death even to the day of Resurrection. May He do the same for you as He did Gloria, that you would live lives of faithful service, that you would share Christ in your work, that you would endure until the final, unexpected day, and guard you as you await the day that you will be be raised from the dead to live with Gloria and all the saints of Christ Jesus.

Let not your hearts be troubled. Her race is won. She is safe over the finish line. Let not your hearts be troubled, and be not afraid, for your Lord is seeing you safely there, too. Let not your hearts be troubled, but rejoice, give thanks, for your Lord is come and He will guard you in safety until you reach the shores of salvation. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord! Amen.