Sermon: In Memoriam +Agnes Elsa Morrison (Timm)+ 1916-2011

Died: March 21, 2011
Service: March 25, 2011

In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Chilling. Somber. Confusing. Peaceful.
I'm describing for you the experience of watching a human being fall asleep in Jesus, at least this was the case on Monday afternoon when the soul of our beloved sister in the faith, +Agnes, when her soul left her body and went to be with +Jesus, in peace and joy forevermore.

We prayed for healing, and that's what happened. We prayed for mercy, and so our Lord has had mercy. +Agnes is with +Jesus. Her baptism held strong, or rather, the Lord +Jesus, the One into whom blessed +Agnes was baptized, our Lord held strong, held on to +Agnes, and never let go. He is faithful, the Good Shepherd has carried his lamb, Agnes, into the promised land where she enjoys peace and rest and complete protection, never ever again having to bear the burden of sin.

Chilling. Somber. Confusing. Peaceful.
I'm describing for you the experience of watching The Human Being breath His last and give up His spirit. I'm speaking of our Lord, +Jesus. His body had been hanging there for three hours, arms stretched across the wood planks, nails holding Him in place. His body finally failed Him. God died. His mother sobbed, His beloved disciple John confused, and scared. Even the enemies of our Lord noted the somber atmosphere as they spoke out, “Surely this One was the Son of God.” What would it have been like to see God breath His last?

Throughout +Agnes' life, she received the benefits of our Lord's death on the cross: the forgiveness of her sins. First, Jesus' death became her death on January 28, 1917 when she was washed by the water and the Spirit in Holy Baptism. She continued in this forgiveness as she received our Lord's crucified and risen Body and Blood in the Holy Sacrament.

Forgiveness of sins: this is what our blessed Lord +Jesus died for; this is what our blessed friend, +Agnes lived for.

She knew who she was, the truth was in her as she confessed often of her sinfulness: and she wanted no part of it. She hated that her sin could possibly separate her from her all-loving, all-merciful God. “Oh, pastor, how could you be speaking of a person's sinfulness at a time like this?” Because our Lord comes for such as these; our great Physician, healing the soul of all who come in repentance. +Agnes knew her need.

How she loved the forgiveness of sins! How she loved our Lord's compassion toward her! It was a quiet love, her's was a quiet, private faith. It was a no-nonsense, no-question about it kind of faith, the kind of faith described by +Jesus when he said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” +Agnes led a child-like life of turning, a life of repentance, of humble, quiet, certain, solid confidence and faith in her Lord.

What an example for us! What a blessing she was, what a blessing she still is! A Christian dare not speak of his own faith, for faith does not look to itself, faith has a goal, it has an object and a promise. +Agnes' baptismal faith looked to Jesus. This is the blessed example this saint has left for us, a quiet and confident reliance upon Jesus; trusting in the benefits of His death on the cross, living in and for His forgiveness.

And it doesn't stop with her death. In fact, she is not now dead.

As +Agnes was taking her last, peaceful breaths on Monday afternoon, one last Word of God was read into her ear and heart and soul, it ushered her into her eternal homeland, her place of rest. I read that Word to you now.

Psalm 118: [17, 19-20] – and please get this picture now of what is going on in that hospital room on Monday: her soul is leaving her body and she hears these departing Words:
17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
   and recount the deeds of the LORD.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
   that I may enter through them
   and give thanks to the LORD.
20This is the gate of the LORD;
    the righteous shall enter through it.

Death, dear loved ones of Agnes, death is the gate to heaven, a passing from time into eternity. She has made it! The forgiveness of Christ unlocked the gates of heaven and she was ushered in. The angels that were with her even in her last hours, her last days, those very angels escorted her soul through the gate of death, on into the eternal presence of her Creator and Savior, +Jesus.

What great and incomprehensible joy she experiences right now! A joy that she had while yet here on earth, but that her sinful body and mind was keeping her from fully experiencing. Sin is no longer in the way. She is truly free, free to truly live, for she is with the Lord of the living; she is with the other saints who have also entered through this gate of righteousness. She joins them now in recounting the deeds of the LORD, in giving thanks to our gracious God.

What hope! What comfort our Lord gives us, His righteous ones by faith! We know for certain, that because our Lord +Jesus lives, so does +Agnes. And we will see her again! In the resurrection on the Last Day, when our Lord comes again, we will see her and she will see us, and what a reunion that will be.

What hope we do have!

Yet, for a little while we must endure without her. And that's going to be the hard part. We are so comforted for her sake, but we are still here. We continue journeying through this valley in the shadow of death. And it will be harder without her, there's no doubt about that, especially at first. Our Lord blessed her with over 94 years of life. Good years: some harder than others, but that's the way of the cross. Over 94 years, so that means there aren't too many who have ever known life here in this congregation at St John's without blessed +Agnes. What will life be like without her? Especially without a mother and grandmother and even great-grandmother?

What the next days and years bring we don't know. But as we remember +Agnes, as we remember any of our loved ones, let us never forget how they continued on in their journey. +Agnes too, lost a mother, and grandmother. She lost many friends and family to death throughout her life, especially difficult for her was the passing of her dear son, Paul, just over 28 years ago. From what I'm told it had a profound effect on her; as if she softened, quieted down, and became more focused. No doubt, for many years now, she has been looking forward to being reunited with Paul and with Bud, and all the rest. And so she is.

And so let us look forward to the same thing; let us live as she continued to live after losing her loved ones: let us live in and for the forgiveness of sins, which has opened the gates of heaven for her, let us be reunited to her even now. You see, +Agnes is with +Jesus, in His presence continually, along with the angels and archangels and all the rest of the company of heaven.

Dear beloved of our sister +Agnes, come to the Lord's Table and there be reunited with +Agnes in the purity and unity of the true presence of our Lord, +Jesus. Even as our Lord does not leave us, but promises to be with us always, to the very end of the age, so He does not separate us completely from those saints who have finished their race before we have. It is “communion” after all, and who do we Christians have communion with but one another and the whole host of heaven, including Agnes, and Bud, and Paul, but most especially are we united and reunited with our Lord and Savior +Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross is forgiveness for you. Repent, Believe, you are forgiven in Him, the gates of heaven are also open to you.

To the same Lord +Jesus be all thanks and glory with the Father and Spirit, now and unto the ages of ages. Amen. 

[Artwork by Ed Riojas]

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