Text: Luke 10:42
Date: The Dormition of the B.V.M. + 8/15/08
Zion Lutheran Church, Detroit, MI
It is good to remember those who have died in the faith of Christ. Every Lord’s Day in the Prayer of the Church we commend to the everlasting peace of God those who have departed with the sign of faith and now rest in the sleep of peace. Because of our Lord’s saving work and His resurrection, and because in Holy Baptism we have already died and been buried with Christ, physical death, while it is still the enemy, has been overcome and transformed to be no more threatening than sleep—a “sleep,” however, that is fully aware of the joys of being with the Lord.
We remember especially those closest to us, a Christian father or mother or other relative; a Christian pastor or teacher from whom we heard and learned the “one thing needful,” the blessed Word and Gospel of Christ. Beyond that Holy Church remembers especially those of the household of faith who were given special grace in the service of the Lord—the holy Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles and Martyrs, as examples for us of steadfast faith and holy living. We commemorate especially the apostles of the Lord usually on the anniversary of their death or martyrdom, their “heavenly birthday,” the date handed down to us through the long tradition of the Church. How much more so, then, should we remember the most blessed woman that ever lived, the Blessed and ever-virgin Mary, the Mother of Our Lord, who has always been and is an icon, a picture of the Church and the calm faith of every Christian?
Though it was said by our Lord of a different Mary, the same can be said of the Blessed Mother and of all Christians, “one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Like us the mother of our Lord chose the one good and necessary thing because the Lord God first chose her. The angel Gabriel, sent by God, came to Mary and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” Troubled at first her fears were put to rest by the great joy that she had been chosen to bear in her body the Son of God. In humble and obedient faith she responded to the angel of the Lord, saying, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:28-31, 38). That is the prayer, the motto of all true faith that is born of the Word of God, that thrives and grows and hopes in the truth and promises of God.
It was by faith in the Word of God that the young Virgin Mary received and bore the only Son of the Father giving Him to take on our human flesh and blood. It was faith given, as she was filled with the Holy Spirit, that sang, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” It was faith that perceived and kept her Son’s words and works, pondering them in her heart. Sometimes faith can weaken or be greatly challenged by the fears and concerns of life in this fallen world. We read and tell the story too quickly not fully imagining the fear and grief of searching for the 12-year-old for three whole days only to find Him in the Jerusalem temple. So it was maybe a growing, more mature faith in which Mary told the attendants at the wedding in Cana, “do whatever He tells you,” even when she herself did not know exactly what He would say. It was faith alone, pressed through the agony of her Son’s crucifixion and death that enabled her to remain steadfast also to see her risen Lord. This same gift of faith, then, transforms also her death and ours, turning the grave to be but the gate to our resurrection and the eternal life of the world to come.
The most ancient, holy tradition suggests not that Mary never died. For she was neither immaculately conceived nor spared from the suffering of the sin that is but common to all the sons and daughters of Adam. Yet this same holy tradition claims that, not long after her death, her body was raised to join with the likes of Moses and Elijah…and her Son and Lord to be with the Lord in both soul and body. In her, as in the Church, both time and eternity have met. From her body the eternal Son raised our human nature to participate in the divine nature. The salvation He came to bring, therefore, more than restores our human nature to be what God originally intended it to be, but raises us to be fellow heirs with Christ who bestows on us a crown of life.
It is good for us to remember those who have gone before us with the sign of faith, the great cloud of witnesses who surround us and cheer us on “to run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God,” that we may not grow weary or fainthearted (Heb. 12:1-4).
In this same faith we are all called to be like Mary—the Mary who ponders the Lord Jesus in her heart, the Mary who carries the flesh of God in her own flesh, the Mary who hears and takes to heart the Lord’s Word, the Mary who knows the one thing needful and chooses the good part that will not be taken away from her, the Mary who lives by the motto, “Let it be to me according to Your Word.” For to all who possess such faith the Lord speaks His blessing, “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.” As we imitate Mary in faith, may we also imitate her in death—that is, falling asleep in peace, surrounded by angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, to be held safe and secure in the holy arms of our Lord Jesus Christ and finally to be raised to eternal life in the new heavens and earth.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His faithful ones. May holy Mary and all the saints plead for us with the Lord, that we may be helped and saved by Him who lives and reigns forever and ever.