In Memoriam + Nadine Deutsch
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
August 17, 2013
Central Passage
Mark 7:31-37
On the occasion of the funeral of Nadine Deutsch

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.[*]

"And looking up to heaven, He sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," which means "Be opened."

Sometimes we feel our fallenness most acutely not in the sins that we commit ourselves, or even in the sins we see others partake of, but sometimes we feel our fallenness most acutely in what we suffer from a broken and sinful creation. We realize in those times – times such as these – that it’s not that we need to try harder, or that we need pep talks or life coaches, or twelve-step programs, or a feel-good gospel. We realize that what we endure because of sin and sinfulness is far bigger than all of that. It is a cancer that infects and destroys everything around us. It is a sickness that is destroying us.

And it leaves us dazed, even confused. It leaves us overwhelmed and exasperated. And it makes us tired. So we groan. We sigh. We sigh in pain, in exhaustion, in disbelief. When we watch our heroes grow old, become weak, and die. When our friends or family let us down, when they don’t stick up for us, or worse, when they take advantage of us, when they betray us. We feel the effects of sin. We feel the effects of the curse “by the sweat of your brow you shall eat . . .” and “you will surely die.” Sighing is a fruit of the curse.

And so we try to ignore it. We shrug it off, looking for the ray of sunshine in what is otherwise complete darkness. We desperately try to find the silver lining in the blackest holes. But some of the things we endure can’t be shrugged off. Some things can’t be ignored, either because they are so deeply personal or because they are of such a magnitude that they can’t be, such as burying a beloved mother, sister, grandmother, and great grandmother. Such as burying a good friend. It is not always possible to make lemonade out of lemons. Such times gnaw at us because we know that this is not how things are supposed to be. It is not how God intended it.

St. Paul says that what we experience is what the whole creation experiences. That the whole creation groans and sighs as it suffers and endures the realities of sin in the world, that sickness and decay, sin and evil are part of our daily experience. We live under the weight of sin, the weight of loneliness and betrayal, the weight of death and loss. We live under the curse.

And this is why we sigh and groan and why our groans turn to tears. Because we know this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. We’re tired and overwhelmed. We’re hurt and confused, and we don’t know what to do.

Sighing is a fruit of the curse.  It comes with the knowledge that all is vanity; that nothing can be done to stop death. It comes with desperation, with frustration. It comes when even with blood, sweat, and tears we see that our work never amounts to what we desire and is quickly forgotten. It comes with sorrow and distress, with pain and suffering, when our bodies grow old, our health deteriorates, and our loved ones die. Sighing is a fruit of the curse and the curse is that sin has become flesh and dwells among us. And the wages of sin is death.

But when Jesus sighs, it's different. His sighs are not out of desperation or exasperation. He sighs not out of confusion or exhaustion. This is not to say that He doesn't feel your pain or know your frustration. He does. But His sighs are not just an acknowledgment that this is not the way things are supposed to be, that man was not created to suffer, to live under a curse of his own making, to live separated from God by his sinfulness and then to die. Man was not created to die, but to live forever and to live forever in communion with the most Holy Trinity. No, His sighs are more than that. They are more than expressions of the curse made incarnate. His sighs are filled with compassion and with the cure. For He is the cure. God's Word made flesh; the embodiment of God's will and law in human flesh. When Jesus sighs He does more than give expression to the human struggle under the curse of sin. When Jesus sighs He breathes in the curse and breathes out the cure, the blessing of His Word, the impartation of His Spirit, which gives life.

For looking up to heaven, Jesus sighed and said "It is finished." He breathed His last and handed over His Spirit. He gave His life into death so that you and our sister, Nadine, will live. He took the curse into Himself, your sin into Himself, Nadine’s sin into Himself. He suffered in your place, died in your stead and is risen from the dead. Out of the tomb He came to rescue us from death; to give us eternal salvation. Out of the tomb He came so that we would be baptized not only into His death – a death to sin – but into His life, He eternal life. And this same Christ that stuck divine fingers into mortal ears and put divine spit onto a mortal tongue, this same Christ gives His divine flesh to mortal mouths and His divine blood to mortal tongues, that our mortality would be swallowed up by immortality and death be swallowed up by life.

We will go on sighing our sighs of weariness and exhaustion from a fallen and sinful creation, sighing often even at our own sins. But we will also go on in Christ, remembering that His signs becomes ours in the divine mystery of His body, wherein we sigh not from exhaustion and exasperation, but in peace, sighing a sigh of relief that the Lord does all things well. He even raises the dead.

+ In Nomine Iesu +



[*] This sermon is adapted from a posted manuscript by the Rev. Fr. Jason Braaten of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Tuscola, Il.