In Memoriam + Virginia Cropp
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
August 28, 2013
Central Passage
Luke 1711-19

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

On His way to Jerusalem, that holy city of God, where He would give His life as a ransom for many and forgive the sins of the whole world by the shedding of His blood and by the death of His body. Inside Jerusalem, that holy city, or rather, just outside it’s gates where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, the blessed Lord of glory, that child of Mary, the Servant of the Most High, would undo the curse of the man of earth, that first patron of sinners, and by His obedience He would bring light and life to all mankind. Outside the holy city His blood would make all things clean and usher in the kingdom of God on earth.

But on His way there, in the in-between, somewhere in the wilderness between Samaria and Galilee, the Lord is met by ten lepers crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” They want to be cleansed of their leprosy. They want their flesh restored. Why? So that they might live! A leper was not simply a sick person on his way to the grave, a leper was in the grave. He was the walking dead: cut off from family and friends; sent to live out in the wilderness such as between Samaria and Galilee; under threat of immediate death should he wander too close to a city of the clean. A leper must cry out night and day to any who might draw too near, “Unclean! Unclean!”

So, too, do we want to be healed of our diseases. Diseases like the one that attacked and so violated Virginia. We, too, cry out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” And we too live in the wilderness, in between life and death: not quite dead, but not really living, either. We want mercy.

And we hear this account of the ten lepers and think, “They got mercy. They were healed. Why not me? Why not Virginia? But in truth, the mercy of the Lord on those ten lepers is the same as on you and our sister Virginia. It’s the mercy of making clean what was unclean. It is the mercy of undoing what causes death. Those lepers went off and were healed of their leprosy, but they all still died one day. They may have been welcomed back to the land of the living by the priest who declared them “clean” but sooner or later their loved ones buried them, too.

You see, the mercy of the Lord is not found in miracles of healing. Though such things are merciful. Rather, the Lord was merciful when He received those ten lepers. When they left off their warning cry of “Unclean! Unclean!” and took  up the cry, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

So, too, you. So, too, Virginia. The Lord’s chief mercy is not found in healing the body, but rather His mercy is in receiving and eating with sinners. And the Lord received Virginia, and He received you also at holy baptism. There is the Lord’s mercy. For having been baptized into Christ, you and Virginia and all the saints of God have died with Christ and been buried with Him. And so too are we raised with Him through baptism into His new, eternal life. So that this death we see before us, this is only a sleep, only a respite from the temptations and sins of this world.

The one leper got this. He understood that the Lord’s mercy was not merely in making him clean but in receiving him, a sinner and a leper. And he gave thanks. He returned to the Lord and fell down at His feet and worshiped Him, giving glory to God.

So, too, you. So, too, Virginia. You understand that the Lord’s mercy is not merely in making your bodies better, in healing your afflictions which will all be healed on the Last Day – Virginia will wake from this slumber clean and whole – but that His chief mercy is that He receives you, a sinner. For the Lord receives and eats with sinners.

So we come to worship the Lord at His footstool. We return to the Lord who receives us in holy baptism and makes us clean by the blood He shed and restores our flesh by His risen flesh. We return to Him by hearing His word of mercy, by eating from His table of mercy, and by rejoicing in His reign of mercy.

And on the Last Day, when the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised, the mercy of the Lord will be known to all and will be your comfort and your confidence, even as it is today. Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. Amen.

+ In Nomine Iesu +