Christian Funeral Service for Audrey Darlain Waples
Saturday, March 23, 2019 Text: Revelation 7:9-17
Theme: What the Saints in Heaven Enjoy 19:2117
What do you remember Audrey for? People who are close to us, people whom we’ve known for a time – there’s always something about them that we remember. For Audrey, what is it?
Sometimes I wonder why I remember the things I do. It’s not the “big” things I remember as much as little things, simple things.
For example, when we moved to Missouri in 1992, we lived a little way up Golden Ave. from church. One of the first times I ventured out, I went to see your mom and dad. Early one evening I drove down Campbell before it was a big thoroughfare. At the time there was little built south of James River Frwy. In fact, the freeway ended at Kansas Expwy. No Sams, no Andy’s, no Library, there was a water slide, a nursery, a few businesses on the way to Nixa. Nixa’s population was only 4,000. You boys lived on College St.
The first time I came over the hill and down into the James River Valley where Steinert’s is, I thought, “Wow, that’s pretty!” Believe it or not, there were probably only 3 or 4 other cars on the highway – a far cry from today’s busy road. It was a pleasant drive.
I came into Nixa for the first time and couldn’t find where your parents lived, not too far from the house today. They lived in an apartment, but it didn’t face the street and was tucked back, on the side. Your dad answered and we sat and talked. I don’t remember our conversation other than it was a pleasant visit, and I heard about Shoji Tabuchi for the first time. Your mom and dad were some of the first members I visited after moving here. I won’t forget that.
Other things I remember about Audrey are the things she seemed to enjoy: Bible class (she knew her Bible well); taking the Common Cup in the Lord’s Supper and Emily watching her out of the corner of her eye; talking about the history of WELS and CLC in South Dakota, and church family names we both knew. She enjoyed many hymns. In fact, it made it a little difficult for me today. We sometimes talked about what she would like to have sung for this service. I would mention one and she would say, “Oh, I like that one.” And then another, “Oh, I like that one, too.” And then another, “Oh, that’s one of my favorites.” If I picked all the hymns to sing today that she liked, we would be here until 2 o’clock. The same with Bible verses. And I know that she enjoyed potlucks. I grin about that because I think that she took more food home with her than she ate here. I ribbed her about it once. She chuckled her little Audrey chuckle: “Well, I just want to try a little of everything,” she said as she walked out the door. It’s memories like that, simple things about my friends here at church that I enjoy.
It makes me wonder what my good friend, Audrey, and so many other saints who died in faith now have and enjoy. Here in our text we get just a glimpse of What Those Saints Enjoy in Heaven.
I. Dressed in white they enjoy an eternal existence, free from sin. That’s the special way John described heaven here, as a place free from sin and its consequences. Freed from things, from all bad things – that’s the way the Bible often speaks to us of heaven. It tells us what won’t be there.
It does that because here we are sinners living in an imperfect world. We’ve never known perfect joy and happiness, and we cannot imagine what that will be like because it goes beyond our present experience. So, God speaks to us in terms of sin and its accompanying sorrows and tribulations, things we understand and suffer here, being completely gone from us in heaven.
Isn’t that the reason that we often hear someone say about a family member or friend who has died, “Oh, it’s a blessing! They’re better off now”? Why do we say that?
Usually it’s because that individual has suffered through things like cancer, or Alzheimer’s, or, like Audrey, the continuing pain of shingles and other weaknesses of the body that have gone on for a time. It’s a relief to see them, to see her released from that suffering. “Oh, it’s a blessing. They’re better off now,” we say.
Sadly, such sentiments are not always true. Death is a release from sin and its consequences for the redeemed, those who cling to their Savior in steadfast faith for cleansing from sin. But, make no mistake about it, death is not a release for everyone.
The Bible says, “Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved; but whoever does not believe shall be condemned” (Mk.16).
So, if we ask: “Who are the ones for whom death is a blessing as it frees them from sin and brings them to an eternally happy existence where all sorrow and sufferings are gone?” – our text responds, “They are the ones who are coming out of the great tribulation who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Such people knew their sin and weakness here. They recognized their total inability before God. But the difference about them is that they clung to the merits and work of Christ Jesus for forgiveness. They are the ones who love to sing, “Just as I am without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me.” Of them we are told, “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat…and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” They are dressed in the white robes of Christ’s righteousness, relying completely on Him.
That was Audrey. Her complete trust in Jesus as her Savior was evident in the things she did and said. Was she perfect? No! And she would be the first to confess that. But she was washed in the blood of her Savior and held to Him alone in faith. In that faith she now takes up a place with the “great multitude that no one can count…standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They are wearing white robes and are holding palm branches in their hands. And they cry out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne and to the Lamb…Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
What a blessing to see What the Saints in Heaven Enjoy. It lifts our hearts and sends us away rejoicing in the Lord for her.
II. Dressed in white they enjoy a close life with God forever.
And there’s more. Our text continues, “They are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will spread His tent over them.”
The presence of God is a blessing – a comforting thing. That’s why Audrey liked to spend time with God in His House. She knew that God’s Word is here and where that is, so is He. He is here, and one finds peace and rest in His Word, even in the darkest moments.
Still, we are often troubled because here we can’t see Him or touch Him; we can’t look into His eyes and speak to Him face to face. That is something Christians long to do, as we “pass through the valley of the shadow of death.” We can’t do it here.
But there, dear friends, after the believer has closed her eyes here for the last time, there she opens them to see that reality. She sees God face to face in glory. She stands right before God’s throne. And the Lamb of God who died in her place fills the believer with joy in His presence. You can’t have a closer life with God than that which Heaven’s Saints, dressed in white, now enjoy.
You and I yearn for it and are hope-filled. Those who have already fallen asleep enjoy it and are content – content forever in their life with God. That’s What the Believer Enjoys in Heaven.
So, dry your tears and rejoice. No longer a stranger here, heaven is home, to Audrey and Keith, once more united after 19 years apart, and to all who believe in the Savior. What a wonderful truth to hold! And that’s a blessing for us today, to see What the Saints in Heaven Enjoy. God grant it to us in faith; for Jesus’ sake. Amen