This sermon was preached at the funeral service on the occasion of the grace of God in Christ given Noah Ryleigh Mateja.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
They made a mistake, they got it wrong, they were in error. They were in error when they said that Noah Ryleigh Mateja died on the twenty-seventh of July, 2006. In reality Noah died five months to the day earlier on the twenty-seventh of February, the day of his birth and the day of his baptism. And it was in his baptism that he died that day; more than that, that day was the day of his crucifixion. The beloved apostle, Saint Paul, wrote that those baptized into Christ are buried with Christ, which means that they were crucified with Christ. On February 27, 2006 nearly two thousand years disappeared and it was Good Friday, the crucifixion of Noah, crucified in his baptism. Indeed, it is always Good Friday, the day that opens up to resurrection, the only day that matters. But note how the crucifixion of Christ and the crucifixion of Noah differ: Christ died for the sins of the world. Noah was baptized into that forgiveness. Christ suffered unimaginable pain. Noah received nothing but gain. A band of evil men surrounded Christ and hardened executioners starred coldly at him. Noah was surrounded by loving family members, friends and an attentive medical staff. Jesus father shunned him. Noah’s father doted on him, paced, pleaded and prayed for him. The Blessed Virgin was at her son’s side, but she could not save him. Noah’s mother saved him by placing him into the arms of his true mother, Holy Mother Church, who embraced Noah in the loving arms of Holy Baptism.
Noah was placed into the Holy Church. He was placed into the holy ark of Christendom. He was placed into the Good Ship Baptism. He has the name for it, Noah. As Noah of old rode the ark to safety, so this Noah found safety too. The voyage was rough and difficult at times, but the ark of Christendom brought him safely to the heavenly shore, and his voyage was mercifully brief. There he was met by Jesus who embraced him in his arms, as he embraced little ones nearly two millennia ago. Home safe! Safe in the arms of Jesus, the name which means Savior. Safe from harm, safe from more surgeries, safe from terrorists, safe from his own sin, safe from the adversities of life in this veil of tears and safe from death. You never have to worry about Noah again. Safe!
And yet Noah’s safety means grief for you. The death of little ones brings with it serious questions, and it is a trial for our faith. We would question our Father in heaven. We would ask why. We wonder what purpose all of this serves. Yet we must remember that we are but fools. What do we know? We ask why because of our sympathy for Noah and his family, but what is our sympathy? In the end we realize that our sympathy is so often self concern. Our heavenly Father’s sympathy is different from ours, for his sympathy is joined to his wisdom. He knows best: we are but fools.
God grant us the Holy Spirit so that we do not become like the apostles of Christ who wanted to dictate who would receive an audience with him, and when this would happen, and how he would conduct his affairs. The Twelve did not have the faith of infants, who simply submit to the Lord because they can do nothing more. May we be like infants, resting in the arms of Mercy, submitting to his will, even when it pains us, trusting in his wisdom and love. Remember that we are but fools, a ship of fools. But though fools, we have a ship: the ark of Christendom, the Good Ship Baptism, and on that we sail safely home.
They made a mistake, they got it wrong, they were in error when they said that Noah died on the twenty-seventh of July, for five months earlier, on the day of his birth, he died in his baptism. And on account of this, on the day of his death he lived.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. §
The Reverend Peter Berg is pastor of Our Savior Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Chicago, Illinois.