There was a man who lived a very, very long time ago whose name was Job. He had a loving wife, several children, good health and plenty of wealth to live quite comfortably. And Job gave thanks to God for all of that he had been given. But then, Job's faith was put to the test to see if he would remain thankful and praise God even if all of these things were taken away from him, or to see if he only worshiped God so long as God gave him all of these good gifts.
First, thieves broke in and stole a good portion of his possessions. Then a natural disaster destroyed all the rest. Then, before the insurance adjuster had time to appraise the damages, a far worse calamity struck Job. The house where his children were all gathered collapsed in a great wind storm and all of them were killed. Then, Job became ill with what sounds a lot like cancer and lost his good health.
As Job thinks about the present condition of his life, he thinks about all that he had and all that had been taken away from him. And in response to all of this, Job speak these incredible words, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." (Job 1:21).
The devil was sure that Job would curse God and die. He thought for sure that Job was more attached to the things and the people whom God had given to him than to God Himself. But instead of cursing God, Job blessed God. "The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."
Job had to let go of what he could not hold onto. And so do we. Everything we have, our possessions, our friends, our parents, our children, our spouse, all come from God. We call these things and these people "ours," 'my things,' 'my father,' 'my husband,' 'my friend,' but they're only "ours" in a secondary way. They all belong to God first of all. They are 'ours' only as a gift from God. Even our own life belongs to God and is ours as a gift.
Eventually, we will have to let go of all of this. We can't hold onto any of it forever, no matter how much we would like to, no matter how hard we try. Eventually, we will all have to even let of 'my life' because it's not ours to hold onto forever.
Jim Grant was born into this world on February 15th, 1938. He was blessed by God with all of the same wonderful gifts as Job. And like Job, Jim had to let go of them – parents, a son, a brother. Eventually, he would also have to let go of his health and his independence and some of his dignity and eventually, his life.
The Lord gave Jim his life, and on December 11th, 2010, the Lord took Jim's life back again, and with it, all that he had. He had to let is all go. He could hold onto none of it. "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return."
So now, the focus is on us. Jim Grant was a gift from God to us. And now God has seen fit to take His gift back. How will we handle such a loss? Will we give into the devil and curse God for taking back what He had given to us? Or will we bless God and say, 'he was Yours before You gave him to us; he was Yours the whole time he was with us; and he is still Yours now that You have taken him away from us' – 'Blessed be the name of the Lord.'
Whenever we loose something that had little or no value, we're hardly bothered by its loss. Likewise, if we loose something that had great value, but it meant little or nothing to us, we're hardly bothered by its loss either. But when we loose something that had great value, and what has greater value than a human life, and that we considered to be precious, even to the point of love, then its only natural that we are grieved by our loss. And so it is right that we grieve the loss of Jim, this precious husband, precious father, grandfather, brother, precious friend.
But we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Ours is a measured grief that has its limits, because as much as we grieve the fact that this life has been taken from us, we also know that Jim is at this moment enjoying 'eternal life.' And we know that as we persevere in this hope, which is the greatest gift that God has given us, that we too will have everything earthly taken from us only to have everything heavenly given to us. And so even in our grief we are bound to say, 'blessed be the name of the Lord.'
Avis, God gave Jim to you and you to Jim as a gift to each other, to fill each other's lives with love and companionship as husband and wife on November 8th, 1997. And yet, within a month, on December 12th, 2997 you gave Jim back to the Lord by bringing him this baptismal font. You knew that the only way he would be truly yours is if he were truly God's.
In his baptism, the Lord took hold of Jim and promised to never let him go. In holy Baptism, God gifted Jim to Himself. "You are mine, says the Lord."
So the thing that tempers our grief is this, what we cannot hold onto, God will not let go of. Through our baptism, we were united to Christ. Joining our voice to God's Word, we asked this question, "what can separate us from God?" Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? Or, what about sin? Jim was a great guy but he wasn't perfect. Will God let go of Jim because of his sin? Will He let go of you because of yours?
And the answer came back straight and clear, 'by no means!' In his baptism, all his sins were washed away. Jesus Christ took all of Jim's sins upon Himself and crucified them on the cross in His own body. Jesus let go of all of the holiness that was rightfully His, and grabbed hold of all of the sinfulness that is rightfully ours.
So, from the cross we hear the sound of grief without hope. "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" God the Father let go of His only-begotten Son so that He might not let go of Jim.
So, "what then, shall we say in response to this?" "If God did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also give us all things." "Blessed be the name of the Lord." As much as you loved your husband, your father, your grandfather, your brother, your friend, God loves him more, because He sent His only-begotten Son to die for him.
One more thing. As it was for Job so it was for Jim and so it will be for you and me. The devil would like to have each of us suffer a terrible and painful death so that we would 'curse God and die.' And so we should all be thankful that Jim died such a peaceful death. I pray that we would all die as Jim did when our time comes. He cheated the devil in dying so peacefully and easily.
Last Monday, Jim received the Lord's Supper from his chair beside his bed. We prayed the Lord's Prayer and paused for just a moment at the words, "thy will be done." I held up the bread and said, 'take and eat. This is the body of Christ, given for you.' And he ate. I held up the cup and said, 'This is the blood of Christ, shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.' And he drank. And I recited the canticle of Simeon – the Nunc Dimittis.
I explained that Simeon was a priest at the temple in Jerusalem. Somehow it had been revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the "Lord's Christ." One day, Simeon went to the Temple just as he had done so many times. But on this day, for some reason, he noticed a very young couple who had come to the Temple to have their baby circumcised. The woman's name was Mary. The man's name was Joseph. Simeon took the baby, whose name was Jesus, and said, "Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word. For my eyes have seen your salvation."
As it was for Simeon, so it was for Jim. Jim held the Lord's Christ in his hands and departed in peace. Since our brother Jim was granted such a peaceful release from this world of sorrow and suffering, we can joyfully say with Job and with Simeon and all who know that peace which only Jesus Christ can give – "blessed be the name of the Lord."
May the Holy Spirit – the Comforter, comfort and strengthen you with His grace until the day when you will share in that eternal joy that is Jim's now.