This morning I had the honor of presiding over the funeral for Marian Reese. I never met Marian but I feel like I knew her after spending a few days with her Bible. As I was getting ready for the service I asked her son Fred if I could borrow her Bible and look it over and see if there were any special passages she highlighted, marked or noted in some way. What I found was a bible that had been well used. As I turned each page it was clear she had spent time with the book other than on a Sunday morning. I could tell where she liked to “grab hold of the page” to turn it (right in the middle of the page) because it was discolored by years of reading and study. Most importantly I found those passages which were important to her…they were marked with a quick circle or underline. Very respectful (almost as if she struggled with the idea of writing in the Bible) yet she wanted to remember the morsels of wisdom and promise she found.
The sermon for her funeral came from two words, one she circled (almost until she cut through the paper) and the other she underlined. Ephesians 2 begins with a Paul talking about the reality and consequences of sin. He reminds us (as if any of us need any reminding) that sin and evil abound, that we are all tempted to fulfill the sinful desires of our hearts. Then comes the words of Paul that Marian marked up and found so comforting…
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:4-10
BUT… read even though they did not deserve it…even though he would have been well within his rights to watch them struggle… BUT God, motivated by his immense love for you and for me made us alive even when we were dead in our sins.
How did he do it? Through the work of Christ. It is nothing we do, it is a gift of God’s grace which we receive through faith. Powerful words that gave Marian hope and strength in life, bore witness to the truth of her eternal celebration with Christ and called each of us gathered together to celebrate her life to examine our own relationship with God.
It was an honor to share a few days with Marian’s bible and I was blessed to be able to allow it to speak to those gathered together today.
May all our Bibles speak so clearly and so boldly.