Angels-Visiting-the-Shepherds.sermon Caitlin Trussell

For Jocelyn, A Celebration of Life (April 10, 1934 – December 9, 2017)

Jocelyn Ann Kopperud, A Celebration of Life on December 23, 2017

John 14:1-6 ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe* in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?*3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4And you know the way to the place where I am going.’* 5Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ 6Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

You know and have heard more about Jocelyn than I could ever begin to know. Here’s what I do know. Celebrating Jocelyn’s life gives us a highlight reel worth watching. Her devotion to her parents and sisters, her complete devotion to Ed and their children and grandchildren as well as their friends were returned by all of you in your devotion to her. All the fun times of travel, shopping, and Broadway shows are simply reflections of your shared devotion. The highlight reel also includes Jocelyn’s ability to get things done. Whether supervising farm workers, conducting choirs, scheduling the calendar for attending everything, or running herd on five children, she got it done and had fun doing it.

As devoted, fun, and accomplished as Jocelyn was, she had an honesty about her own imperfection – the limits of her humanity that show up in the rarely seen lowlight reel. In the language of Christian tradition, we call it sin.  And this is where her testimony of faith is so powerful.  She worshiped with awareness and humility to hear Jesus’ promise of forgiveness and God’s love for her.

For Jocelyn, this language of faith ran deeply in her love of music and hymns.  In her very last days she talked about the angels she could see and described them to the people with her in the room. At one point, John described her moving her arms as if conducting their singing. I have this image of the angels saying to each other, “Just go with it,” as Jocelyn was conducting. I don’t try to explain what it is people see as they’re dying or why it is that they see it. I just know it brings comfort to them and their loved ones.  A few days before she died, Jocelyn told Eddie, Carol, and everyone around her that she was happy and content.

In Bible story read by Lauren, Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” I suppose that’s easy for Jesus to say.  It is also easy for us to get lost in the details of Jesus’ words just like Thomas when he says, “Way?  What way?  Where?  How will we know?”  It is so tempting to think that we have to know and prove the way, be able to explain the way and point ourselves in the right direction on the right way.

Listen again to Jesus’ promise to Thomas in his distress, Jesus’ promise to us in our grief.  Listen to how many things Jesus is doing, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”  Jesus makes a promise and Thomas immediately panics.  “Ahhh, what about WHAT I’M supposed to be doing?!”  And Jesus says, “I am the way” – which can be heard as Jesus saying to us, “It is not about you doing anything, it is all about what I do for you.”

The Gospel of John emphasizes the power of God in Jesus. Jesus, who is God. God, who is Jesus. Jesus whose life reveals God’s love and care for all people regardless of class, gender, or race.  Jesus whose ministry of God’s unconditional love led to his execution on a cross. Jesus’ death on the cross means a lot of things. One thing the cross means is that God knows suffering. More than that, the cross reveals the mystery of God suffering with us when we suffer.

The crosses in our lives can separate us from each other and from God.  But God says, “Not so fast…I’ve been there too…I who came in the form of a baby, who lived and walked the earth, who was put to death and who conquered death in rising again…I am God and I have the last word.”  God’s last word meets us our grief with hope – the hope that forgiveness and reconciliation with each other are possible; and the hope of all that God is yesterday in a living baby, today in a living Christ and tomorrow in an eternal God.

In self-sacrificing love, Jesus laid his life down and now catches death up into God, drawing Jocelyn into holy rest.  Here, now, we are assured that this is God’s promise for Jocelyn, just as it was for Marvel, Janine, Kathy and John.  And be assured, that this is God’s promise for you.  Thanks be to God!

Angels We Have Heard on High (Song after the homily)

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plains
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains
Gloria, in excelsis Deo
Gloria, in excelsis Deo
Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song?
Gloria, in excelsis Deo
Gloria, in excelsis Deo
Come to Bethlehem and see
Him whose birth the angels sing,
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.
Gloria, in excelsis Deo
Gloria, in excelsis Deo