Memorial Service for Mark B. Lively (February 4, 1948-March 4, 2016) – Luke 2:25-32
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
In the time that our Lord gave to Mark on this earth, I do not think that it is any small thing to say that he lived, breathed and walked in this simple phrase, “That there is always room at the table, that there is always a place for you.”
Whether that was lived out at dinner in the Lively home,
with a guest list that had no limitations and always had room for one more chair,
or the narthex here at Lutheran Church of the Cross,
where I don’t think it was ever humanly possible to enter through the doors that you’ve come through this afternoon, and make it into the sanctuary,
without first being warmly welcomed by Mark,
for him to shake your hand, take a personal interest in you and in the course of a 2 minute conversation build for you a bridge with other members of the body gathered in this place and at this church.
Mark lived the reality in the body of Christ that there is always more room, always a place for you.
If heaven were obtained by being kind, gentle, humble, and compassionate, then Mark would most certainly be a shoe in.
But that is of course, not the way of the Kingdom of God.
That is not our hope on this day, it is not the peace that Mark now rests in, and it is not the way of salvation.
For the Kingdom of God does not judge according to the virtues of men.
If it did, then even the best of men, even Mark, would be found wanting.
True justice, is harsh, for as kind as we might be, St. Paul speaks to us these sober words in Romans 3, that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
No, our hope and confession this day is that the Kingdom of God – thanks be to God! – is unjust.
That it demands the life of the Innocent Son in order to save the lives of sinners.
This very heart of the Christian confession, fit well with Mark’s humility.
For Mark was not kind, compassionate and loving in the false hope, that by all of this, he could scrape his own way into heaven.
Mark rested and now rests in the justice of the Lord’s grace, in the peace and comfort of the work that was already finished for him, the work and Word that was washed over his body, placed into his mouth and held fast into his very ears and unto the promise of faith.
For Mark was given to rest, depart and live according to the Word, the very Song of Simeon that we hear chanted in Luke chapter 2, the very promise that really is certain, the very mercy that truly is tangible.
Simeon proclaims to us, “Lord now You let Your servant depart in peace, according to Your Word, for my eyes have seen the salvation which you have accomplished in the presence of all peoples.”
My eyes have seen Your salvation
In eternity where Mark is now found with Church at rest, the Church Triumphant, we do not say, as Simeon does not confess, that Mark is seeing salvation, or beginning eternal life for the very first time.
For in truth, as Simeon proclaims, Mark has seen the Lord’s salvation accomplished for him throughout his entire life.
As a child, Mark was washed with water, according to the Word, and in that, was given nothing less than the Word made flesh, the Name of the triune God, the robe of righteousness clothing him unto eternal life.
Here his sins were washed away in the flood of Christ’s crucifixion, and here his eternal life began at the font of Holy Baptism, according to Christ’s own promise to Mark.
The promise to never leave Mark, never forsake Mark, but to give to Mark, Christ’s own faith, His own spirit, and His own holy name.
In that promise and through that Name, the Lord prepared and made ready for Mark, a place at his own table, a place in his own body.
Week in and week out, Mark received at this table, precisely what Simeon held in his arms.
Nothing less, and nothing short, of the body, blood, and person of Christ.
Nothing less than all that Christ is; life, salvation, the forgiveness of sins, peace and mercy.
And nothing less than all that Christ has sent fleeing away in his finished work; sin, death, the power of devil and the condemnation of the Law.
At this table, in this house, and according to this Word, Mark was fed and sustained unto the life everlasting that was already begun by the promise of his baptism.
Here he was given the one thing needed, the one thing necessary, the very hope and confidence that Simeon proclaims.
Here Mark was held fast to Christ.
Not by his own devotion, not by his character, not by his successes, nor his failures, but by the Word made flesh, the Word that kept Mark according to its promise in the one true faith unto life everlasting.
Mark’s departure of this earthly life was unexpected and sudden to us.
But that does mean that Mark was unprepared.
The Song of Simeon is not Simeon’s alone. It is the Song of the Church, the confession of the Body of Christ, the promise to all who are found in His Name.
This is the reason that we sing this text from Luke chapter 2, after the body and blood of Christ has been given in the Lord’s Supper, for we rise to confess with the same boldness, the same confidence and the same certainty this promise:
That we have everything that is needed.
In Christ, through his body lifted up on the cross, through his blood poured out, it is finished.
The dwelling place of God is now with man.
And he comes to us in body and blood to be given and so hold us fast unto himself forever and without end.
No one who is in Christ, is unprepared to die and be called home.
Mark was not unprepared.
For Christ was given to Mark, washed over him, fed to him, and kept with him.
In Christ, there was nothing left to do, no other boxes to check, for the way home was already finished, the place at the table was and is already prepared.
And Mark’s certainty and hope is also your hope.
The dwelling place of God is with man.
He comes to be given, to show and deliver to you his salvation in the preaching of His Word, the Word which puts to death that which is dead in sin, and makes alive the new man in Christ.
He comes to be given through Water and Word, to begin the eternal life that Mark now enjoys free of pain and suffering. To be with you and never leave you, to bear you unto himself, and take you at last to where Mark now is.
He comes to be held fast by his body and in his blood, the promise that you will in Christ, see Mark again.
For what is given at this table and in this Word made flesh, is strength and comfort not only for today, not only for tomorrow, not only the promise that God will carry you by His word in the peace that surpasses all understanding,
But that He knows the way home, that the journey is already prepared, that the table is already set.
For indeed, Christ lives, and so does Mark…soon we too, will join him and all the living, at the table and the feast that has no end.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.