Six days. That’s all it took. Just six days after Monica was diagnosed with cancer, she breathed her last. I think we’re all still coming to terms with how quickly it progressed. Especially when you consider how Monica had just received a chest x-ray in January and the doctors didn’t found anything abnormal.
Six days. It’s not a lot of time, but I think Rod, you and the rest of the family are thankful that it wasn’t just six seconds. Six days gave each of you time to say your goodbyes. Even Betty was able to fly in from Ontario to hold her mother’s hand. And these weren’t six pain-filled days for Monica either. She continued to laugh and joke with you almost to the end.
But my purpose here is not to talk about those last six days you had with Monica. I want to talk about what happened to her on the seventh day. The seventh day? What do I mean by that? Here’s a hint from one of the Bible passages I want to encourage you with this afternoon. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. 1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Genesis 1:31–2:3).
You have come to a church that believes what I just read. That in six days, in just six days, God made this world, the stars, the animals, the plants, and of course the first people: Adam and Eve. What a change God brought about in six days. Before he started creating, there was absolutely nothing. There weren’t any angels, there weren’t any stars, no mountains, rivers, or oceans. There weren’t any worms or wolves. There weren’t any peaches or pears. But in six days, God created all those things.
And then what did God do on the Seventh Day? He rested. God wasn’t tired of course. He never gets tired. He never sleeps. God rested to signal he was done making new things. From then on he began to maintain everything he made. He keeps the earth spinning, the sun shining, and billions of hearts beating, no make that trillions when you include all the hearts of the animals and insects.
So why then didn’t God keep Monica’s heart beating? Did she slip through the cracks? Did God forget about her so that in a mere six days her life came to an end? No. Monica’s heart stopped beating because God determined that it was time for Monica to enter into her rest. Listen to another Bible passage. “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:9, 10).
Death brings about a lot of emotions. For those who remain there’s sadness, loneliness, and regret. But for the one who has died as a believer in Jesus, death brings rest. That’s why we’re here this afternoon isn’t it? We want to be reminded of that truth and to be encouraged by it. We’re sad that Monica’s body no longer has life in it, but we’re glad that her soul is now in God’s presence enjoying rest from whatever pains and frustrations she had to put up with in this life. And one day we will see Monica again. Her soul will come back with Jesus and be reunited with her body which God will raise and glorify so that Monica, like every other Christian, will have a body that lives forever free from disease and disappointment because she will be forever free from sin.
Sin. You do realize that’s what killed Monica. And it’s what’s going to kill you too some day. Sure you might die of a heart attack. Or you might die in a car accident. But what kills you is sin. It’s the root cause of all pain and suffering. Go back to the creation of the world. When God was finished at the end of the sixth day, he proclaimed everything to be good. That meant that lions didn’t eat gazelles, and people weren’t supposed to get sick and die, ever. But sin changed all that. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they brought upon themselves and everyone else the consequences: suffering and death.
Monica too followed in Adam and Eve’s footsteps. I didn’t know her long but to me she was a cheerful woman who seemed to always wear an impish smile. Someone who knew her better than I said: “I never saw her get mad.” But those of you who knew her even better have confessed that Monica could lose her temper and she did get mad.
Why bring that up now? Because I want you to know that Monica is enjoying her heavenly rest, not because she tried her best to be a good person. Getting into heaven is not a matter of trying; it’s a matter of trusting – trusting in Jesus who never sinned and was perfect. Trusting in Jesus who gave his life as a payment for all the times we do lose our tempers. That’s what Monica believed. With the rest of the congregation in Sunday worship here she confessed her sins. And then she expressed her trust that Jesus had won forgiveness for her. She was assured of that forgiveness whenever she came to Holy Communion to receive Jesus’ body and blood, the very payment needed to enter into God’s forever rest. In that way God continued to recreate her in his own image. And that’s why Monica has entered her rest.
Like Monica you might unexpectedly find out that you only have six more days to live. Or without warning God could take you in the next six seconds. If so, what’s next for you? While death is automatic for all, heaven is not. Only those whose trust is in Jesus will enter into rest. It’s no wonder the passage I read earlier goes on to say: “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11).
That passage speaks about how every Israelite in Old Testament times knew that after they died they would have to stand before God in judgment. Yet it warns that not every one of them was prepared and they are now suffering God’s eternal punishment in a real place called hell. Death is automatic, but heaven is not.
So are you making every effort to reach the rest God has prepared for you? Every passenger on a sinking ship knows that the way to safety is to get into a lifeboat, but that doesn’t mean they’re making every effort to get there. If they’re concerned about bringing all their possessions with them and waste time gathering them up, they probably won’t make it to the lifeboat before the ship goes down. Is that perhaps happening to your faith in Jesus? Yes you know Jesus, but do you continue to trust in him and worship him above everything else? Even more than your career? Even more than the education you’re pursuing? Even more than your buddies who would now laugh if they found out you started going back to church?
Satan has a lot of ways to pull us away from the eternal rest God has planned for us. Don’t let it happen. Make every effort to stay in the faith by reading your Bible, worshipping with like-minded believers, and receiving the Sacrament of Holy Communion for the strengthening of your faith. There is nothing in the world more important than that, as Monica herself would be happy to tell us, and she would probably do so with these words: “Sounds good to me!”
Does what I have encouraged this afternoon sound good to you? I pray that it does because you might not even have six days left until you have to stand before God’s Judgment throne. So make every effort to enter into God’s rest by sticking close to Jesus, as did Monica. Amen.