Edna May Bock
July 9, 2014
St. John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI
It was built beginning in 1961. It represented separation. It stood as an icon of fear. Although its existence was relatively short-lived in the span of global history, its impact is felt even to this day. In August of 1961 East Germany erected a barrier to separate themselves from West Germany. For nearly 30 years the Berlin Wall cast a shadow of fear and uncertainty across a city, a country, a continent. There were guard towers strategically placed so that snipers could shoot anyone trying to cross over, under, or around the wall. While many people did find various ways to the other side, others were killed in the process so that the wall began to represent death. It evoked in people a powerful fear of losing loved ones, be it to the sniper’s bullet in a failed crossing attempt or to the Western side of the wall if successful. For the residents of Berlin from 1961 until 1989, the wall was always there, casting a shadow over their lives. A city was torn in two by its presence. Families were torn in two by its presence. It was a wall in the truest sense of the word: a barrier of separation.
While we live in the 21st Century United States and are not in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, we do live in the shadow of another great barrier, another great enemy, another giant chasm that separates us from the ones we love: we live in the shadow of death. Even though the July sun is shining outside, in here the shadow is unmistakable, for we are here today because your mother, your grandmother, our friend, is now on the other side of the wall. She spent 96 years with us on this side, making many wonderful memories with those whom she held dear, and those who loved her just as much, like her sisters and sisters-in-law, with whom she was extremely close. She found great joy in golf, even experiencing something most golfers only dream of: hitting that elusive hole-in-one. She loved to travel, both in the US and abroad. But regardless of how many memories she made on this side of the wall, the glaring reality is that we are here today because she has gone to the other side. We are here today because a wall of separation has barricaded us from one whom we love.
Although, if you think about it, the wall of death that separates us from Edna has more in common with the Berlin Wall than we might see at first glance. You see, as time moved on through the 1970s and 80s, the citizens of East Germany grew more and more dissatisfied with their government and way of life. Political unrest grew and grew to the point where most of the citizens of East Germany didn’t want to be there anymore. They were being kept prisoner by the wall; the wall represented their great enemy. On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan gave a speech as part of festivities celebrating the 750th Anniversary of the city of Berlin, a speech in which he famously said, “ Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” And a short 2 years later, on November 9, 1989, the government of East
Germany announced that it would no longer prohibit its citizens from crossing the wall, an announcement that was met by a flood of Germans from both sides of the barrier climbing up and dancing on the wall. A massive celebration ensued, and for weeks residents of Berlin and souvenir hunters from all over the world took turns chipping away pieces of the wall, each one doing a small part to deconstruct the last enemy standing in the way of a unified Germany. By October 3, 1990, East and West Germany were reunited as one nation once again.
It’s my understanding that many of you here today have a piece of that wall. It’s my understanding that during one of their many excursions, Edna and her husband Paul went to Germany and brought back pieces of the Berlin Wall for their grandkids. You well know that what they brought back was more than just pieces of concrete, what they brought back was a symbol of freedom. It was a symbol of the end of separation. It was a symbol of the beginning of relationships restored as people from both sides of the wall and governments from both sides of the wall began to live in harmony once more. When the wall came down, the separation ended.
And that, dear friends, is also why we are here today. We are not here simply because death has separated us from Edna like the Berlin Wall separated East Germany from West; we are here because like the Berlin Wall, the wall of death has been torn down. That’s the message from the writer of Hebrews, who says that Jesus took upon himself human flesh in order that he might destroy death. Think of the story of Lazarus that we heard a few moments ago. Jesus stood outside the tomb of the dead man and said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” He then called Lazarus out of the tomb, he removed the stone barrier that was blocking the entrance to the grave just like the stone barrier of Berlin was removed. But more than overcoming mere stone, Jesus overcame the true barrier that separated Lazarus from his loved ones – he overcame death. He called Lazarus back to life.
He has promised to do the same for Edna. He has promised to do the same for all his baptized children who die in the faith. As the Apostle Paul so memorably wrote in Romans 6: All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. And if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united to him in his resurrection. Jesus has destroyed the barrier of death. He has knocked down the wall, first by raising others like Lazarus to life, then by raising himself, demonstrating beyond a shadow of a doubt that he does in fact have the power over death. And he has promised to use that power over death to restore life to his baptized.
He’s been giving that life to Edna for as long as she has been coming to our Lord’s house to hear the Gospel of her forgiveness proclaimed to her thirsty ears. He’s been giving that life to Edna for as long as she has been coming to our Lord’s altar to be fed by his body and blood, given and shed for her. And when Edna could no longer make it to our Lord’s house, our Lord sent his gifts to her in that little Bistro area of Sunrise where Edna continued to hear our Lord’s Word of forgiveness and participate in his Holy Supper. Our Lord did not abandon Edna. He kept giving her new life so that just like the residents of East Germany began to desire life on the other side of their wall, so also Edna’s new creation looked with anticipation toward what was waiting for her in the life to come. It’s what’s waiting for us on the other side of the wall. It’s life in paradise with our creator. It’s life in a new creation with our Redeemer. It’s life free from the fear that death casts like a shadow over our existence today, free from the tyranny of Satan, free from the separation we experience as we sit here stuck on this side of the wall.
But we will not be stuck on this side of the wall forever. Yes, for now we continue to live in a time of separation from those we love who have gone before us. For now we live in a time of grief. But we do not grieve as those who have no hope; we have hope. We have the same hope that Job had. We know that our Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth. He will once again break through the wall of separation so that we will see him. Yes, even after our skin has been destroyed, yet in our flesh we shall see God. We shall see him ourselves, with our own eyes. We shall see him, not another. You shall see him for yourself. Edna will see him for herself, for Edna is a baptized child of God.
Find your peace in that promise. Find your comfort in that reality. Death is swallowed up in victory. The sting of death is sin, but your sin has been forgiven by the blood of Jesus. Edna’s sin was forgiven by the blood of Jesus. The power of sin is the law; but Jesus has fulfilled the law in your place. He fulfilled the law in Edna’s place. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? They are gone. The wall has come down. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, for that is Edna’s resurrection. May it one day be ours too.
 Hebrews 2:14
 John 11:25-26
 Romans 6:1-11
 Job 19:25-27