Josephine Visaggio | January 6, 1928 to January 20, 2020 to eternity

Devotion from Funeral Service

Our grandmother was an amazing person with a heart overflowing with love for her husband and family. She cared for family throughout her life and always kept the latest news about each of us at the top of her mind.

You could see this love for her family when she came alive again for a moment when Pa, her husband of 71 years, came to visit her the day before she was called home. She was worried about him. She was always concerned about her family and caring for them. She wasn’t concerned for herself. She was happy to see her husband, our Pa. Her face lit up.

Gram always cooked. Her food was amazing. Her home always smelled of garlic, herbs, sweet and vinegary pasta sauce, Italian meats and cheeses, wine and all good things. It was very Italian. She stored away the best for her family and always brought it out for us. We were never an imposition, always a joy. There was always a feast at her home. We always ate more than we ought to. We were always full of the good things she brought to us. It was good, good food prepared with love and overflowing.

And isn’t it fitting. One of the last things that I talked to Gram about was “the wedding feast of the lamb,” and how there would be food in heaven like she had never seen. I could see a sort of expectation and peace in her eyes from sharing this truth from God. I told her about how there would be the finest of food and drink and all of her family would be there. Some of her family is already there now – as she is with those who have come and gone before her. Some after her, us, as we wait for our own turn to enter the grave and be resurrected in Christ physically. Gram’s food and home was amazing, but it is not worth comparing to what she sees now in heaven. Listen to what our resurrected King Jesus says about this final place of life eternal in the book of Revelation[1]:

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.”

(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people that “were given to her to wear.” So, even the good works we do are not our own or earn us heaven. They are a gift from God, a mercy, and a grace in Christ. They don’t earn us heaven because the law demands perfection in every regard, something we could never do. But Jesus was perfect for us. His perfection becomes our own through faith in him.

Here’s how I think of this. When I was younger, my father would always give us way too much credit as kids. We would go to do some work with him; he would do about 99% of it, but he would brag about how much his kids did. He always valued hard, good work and gave that gift of hard work to his kids. He didn’t just use the hard work to provide for his family. He gave full credit for his hard work to his kids. His kids were the ones responsible for the work. My dad took his “fine linen” of hard work and wrapped his kids up with it. There is a sort of Christ in that. My dad and Aunt Jo’s mother wrapped up her children in the same sort of love. They were loved and they learned to love others through her. It was a “never-yielding” kind of love that Gram poured into her kids, grand kids, great grand kids. Jesus gives believers “Fine linen, bright and clean.” Jesus gives us his deeds, life and death, so that we are free from sin, death, and satan.

And, listen closely: The Lord Jesus himself was at our family gatherings, building us up together in himself, according to what is written:

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”[2]

We know through faith in God and in our Savior Jesus that Gram has a home prepared by King Jesus himself. She has food fit for royalty, and because she has a heart that trusted in her Savior the white garments Jesus earned by his sinless life and innocent death are wrapped around her.  It reminds me how the story of Christ is wrapped around us. In another place he explains what the good works of the saints are in the Gospel of John[3]:

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Just like my dad gave us all the credit for his work, and we believed and loved him for it, Jesus gives us all his good works to take the place of our sins, hard hearts, unyielding pride, self-righteousness, arrogance, and recklessness. You. Me. Each of us.

We can see now that God planned from eternity to call Gram home on January 20, 2020 before anyone else. You could say she was destined by God to die and be brought to heaven before her husband so that we could hear this message of grace for sinners. For certainly there is grace in this. Now, the rest of us, Pa, Aunt Jo, Hallie, Nick, Kristen, Jamie, Marc, Mike, my mom and dad, Katie, the rest of the kids here know the reality of this passage and curse of sin more clearly: the soul who sins shall die. In 125 years, not one of you in this room will be alive. Some of you will pass away much sooner than that. The proof is in the pudding: Gram was a sinner, so she died. And, you might say she was the best of us. So, if she died how much more will we all die. You might even think some of your sins aren’t bad enough or that you don’t have any “real” sins. But you are a sinner. And you do. In Ezekiel 18 we read:

For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die.

Now, that would be awful if that’s where the story ended. But, it’s not where it ends. Not for Gram and not for us. In the end, we don’t get what we deserve. Instead, we instead get a Savior, the Almighty God, who brings each of us all the way to heaven. We get a friend. We get Jesus. And through him, we get everything. He said:

John 14:1-4 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

The Apostle John records a question from “Doubting Thomas” and Jesus response in his book[5]. Maybe you doubt it. Listen to how Jesus responds to those who doubt his truth and love:

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Hearing his words is the same as hearing the words of God our heavenly Father. So, we trust God’s Word, which cannot lie or be broken. God’s word is true. We can trust in it. And, here’s what that looks like – what faith looks like – from the book of Hebrews[6]:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.”[a] For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Just like Abel, who still speaks, so does Gram. She is still speaking in heaven. We don’t doubt like Thomas, we cling fast to the inspired word of God that has the power to feed us good food, give us an eternal home, and bring us to heaven to be with Gram and every other believer through faith. No, these things are certain and true. Cling to these words that your sins are forgiven because Jesus’s life and death on the cross was enough for you. It was enough for Gram. It is enough for you. This is the way, the truth and the life. It is as certain and true as one of the last passages I read to Gram. It was from the Apostle Paul’s book called “Romans”[7]:

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now may the peace of God that surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

[1] Revelation 19:6-9
[2] Matthew 18:20
[3] John 6:29
[4] Ezekiel 18:4
[5] John 14:5-7
[6] Hebrews 11:1-5
[7] Romans 8:31-37
[8] John 10:11-18

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