Funeral for + Earl Terry Eckard +

The text I have chosen for Terry’s funeral is John 14:1-6.
1“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Here ends our text.
Cheryl, Terry, Tamara, Pat, and Larry, family and friends of Terry, if I asked you three months ago where did you think you were going to be today, I’m sure this is the last place you would have guessed. This is the last place I thought I would be today. This is the last place that Terry thought he would be today, but alas, here we are. There is only one thing that would bring us all here today, and that is death.

None of us would have thought that when Terry entered the hospital last week, he would not see the outside of the hospital. I take that back; there was one person who knew how things would work out, and that was his heavenly Father. According to Job, the number of our days have been determined by God. Despite our best efforts, there is nothing that we can do to add to that number. For Terry, last Monday was his last day on this earth. While it was his last day on earth, it was not his last day, for on March 27, he received the crown of eternal life.

None of this was expected, especially by Terry. But despite what happened in this earthly life, none of that really matters, because the important fact is what happens in the eternal life. As Christ our Lord tells His disciples, “In my Father’s house are many rooms…. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” A long time ago, God made a promise to a pair of individuals, a couple named Adam and Eve. That promise was about salvation, salvation that was made possible by Jesus Christ.

St. Paul tells us, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” To be baptized in the name of Christ means to die with Him. To die with Christ means something, something the world cannot understand. To die with Christ means to inherit all that Christ has and all that Christ is. To die with Christ means to inherit His holiness and righteousness. It means to receive the forgiveness He seeks to give freely.

That is what Terry received all those years ago when he was welcomed into the family of God through the waters of Holy Baptism. When the pastor spoke those words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” Terry received all that Christ had to give him. He received the forgiveness of all of his sins. That fact is what drove Terry to this place, to hear the words of absolution pronounced over him, to receive the body and blood of Jesus.

One has to wonder what might have been going through Terry’s mind while he was in hospital last week. While I may not know, I do know this about Terry: he believed wholeheartedly in these words of Jesus. Hear these words again: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” If there was anything Terry had, it was not a troubled heart. Terry knew who he was. He knew that he was a sinner, inside and out. And even though he was a sinner, he knew that he was forgiven. He knew that one day, he would die. Did he think it would have been last Monday? I doubt it. Was he afraid that he was going to die? I doubt it, because he knew what would happen when he died. He knew that the moment he breathed his last, he would be with Christ.

He knew that in order to accomplish salvation, God the Father sent His Son into this world to take our place by enduring the penalty for our sinfulness and for all our sins, each and every one of them. That is what happened on the cross when Jesus died. He endured the pain that should have been yours. Jesus paid the debt that was yours. Taking your place, the Incarnate Son of God was abandoned by the Father when Jesus suffered on the cross in your place. God prepared your redemption when He died on the cross. His Words “It is finished!” indicate a complete payment and accomplished salvation for you.

Jesus invites when He says, “You believe in God, believe also in Me.” The eternal blessings of God because of His Son’s life, death and resurrection are yours by faith in Christ. Salvation is by God’s gift of faith and not by man’s good deeds. Faith itself is God’s work that the Holy Spirit gives through the Word. The Lord worked faith in Terry when he heard the proclamation of the Good News. God granted him faith to believe in Him.

Unfortunately, there are many who do not believe, many who do receive what our Lord offers. Tragically, we see that with one of Jesus’ own disciples, Thomas. It is Thomas who speaks for many when He says to God, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Does that sound like the voice that you often hear in your own head or from your own heart? Listen to Jesus’ answer to every Thomas in this world and especially in this room: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Those are the words we so desperately need to hear, not just today but always. We need to hear how Christ our Lord has come into this world full of sinners, of how He lived among us and was one of us in order to die for us. But the story would be cut short if He did not rise again for us, and He did. He rose victorious over sin and death in order to Terry everlasting life. He rose victorious over sin and death in order to give us everlasting life. Jesus is the Way because He is the only one who could make the preparations for your entry into Paradise. He is the Truth that has prepared a mansion for you that awaits you. He is the Life that extends beyond the day of your death and never, ever ends.

For as difficult time as this now is for us, we know that this sadness is temporary. While we grieve Terry’s death, that is not what we dwell on. Rather, we REJOICE that he has received the crown of everlasting life, that he now rests from his labors and enjoys the full salvation won for him and for all who believe. Amen.

+ Harold “Swede” Dean Heimgartner +

The text that I have chosen for Swede’s funeral comes from Ephesians 2:1-10.

[1] And you were dead in the trespasses and sins [2] in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—[3] among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. [4] But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—[6] and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, [7] so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. [8] For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast. [10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Here ends our text.

Myrna, Vince, Carley, friends of Swede, to say that the events of the last week have been rough would be an understatement. Death seemed to prove the victor last Friday as death closed in around Swede. At first glance, St. Paul seems to confirm that in our text from Ephesians: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air….” Do you want to know what we were? Dead in the trespasses and sins. But notice that Paul doesn’t say that you ARE dead in the trespasses and sins, but rather he says you WERE dead in the trespasses and sins. Isn’t Paul just arguing semantics? Is there really a big difference between are and were? Lying before us is our beloved brother Swede. The fact that we are gathered here indicates that this isn’t just a matter of semantics, that Swede IS dead. But we would be wrong in saying that, despite what things look like to the naked eye.

Death, unfortunately, is very much a part of who we are, but it wasn’t meant to be like that. When God created all things, His last act of creation was the creation of man, creating him in God’s own image. That means that man was created without sin, and for a brief time, man enjoyed a life without sin. But that time would not last, as Satan would enter creation and causing man to fall into sin, thus severing our union with God. God would not be content with letting creation being separated from her Creator. And so, God would make a promise, a promise to restore things the way they were in the beginning, to restore the union between Creator and creation.

By Jesus Christ, creation has been restored to her Creator. By Jesus Christ, we have the forgiveness of our sins. By Jesus Christ, we have life once again. And so says St. Paul, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ….” New life has been given to those who are dead in trespasses and sins. It means that we are no longer dead but alive. But it doesn’t appear to be the case today, or does it? Are we here to focus on death or to celebrate life? The answer is both.

We focus on death because that is what brings us here. And because we focus on death, we must focus on sin, because it is sin that leads to death, as Paul says in Romans, “For the wages of sin is death.” If we didn’t have sin, we wouldn’t have death. If Swede were not a sinner, then he would not have died. If you were not a sinner, then you would not die, but as we know, we all will die.

But we don’t focus just on the point of death. We focus on life. We focus on life because God has made us alive with Christ. Only by what Christ has done are we made alive. That’s why the words of St. Paul are so important for us: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Why are these words so important? Because they promise us that our salvation does not come from us, but it comes from Jesus.

For all who knew Swede, you knew that he was a simple man. He liked simple because simple was easy. Jesus makes it simple, for it is Jesus who does all the work of salvation. We don’t have to do anything, not that we could. And for Swede, that was his comfort. He took comfort in knowing that Christ did all things necessary for him to enter heaven. He did nothing, and Christ did everything. That is not something that Swede hoped in, it was a promise that God had made to our first parents, Adam and Eve, a promise that is passed down to all generations, a promise fulfilled in Jesus.

Martin Luther, when writing on Genesis 12 writes the following: “Therefore it is proper for us to contrast the blessing in this passage with the curse under which all human beings are because of sin. The curse has been taken away by Christ, and a blessing will be bestowed on all who receive Him and believe in His name. The remarkable blessing is this, that after being freed from sin, from death, and from the tyranny of the devil, we are in the company of the angels of God and have become partakers of eternal life.”

Swede has been freed from sin, death, and the devil. He now rests in the Father’s loving arms, as do all who believe. Swede joins all who have been faithful until God and His promise of salvation, a salvation that comes only through Jesus Christ. All of this is freely given to all who believe.

Of course, nothing is free. There is always a price to be paid, and the price is great to redeem you from sin and death. But while the price is great, it is not yours to pay: that has already been done by your Savior, Jesus. He’s gone to the cross for your sins—He’s suffered God’s judgment for you and died your death; and because God has made Him alive again, God makes you alive again. How much of the cost is passed on to you? None. Hear these words again: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Rejoice in knowing that Christ has done all that is necessary for your salvation, just as we rejoice that Christ has done all for Swede’s salvation and that he now rests in the arms of his loving Father. Amen.

Funeral for + Larry Owen Stevens +

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The text that Larry chose for his funeral is 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

[20] But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. [21] For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. [22] For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. [23] But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. [24] Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. [25] For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. [26] The last enemy to be destroyed is death. [27] For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. [28] When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

Here ends the text.

Shirley, James, Gary, Shana, Craig, Paulanne and Desi, family and friends of Larry, there is nothing I can say or do to change what happened Thursday morning. If I could, I’m not sure that I would change anything. The reason is this: Larry has received the crown of life won for Him by Jesus Christ. As much as we all want Larry to be with us today, it doesn’t seem right that he’s not. And you’re right, it doesn’t seem right because it’s not right. In fact, none of this is right. The reason why none of this is right is because of what Paul says: “For as by a man came death… For as in Adam all die….” The whole reason why we are here is because of death. God did not design creation to be in this state of sin and death. In fact, it was God’s plan for us to be in His presence for all of time. Unfortunately, due to Satan’s temptation of man, God and man would be separated. Because of Adam’s sin, that’s where we find ourselves, separated from God. But God would not be content in leaving us in that state of death.

Listen to what St. Paul writes regarding the resurrection: …by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead…. so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”Today is indeed a somber day but also a day of rejoicing, for Larry has been raised from the dead by Jesus Christ and His resurrection. And if that isn’t enough good news, you too will be raised from the dead by Jesus Christ, for He makes that promises to all those who believe in Him and call upon His name.

Christ our Lord has conquered death, once and for all. Throughout His earthly life, He faced many a foe bent on His destruction. They wanted nothing more than to see Jesus go away, and the only way to make sure He went away and stayed gone was by killing Him. That is the same thing that Satan wants of God’s creation, that they would die and stay dead. And so Satan becomes the great enemy of God and of the Christian. To that end, life becomes a great battlefield, with God on one side and Satan on the other. The prize: man’s eternal soul.

That battle between God and Satan is one that rages throughout all of creation. But that battle has been won. The Victor is none other than Jesus Christ, Son of God and creation’s Savior. Death was slain for Larry many years ago in His Baptism as God placed His name upon Larry and marked him as His very own child. But as Luther says, the Old Adam in us loves to pop his head up and remind us that we are very much a sinner. And so he writes, “…the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”

But lest we think too highly of Larry and how great he was, he would be the first to tell us that he wasn’t anyone special. He wasn’t a saint in the sense that all he did was good and perfect; he would remind you that he wasn’t a saint. But at the same time, he was indeed a saint, a blood-bought and redeemed child of God, forgiven of all his sins. He never forgot that he belonged to God. He never forgot that he was forgiven. Week in and week out, he and Shirley would take their rightful place in their pew and hear that they were sinners condemned to die. But week in and week out, he and Shirley would take their rightful place in their pew and hear that they were sinners made clean by the blood of the Lamb.

And so here we are today. Gathered here, we see the full effects of sin at work in God’s creation as we come to the realization and fact that sin has claimed another, namely Larry. And if that isn’t depressing enough, one day, death will come for you and I as well. Death sweeps through all of creation, taking anyone and everyone with it. Not a single one of us will be spared from death, for death truly is the last enemy.

While death is the last enemy, death is not the victor; that tile goes to Jesus Christ. St. Paul says, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Jesus defeats death, once and for all. Yes, we will certainly die an earthly death; there is no way of getting around that. In the early hours of Thursday morning, Larry succumbed to death. For as tragic as that was, Larry was the victor. Christ has been raised from the dead! He bore the sins of all to the cross and died, but rose again three days later. Larry’s sins, your sins, my sins, they alone are enough to keep you in the grave, but the sins of the world could not keep your Savior in the tomb. His resurrection proves that He has defeated sin and death.

Risen from the dead, He is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. The firstfruits, meaning there are more to follow, namely all who trust in Him. For the one who dies, death is but a sleep. It is not the beginning of eternal loss, but a transition to eternal life. You and I see only grievous loss and separation, but death is defeated. Those who die in Christ are only sleeping.

As we mourn today, we also rejoice. Death, devil and the world are defeated, though not yet destroyed. You are living in between the defeat of your enemies and their destruction. You’re no match for them, but they’re no match for your Savior. Larry was no match for sin and death; he didn’t need to be, for in his place stood God in the flesh of Jesus Christ, with His blood washing over Larry, forgiving his sins, establishing a place for him in His eternal kingdom. Rejoice, for though Larry has died, he lives in all glory and splendor with the Holy Trinity and with all those saints who have gone before him, awaiting that great day when Christ our Lord calls all believers unto Him. Amen.

Funeral for + Dorothy Schell +

LSB Icon_040The text that I have chosen for Dorothy’s funeral comes from John 11:28-37.

[28] When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” [29] And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. [30] Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. [31] When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. [32] Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” [33] When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. [34] And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” [35] Jesus wept. [36] So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” [37] But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

To all those gathered today, for you Dick, Carol, Pam, Patty, Caroline, and Nancy, as we just heard from John’s Gospel, we see great emotion from our Lord when He hears of the death of Lazarus, who is considered to be one of the best friends of Jesus. It is recorded here the shortest verse of the Bible: “Jesus wept.” Such tragedy strikes even our Lord, for He is just as human as we are. He forges relationships just the same that we do. He cares for people just as we do. He loves people just as we do. And so it is no surprise that Jesus mourns at the death of a friend.

So are we gathered here today as we mourn the death of a mother, sister, grandmother, church member and friend. It is natural for us to mourn as well. Someone who has meant so much to us is no longer here, for Dorothy has passed through this veil of tears to the loving arms of her Savior. She now rests from her labors, free from all sin, sickness and disease that she experienced in her earthly life.

As much as we don’t want to talk about it or admit, Dorothy was a sinner because she died. St. Paul says, “For the wages of sin is death….” Sin is that great enemy that we all face. And it would appear that last Wednesday, sin won as it claimed another of God’s beloved children. That is what Satan would have you think, that he has the upper hand and final say over God. And you just might be tricked into thinking that’s the case. But there is one thing that Satan forgets about and that is a promise made a long time ago, a promise that would trump all that Satan can muster. That promise is Jesus Christ, a promise from God to man and to Satan that He will prove to be the ultimate victor over Satan.

That victory occurred many years ago for Dorothy as she was brought to the waters of Holy Baptism. There, in what seemed so ordinary, the extraordinary took place, for she was forgiven all of her sins. There she received a new name, a name that could never be taken away from her – that name was “child of God,” for that is what she became.

That same gift that Dorothy was given is a gift that is meant for you as well. But it’s not just a gift for you; it is a gift that God desires to give to all of creation. God is the Creator of all of creation and because He is the Creator, He sincerely desires all of creation to be connected to Him in the heavenly realm where sin, death, and Satan have been defeated and cannot prevail. God, through His infinite love, sent His Son Jesus Christ from heaven to take on mortal flesh and blood in order to do what Dorothy could not, to do what you and I cannot do; live a sinless life. It was made clear early on in creation that due to man’s sin, we would be forever separated from God. But that wasn’t good enough for God. He saw fit to send a Savior.

That same Savior God sent was the same Savior that was confronted by Mary: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” But you see, Mary didn’t have the full picture in front of her. She was only concerned about the earthly life her brother had. Though we see Mary sitting intently at the feet of Jesus one moment, here she almost blames Jesus that Lazarus has died. But Jesus did not let Lazarus die. What caused Lazarus to die was sin. Instead of letting Lazarus die, Jesus had a date to keep on a hill called Golgotha, for there He would die so that Lazarus would liver eternally. In fact, Jesus’ death is what gives Dorothy eternal life and it is what gives you eternal life as well.

Dorothy didn’t do anything in her life to deserve what Jesus did for her, and she would be the first to tell you that. There was nothing special about her that would earn her favor with God, and she would be the first to tell you that as well. But all of this happens in spite of her. Regardless of who she was or what she did, God loved her. In fact, He loved her so much that He sent His only Son to die for her.

That is good news for Dorothy and it is good news for you as well, because what Christ did for Dorothy, He does for you also. Many of you mourn right now, and that is normal; it’s expected. But let me tell you something: there truly is nothing to mourn over because Dorothy has received the crown of life. Christ has died and Christ is risen from the dead. He is the Conqueror of death. He is not the Resurrection and the Life only in the past, as if He retired from that after raising Lazarus from the dead. He is not the Resurrection and the Life only in the future, on the Last Day. He is the Resurrection and the Life now. Now, and forevermore. Where Jesus is, life is. That’s what Jesus is about: and whenever He is present forgiving sins, He is also present giving life. By His forgiveness, He already declares that eternal life is yours, for He has done all to accomplish it by His death and resurrection.

This is true for you. It is also true for those you mourn who died in the faith, not just Dorothy, but all who have gone before us in the faith. Those who died in the faith are not dead, because the Lord is not the Lord of the dead but of the living. Their bodies rest in the grave for now, but they live even now with Christ in heaven. You have His promise: “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.” It is true for the saints who have gone before us, and it is true for you.

In these days filled with sadness and mourning, let us weep just as our Lord wept at the death of Lazarus, but let us also turn our mourning into gladness, for God has prevailed over sin and death, not just for Dorothy, but for all who believe and call upon His name. Amen.

Funeral for + John E. Lavrenz +

LSB Icon_040The text that was chosen for John’s funeral was Psalm 139.

1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. 5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. 

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” 12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.

13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.

19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! 20 They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. 21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? 22 I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Here ends our text.

To the untrained eye, the scene today looks disturbing. Instead of gathering together for a joyful occasion, we gather today to mourn. Death has won again and taken a husband, father, brother, and friend. Or at least, that’s what the untrained eye sees. For the trained eye, we see something completely different.

Some of the facts remain the same: we gather today not just to mourn, but to also rejoice. Death has indeed taken a husband, father, brother and friend, but death has not won. As the hymn says, “Jesus lives! The vict’ry’s won! Death no longer can appall me; Jesus lives! Death’s reign is done! From the grave will Christ recall me. Brighter scenes will then commence; This shall be my confidence.”

I can’t take credit for selecting our text today; John did that, along with everything else. I can see why this psalm was such a favorite of his. This psalm is a psalm of thanks that praises God that He has provided for David so wonderfully and still reigns in all of His works, words, and thought. Whether David stands, walks, sleeps, or wakes – yes, even in his mother’s womb, before he was made – God has been with him as he was being formed and will be with him as long as he lives. John did as any of us should be able to do – substitute our name in the place of David, for God indeed watches over and provides for us from before we are born to our death and after. That fact held true for John as well. From the moment of his conception, God was watching over him. When he was brought to the waters of Holy Baptism, God was there. Throughout all the days of John’s life, God was there with him. And Friday, when John breathed his last breath, there stood God with open arms to receive His beloved child. The words John heard are words that all believers will hear on the day that God calls us home: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

If John were here right now, he would make the point himself that he wasn’t good. He might have been a good person to know, he might have done good things throughout his earthly life, but none of that mattered. All the good that John did in this life didn’t score him any brownie points with God. He never did anything “good” for personal gain, but rather to benefit his neighbor, whether he knew who his neighbor was or not. He knew that nothing he could ever do would get him brownie points with God. He knew that none of his good works would earn him an ounce of salvation and he would be the first to tell you that. In order for John to receive salvation, in order for any of us to receive salvation, it doesn’t depend a single bit on what we do. It depends solely on what Jesus Christ has done for us.

How fitting it is for John to have fallen asleep in Christ when he did. Right now, the Church observes the season of Lent, a penitential time where we reflect and prepare for what Christ does for us. In just a couple of weeks, we will see Jesus ride triumphantly into Jerusalem, with the people shouting praises as He enters. We will see Jesus give to His disciples, and in turn the entire Church, His very body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. And in just hours after that, we will see Jesus go to the cross. And while we cringe when we hear of His Passion and what Christ endured before His death, we look forward to what happened just three days later, when Christ burst from death’s tomb as the Victor over sin and death. With His death, He took with Him John’s sins, and there were many, as he would recount week after week in the Church’s confession. But he knew that he had forgiveness, not because of what he did, but because Christ had washed those sins away in Baptism, because Christ had taken any and all sins of John to the cross and gave to him the crown of eternal life.

David writes in his psalm, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your work; my soul knows it very well.” Those are words which meant something to John, words that were wonderful to hear, because by Jesus’ work was what saved John. He could be content in knowing that God sent His Son Jesus to save him from all his sins.

From some of the stories John told me and from the years that I knew John, he had a way of getting himself into trouble. Sometimes it meant receiving some sort of punishment from his father or running to his mother to avoid said punishment. He knew when he got in trouble and though he tried to avoid the punishment, it often caught up to him. So it was with his death. Death is inevitable for each and every one of us. St. Paul makes that clear when he says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” John knew that when he got in trouble with his sin, which was everyday of his life, he knew whom he needed to run to. He would run to Jesus, for he knew that only in the arms of Jesus would he be able to get out of his sinful trouble. He knew that the only thing he could do was sin and sin and sin some more. But through the blood of Jesus Christ that washed his sins away, He could emerge the victor.

Reflecting on St. Paul’s words, they ring ever true for John. He writes, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” Though John has died an earthly death, he enjoys a new life in Christ Jesus, one free from sin, one free from cancer. He has been transferred to the Church Triumphant, where he rests from his labors.

During the last few days of John’s life, he was plagued with worry, even doubt at times. He asked on more than one occasion why God hated him because he was still here. I told John that God did not hate him, but I didn’t know why he was still here, other than the fact that it was not time for God to call John home to heaven yet. David answers John’s question. He says, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.” John’s days were numbered, just as are each of ours. While God created us to live with Him forever in the Garden, through sin we now have death, cutting short those days of forever. But though we live a certain number of days on earth, through Christ will live with God forever in heaven.

David has a perfect ending for his psalm, an ending that asks for something from God. David could have asked for anything from God, and yet he doesn’t; he asks for something not of this life. He writes, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” For David, just as for John, and just as for you and me, there is a grievous way in us. That grievous way is called sin. Sin, as we see this morning, leads to death. But God did not leave David in that state, nor did He leave John in that state, nor does He leave us in that state. He leads us in the way of everlasting life.

For you, Lee and family, while you mourn today, there is cause for rejoicing, for John now rests in eternal glory, waiting for us all to join him and all who die in the faith. Amen.

Funeral for + Jeffrey Ailts +

LSB Icon_040The text that I have chosen for Jeff’s funeral comes from Romans 8:31-39.

31 What then shall we say 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 with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded 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 sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Here ends our text.

Sarah, Holly, Jessica, Benjamin, Karissa, Phlayne, and Brian, family and friends, if there is any doubt as to whether or not sin is alive and well in this world, we can answer that question today. We are here today because our beloved brother in Christ has died. Sin is definitely alive and well because St. Paul declares, “the wages of sin is death.” That’s why we are here, because once again, God’s creation has fallen prey to sin and death.

Lest we dwell too much on the negative, there is a great positive here. St. Paul, in writing to the Romans, speaks of great hope for us here today. Following the Epistle text from earlier, the words just prior to this text, Paul speaks of the future glory that awaits us. This is no “pie in the sky” glory, something that looks good until you actually receive it. No, this is a glory that is beyond all glory on earth, beyond all that we could ever comprehend. This glory is centered on Jesus Christ and what He has done for Jeff. This glory is centered on Jesus Christ and what He has done for us.

How do we know this? Look at the questions that Paul asks as follow-up: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Who is against you? Satan is 100% against you and has been from the start. He has sought your downfall from nearly the beginning of time. He is the source of sin and death and revels in its disastrous affects on God’s creation. But there is One who is for you 100%. It is God, your Heavenly Father. From the moment sin and death were introduced into creation, God made the promise of salvation. The promise is Jesus Christ. The promise is that through His sinless life, He would keep all of God’s Law perfectly in your place because you cannot keep it. The promise is that through the death of Christ, you are given life because Christ dies your intended death. The promise is that through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, all believers in Him will have eternal life.

By God’s grace and not his own, Jeff believed this. Given faith by the Holy Spirit, this was the conviction that Jeff held to all the days of his life. He knew that because God offered His only-begotten Son upon the cross for his sins, he would have eternal life. What a conviction to have! It was out of that conviction that he made sure that you, his children, were raised in the faith, that you too would be assured of the forgiveness and eternal life that God offers through Jesus Christ.

With all that being said, he could have easily laid that conviction aside. Surely there were times in his life that he could have easily said, “To hell with it all.” Every Christian faces those events in your lives where we are assailed by Satan to the point where we could lose all hope in Christ. When his son Joshua died, he could have given up all hope, yet he remained steadfast in his faith. No parent is meant to bury their child, and yet he had to. Through the difficult days, he looked to Christ for his comfort. Eleven months later, he buried his father. While that is more natural, where did Jeff find his comfort? Again, he found it in Christ. When diagnosed with cancer, where did Jeff find his comfort? It was found in Christ. The words of Paul rang ever true for him: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” Whatever tribulation or distress Jeff faced in this life, he knew that there would be nothing, absolutely nothing, that could ever separate him from Christ. He knew that his comfort would be found in Christ because of Christ’s very words: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

The Son of God, Jesus Christ, took on human nature so that He could live the human experience. He grew up like any boy. He became a man. He lived a complete human life and then He experienced a human death. Jesus not only experienced a physical death, but He also experienced eternal death, eternal punishment. He experienced that death so that we don’t have to. By living a human life and dying a human death, He took our place. He rescued us from sin, death, and the power of the devil with His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. Then, because He was sinless, death could not hold Him and He rose from the dead.

Jesus Christ has gone before us from life to death and to life again. For the believer in Christ, there is no eternal death but only eternal life. As St. Paul says, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Absolutely nothing will keep the believer from God because Christ has conquered all. Whatever Satan himself throws at the believer, Christ is stronger and keeps us connected to him unto life everlasting.

Jeff belonged to the Lord and now rests with the Lord. He is now enjoying the joy of being in the presence of his heavenly Father and with Christ, his Redeemer. One day, we too will be called by Christ to return to him. On that day, it will be a glorious day. As Jeff was fond of saying, it will be a win-win. Today, we rejoice that for Jeff, it is a win-win. He is free from all sickness and disease. He is at rest and free from the sin that separates us from God. However, for us this side of heaven, we are still here. We remain in a sinful and fallen world and now without a son, husband, father, grandfather and brother. We weep as did Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus. As we mourn, we mourn with the hope of the resurrection. We look forward to the Last Day where all who have fallen asleep in Christ will be raised and receive eternal life. Jeff has received the crown of eternal life because of Christ and now rests from his labors. Because of Christ, we are assured that we too will wear the crown of eternal life because we have been joined with Christ forever, for nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Amen.

Funeral for + Duane Jurczewsky +

LSB Icon_040The text that I have chosen for Duane’s funeral comes from 1 Corinthians 15:51-58.

51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Here ends our text.

Phyllis, Todd, Beth, Sonia, in the last few weeks of Duane’s life, when I would see him, there was one thing that he did a lot of: sleep. Whether it was due to age, tiredness, pain or medication, he slept. Seeing him on Thursday, his sleep was anything but restful. With all of that being said, we rejoice because Duane did fall asleep; he fell asleep in Christ Thursday evening. There isn’t a better place to fall asleep than in the arms of Jesus.

As much as we don’t like it, as much as we don’t understand it, Duane’s death had to take place. It leaves sorrow today in our lives, as it should. No longer is a husband, father, or grandfather present. We are left feeling lonesome. And while all of that is natural to feel, we must remember that this is what was necessary. Listen again to the words from St. Paul: “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” That is what happens for every believer in Christ. That is the joy that we have on account of Christ and by His life, death, and resurrection. We have the promise from today’s Gospel reading: “In my Father’s house are many rooms. 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, that where I am you may be also.” Christ understands our deepest of needs and does what no one else could do.

That is what happened to Duane. Thursday, when Duane breathed his last, he fell asleep in Christ. In that moment, everything changed for Duane. In the twinkling of an eye, his body was forever changed. There was no more cancer. There was no more sickness. There was no more disease. Duane has won the victory over all suffering and pain. He has even won the victory over death.

Duane did not win the victory by being kind or generous. He did not win the victory by being loving or hard working; though many here can testify to the fact that Duane was all these things. But that is not how a person wins the victory over suffering and death.

But when Duane faced death, he did not face it alone. Another stood by his side, one who was stronger than death. Through Him, through Jesus Christ, Duane has won the victory. Christ removed the sharp sting of death, which is sin, for He washed Duane clean in His precious blood. With all of Duane’s sins nailed forever to the cross of Calvary, no one could bring any accusation against him. Not even Satan could stand up and accuse Duane of anything, since the Lord God has already declared him innocent forever.

Resurrection is what Duane received and what you are receiving today in your ears; what you are saying and singing with your tongues; what you have had poured over your head; what you will receive in the bread and wine that is the very body and blood of our Lord. Jesus’ resurrection is Duane’s resurrection and it is your resurrection—but that is only because His death is your death.

While today is indeed a day of sorrow, it is also a day to rejoice. It is a day to rejoice in the fact that Christ has called Duane to be His beloved child through the waters of Holy Baptism. In Baptism, Duane received the forgiveness of all of his sins. Duane was not deserving of the mercy that God showed to him on account of Christ. In fact, none of us are deserving of God’s mercy, yet through His grace, He makes us to be His own.

Duane has what we desire, what one day will be ours – immortality. This is not immortality that we find in horror or science fiction movies, but this is immortality that is found in Christ. This is immortality that grants to the believer everlasting life in Christ Jesus. This is what is given to us freely by Christ, without any work on our part.

Sin and death have been forever ended because of Christ’s work for us on the cross. Because of His sacrificial death, the death that Duane died is only temporary and not eternal. He lives triumphant on account of Christ. Listen to these words from St. Paul and how they speak of the work of Christ for us: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Because Christ has joined us to Himself through Baptism, we are forever a part of Him. His death is our life. He dies the death that we are to die and we live eternally in Him. Duane knew this. This is what he confessed. He knew that he was a sinner, but because of Christ, he was made righteous. He knew that one day, he was going to die. But in that same thought, he also knew that he was going to live again in Christ.

Victory for Duane is sure and certain. Victory for the Christian is sure and certain. Because we are united in Christ’s death, we are united in His resurrection. There is no wonder as to what will happen when we breathe our last breath. There was no wonder in Duane’s mind as to what would happen when he would breathe his last breath. While he was fearful of dying, he knew that there truly was nothing to fear because he would be with Christ, and that is where Duane is, with Christ.

For us who are left this side of heaven, sorrow is indeed our song today. But beyond our song of sorrow, our song of joy rings out louder. With Christ, there is no more pain. There is no more suffering. Our song is forever a song of joy, for what Christ has achieved for Duane, for what Christ has achieved for all who believe and confess His holy name. Victory is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord. Today we rejoice that Duane has received that victorious crown of life and we look forward to that day when Christ calls us home with Him, for on that day we will receive that victorious crown of life, surrounded by the multitude of saints who have gone before us, of those who have fallen asleep in Jesus, as we gather and worship the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We continue to look to Jesus, for He alone can give victory, in the hour of sorrow and in the hour of death. Today, we abound in the work of the Lord, for it is that work that gives to Duane and to all believers eternal life. Amen.

Funeral for + Gladys Guthmiller +

The text that I have chosen for Gladys’ funeral comes from Psalm 118:17-24.

17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord. 18 The Lord has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death. 19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. 20 This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. 21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. 22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Here ends our text.

John, Kathy, Lyle, Lila, as we focus on the words of the psalmist today, they don’t seem to fit the occasion for why we are gathered. Psalm 118 is a psalm of thanks. It gives thanks and also prophesies of the Christian and of Christ, the rejected cornerstone. This psalm is a general statement of thanksgiving for all the kindness God daily and unceasingly showers on all people. This psalm praises God especially for the greatest benefit He bestowed on the world, namely, for Christ and His kingdom of grace – first promised and now revealed.

But do we really want to give thanks today of all days? A loving wife and mother have been taken away and we are expected to give thanks? That is exactly what we are to do, as this psalm encourages us to rejoice. The psalmist writes, “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.” This verse touches on and states the trouble out of which God’s hand delivers the righteous, namely, death. This is precisely what happened Tuesday morning for Gladys. While Gladys died to the things of this world, she continues to live in Christ.

What a wonderful thing to have put before us today. On Tuesday, when Gladys died, she entered into the kingdom of heaven, where the faithful in Christ have gone before her. The fact that Gladys now stands before God Almighty is not due to anything she did in this earthly live or anything she could do in this life. For as wonderful a person Gladys was, the reality was that there was nothing deserving of Gladys to allow her entry into God’s paradise, because she was a sinner, just like you and I and everyone on this earth. How do we know that? We know it because our sister in Christ is lying before us in a casket as a result of her sin. St. Paul writes, “For the wages of sin is death.” If Gladys were not a sinner, she would not have died. If mankind were not sinners, then no one would die. The reality of the matter is we are sinners and we die.

Though we are sinners, God has done something wonderful for us, just as He did for Gladys. He made us His beloved children. Through the washing away of sin by Holy Baptism, Gladys received a new name: child of God. From the moment of her Baptism until the day of her death, she wore that name proudly. It identified her as one for whom Jesus Christ went to the cross to redeem.

The Lord has done exactly what the psalmist writes: “Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.” Tuesday, Gladys did just that; she entered the gates of righteousness. Now she sits with the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and she gives thanks for what has been done for her and all believers, on account of Jesus Christ.

What a wonderful gift that has been shown to Gladys. Even because of her sinfulness, God still sends His Son to live and die to redeem her so that she would be forgiven of all her sins and granted the gift of everlasting life. That is the greatest gift that could ever be shown to Gladys and that is the greatest gift that she could give to you, her family. There may have been times where you had a lot and times where you had little. In whatever circumstance you found yourselves in, there was one thing that you always had: Jesus Christ. You had the forgiveness that He brings to you. You have His promise that He will be with you always. You have His gift of everlasting life that comes to you because God the Father has called you by name and made you His beloved children. That was a promise made by God to you, one that your mother held near and dear, because God made that promise to her as well. She had no fear of what may happen to her in this world because she had the promises of Christ. That is what she wanted to instill in you, her children. She wanted you to have the same peace and comfort that she herself had.

What the psalmist records is just as true for Gladys and us as it was for the psalmist: “I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.” It is God alone who is our salvation. Unfortunately, we like to put our stock into the things of this world, as if we will be able to somehow earn salvation through other means. However, the things of this world will not grant forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation to anyone. Yes, they may bring temporary joys, but they do not grant eternal life. Gladys knew that and did not trust in the things of this world, but put her faith solely in that of Jesus Christ, who is the way, and the truth, and the life.”

So what are we supposed to do now? What will the days and weeks be like for us? They will be filled with sorrow and hurt. For some, they may be filled with despair, feelings of loss. While these may very well be our feelings following today, there is one feeling that we have at times like this and that is hope. We have hope in the resurrection of all believers on account of Jesus Christ and His life, death, and resurrection. Because Christ has died and risen from the grave, we know that we too as believers in Christ will rise from the dead as well. Now, Gladys rests in the glory that is heaven because of Christ.

John, Kathy, Lyle, and Lila, there is one verse left of our text that we cannot forget. Remember, this psalm is a psalm of thanksgiving to God. The psalmist reinforces that thought at the end of our text: This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” As hard as it may seem, today is not a day of sorrow, but it is a joyous day, as we remember a loving wife and mother, who having finished her course of faith, now rests in her Lord. Let us rejoice and be glad today and always, for God our Father has shown mercy on us, giving us His Son Jesus, who forgives our sins and grants to us everlasting life. Amen.

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Funeral for +Bernice Schroder+

LSB Icon_040The text that I have chosen for Bernice’s funeral comes from John 11:17-27.

17Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Here ends our text.

Frank, Lynnda, Penny, Rosey, family and friends of Bernice, one need not look any further to the front of the sanctuary to see why we are here today. Today we come together to grieve the loss of a mother, sister, grandmother, great-grandmother, and friend. As we look towards the altar, we see before us the body of Bernice, and that is all that we see, just a body. What is missing is the soul of Bernice. Some may wonder what happened to the soul. Bernice had no question what would happen to her at the point of death because she had the assurance that she was a baptized child of God. Because she was a baptized child of God, she knew that when her Lord called her name, she would be with Christ forever. For those of us gathered here today, we can be sure of that fact as well.

As we look at our text for today, we see Jesus enter Bethany to find that His close friend Lazarus has died and has been buried. When Jesus meets up with Martha, she tells Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Poor, poor Martha. If only she knew what she was saying, then maybe she would have chosen her words more carefully. All she wanted was to have her brother alive with her again. Isn’t that what we want today, to have Bernice and all of our loved ones with us again? We have exactly what we want, just not how we want it.

To get this answer, we look to the words of Jesus to Martha: “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” For Martha, it was her faith in Jesus that caused her to call for Jesus in her hour of bereavement. For those of us gathered here today, it is our faith in Jesus that we turn to in our hour of bereavement. It is that same faith that Bernice clung to all the days of her life, even unto the end.

If there was one thing that she valued more than her family, it was her faith. In all of my visits with her when I would bring her the body and blood of her Lord, she would always confess her sins. She knew who and what she was. She knew that she was a damned sinner, just like everyone else she knew, without any favor with God. But she also knew that on account of Jesus Christ and His life, death, and resurrection, she was forgiven of all her sins.

The faith that Bernice had is what brought Bernice comfort in her final days. She had no doubt what would happen to her when she breathed her last breath on Tuesday. She knew that because of Jesus, her eternal salvation was secure. Notice what I said. She knew that because of Jesus, not herself. She knew that she could never earn her salvation because she was a sinner. There was nothing that she could ever do to save herself, regardless of how hard she tried. She knew that. She knew the only answer must be Jesus.

God provided the means of salvation for Bernice and God provides that means of salvation for you as well. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross was the best thing that could ever happen for Bernice, and she would be the first person to tell you that. As Jesus said to Martha, 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.” Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. And because He rose again, so also will Bernice, and so will we.

Jesus does not just foretell a resurrection of the end times. He is the Resurrection. This sacred truth was on Bernice’s lips throughout her lifetime. She received the Resurrection and the Life in the very body and blood of Jesus in her Lord’s Supper. There she received the forgiveness of her sins and the strengthening of faith.

Bernice was first resurrected in the waters of her baptism. Last Tuesday she was raised forever from this world of pain and sorrow. And on the last day, when all of the graves are opened, she and all those who are asleep shall rise to be reunited with their bodies to live forever in the presence of God.

While it is natural for us to mourn, we do not grieve as those who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who fall asleep in Jesus. For the Lamb has been sacrificed. Christ Jesus died to atone for your sins, as well, and He was raised again for you so that you may be with our Lord forever. In His innocent suffering and death, Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world – for Bernice, for you and for me.

Our heavenly Father assures eternal life to all those who believe. Bernice was one who was counted in that rank. For you, her family, that was her wish for you, that you would remain faithful to God, just as He promises to remain faithful to you. For all of us gathered today, that is the desire of God our heavenly Father: [that] all people [would] be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” That truth is only found in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave His life for us on Good Friday, only to take it up again on Easter Sunday where He rose victoriously over sin and death, once and for all, so that we would be triumphant over sin and death and have everlasting life in Him.

Do not doubt the promise that God has made to you through Jesus Christ. When God makes a promise, He keeps that promise. He promised to send forth a Savior to redeem this sinful and fallen world, and He did. That Savior promised to Martha at the death of Lazarus that all who believe in Him will never die. That is a promise that Bernice believed in and clung to until her dying breath. And now, that promise has been fulfilled for Bernice, as she enjoys the eternal riches in heaven, won for her by Jesus Christ. Amen.

Funeral for +Don Bates+

LSB Icon_040The text that I have chosen for Don’s funeral comes from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Here ends our text.

Donna, Gail, family and friends of Don, funerals and grief go together. Sadness and bereavement are normal when a loved one dies; but there is a significant difference in the type of grief evidenced at funerals.

On the one hand, there are many funerals where the sorrow of the bereaved is inconsolable, where widows or widowers and children of the deceased weep and lament without hope. Nothing anyone says or does can dispel their grief. On the other hand, at Christian funerals, the bereaved also experience great sadness, but mixed with their sadness is their Christian hope, which enables them to dry their tears and even smile in the midst of their sorrow.

St. Paul speaks of this significant difference in grieving when he writes in the words of our text, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” The apostle goes on to say that believers in Christ, by contrast, grieve with hope! This hope is expressed in the closing words of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in . . . the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”

Today, as we come together in a time of grief, we remember a father, a friend who is no longer with us. To say that we are saddened is an understatement. We know that death is that unnatural natural, a result of man’s sin. As we see a loved one advance in age, see their health begin to deteriorate, we begin to try to mentally prepare ourselves for that day that our Lord calls our loved one home, but it doesn’t make it any easier when it happens. There is no way that we can truly prepare ourselves for the moment of death, but there is One who does and has prepared us for death: our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Our Lord came into a sin-broken world in order to make things right once again with God. Because of Don’s sin and the sin of the entire world, our Lord took on human flesh so that He could live the perfect life that Don and we could not. Our Lord went to the cross, taking Don’s sins and ours with Him so that we would not have to bear them. Our Lord died the death that was meant for Don and us and in turn, gave to us the gift of forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

We grieve with hope because we do not have to fear death. There is probably nothing in life that people fear more than death. This fear is demonstrated in the fact that we avoid the noun death and the verb die. In medical circles, a patient doesn’t die; instead, he or she “expires.” In daily conversation, we often employ the euphemism “passed away” rather than say that a person has died. But for us believers in Christ, we need not fear death. In fact, we embrace death when it comes because we know that death is not the end, but rather, it is eternal life in heaven with God our heavenly Father. That is the joy that Don now experiences. He is enjoying that everlasting life where there is no sickness and no pain. He is enjoying that everlasting life with those who have departed this life in the faith, including his wife Elsie and his son Donald.

We turn to the words of Jesus for our comfort at death: “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.” For those who trust and believe in Jesus Christ for forgiveness and life, death is but the door into heaven. By His death and triumphant resurrection, Jesus has made complete payment for all sins, including that of Don. And so now our departed brother rests from his labors in the fullness of heaven.

St. Paul uses the wonderful language of those who have “fallen asleep.” What a wonderful experience sleep is, especially if one is tired after a long day of work. That is what happened to Don early Sunday morning – he fell asleep in Jesus. I’m sure that in the last days of Don’s life when he knew that his life was coming to an end, he did not fear death because he knew what was in store for him – he knew he was going to receive the crown of life. Don had great faith in the words of David: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” When St. Paul refers to death as a sleep, he is saying in a very powerful way that you and I who believe in Jesus do not have to be afraid of death any more than we are afraid of falling asleep at the end of the day.

Today, we grieve with hope because we can look forward to eternal life. This was something that Don was very sure of for a very long time. He knew that on account of what Christ had done for him and not what he had done, that he had been granted that gift of the forgiveness of sins and that he would receive everlasting life. I know Don believed that because he spoke so fondly of what Jesus had done for him. For you, his children, he wants you to know that as well. Because of Jesus Christ and His life, death, and resurrection, all of your sins, past, present, and future have been forgiven. They have been atoned for and you have been declared not guilty.

We who believe in Jesus Christ do not grieve without hope because Christ our Lord gives us hope because He gives us everlasting life. And what a glorious day that will be for us when God our heavenly Father calls us to Him, just as He did for Don on Sunday. As St. Paul says, “…and so we will always be with the Lord.” In these coming days of grief and sorrow, know that you will always have at your side a Lord who cares for you. This is His promise to you: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Know that the Lord’s care for you gives you power by God’s grace to wait for that great reunion of the saints when Christ comes in glory.

I leave you with these words of the psalmist David: “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” As you grieve, grieve as those with hope, because that is exactly what you have. Trust in God, grateful for the earthly life that he has granted to Don and the many memories we have. Rejoice in knowing that now he lays safely in the arms of Jesus, who is our good shepherd. Amen.