Funeral of Warren A. Hoeft
2 Samuel 12:15b-23, 1 Peter 3-9; Luke 2:25-32
November 12, 2013
St. John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI
There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. When this man saw the infant Jesus in the Temple, he took him up in his arms and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen your gift of salvation.”
There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was David. When David heard that his child was sick and dying, he prayed that the Lord would spare the infant’s life. When the child died, David found comfort in the knowledge that he would be joined together with his Son in heaven.
There was another man, not in Jerusalem, but this time in Fraser. This man’s name was Warren. Like the United States of America, he was born on the 4th of July, and he spent much of his life in service to his country. He served in the Army Infantry from 1942 until 1945. After that he worked as a special agent in the investigations division of the IRS. “The Dagger” they called him, a code name that inspired fear and trembling in any who would attempt to defraud the federal government. He would sit outside in a parked car in some dangerous neighborhoods for hours on a steak-out until he caught his man. He was threatened, even shot in the line of duty, but he would not be deterred. He was diligent. He was thorough. He loved serving his country, and he was especially humbled that every 4th of July his office would shut down and give everyone the day off in honor of his birthday.
But even more than an investigator, Warren was a family man. Building forts out of blankets and sheets in the basement with his granddaughter. When he wasn’t building forts, he was playing restaurant, making up menus and taking orders, or he was playing rocket ship with his daughter, pretending to fly to the different planets in the solar system. Spending the summers in Lexington playing on the waters of Lake Huron, water skiing even into his 60s. A man who loved to see people laugh, loved to put smiles on their faces, so he would periodically put aside his identity as “Warren the Dagger” and become “Warren the Not-so-Great,” magician – not to the stars and celebrities – but rather magician to all the kids at his daughters’ birthday parties, entertaining the children at Bethany Lutheran Church in Detroit. He was a square dancer. He was a world traveler. He was a story teller who memorized the Christmas Story from the Gospel of Luke.
But most importantly for today, Warren was a child of God. In July of 1920, Warren was washed with the water of holy baptism in Waltz, Michigan. He was given the gift of new life and was united to the life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God himself. In the words of the Apostle Peter that we heard a few moments ago, through those waters Warren was born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. He was born into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, an inheritance kept in heaven for him while he was on earth being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. [1 Peter 1:3-9]
For Warren, that last time came on Thursday night. Last Thursday, Warren was brought into the inheritance that was being guarded for him in heaven. Warren chased a lot of criminals in his line of work. He saw firsthand some of the ugliness that plagues mankind as a result of sin. Last Thursday he felt the fullest force of the most powerful attack that this world has to offer. Last Thursday, Death did its worst. But in the end, even though we are left here to mourn his death, Warren was brought through that attack into life everlasting. For Warren was, and still is, a child of God.
In those exact pews that you are sitting in today, Warren sat and heard the news of his salvation. At this very rail Warren knelt and received the body and blood of his savior, given and shed for the forgiveness of sin. And every time Warren communed at this rail, after he had received the body and blood of Jesus he was heard those words first spoken by the man Simeon of Jerusalem: “Depart in peace.” What incredible words those are, for they are far more than the pastor simply dismissing people back to their seats. They are not a holy-sounding way of saying, “Ok, time to go back and sit in your pew so the next group has room.” No. “Depart in peace” means you are now prepared for anything that might come your way. You are now prepared to face whatever trials and tribulations this life may throw your way. You are now prepared to face the worst, even death itself, for you have been united to the living body of your Lord Jesus Christ. As he lives, so also you live. As he has triumphed over the grave, so will you. Therefore, depart in peace.
And so Warren did. Warren received the gift of peace. In this life, he was blessed with the peace that passes understanding, the peace that only comes through the gift of our Lord’s Spirit. And now he is enjoying peace at its fullest, eternal peace, a peace that will never be taken from him, for as the Psalmist says, the Lord is his keeper, the Lord is his shade, the Lord will keep him from all evil, the Lord will keep his life.
And so we reflect today on three men: Simeon, David, and Warren. In Simeon we see the joy of God’s promises fulfilled. Simeon held in his hands the infant Jesus just as God promised. When Simeon saw that promise fulfilled, he knew that God would make good on his other promises as well. He knew that the plan of salvation was underway, the salvation that God had prepared for all peoples, a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of his people Israel. Warren is the one reaping the benefits of that plan today, for he has been delivered from this veil of tears into his eternal bliss. Like Simeon, Warren was able to depart in peace, for his salvation was secure.
We are left to mourn his passing. The people in this room must get up tomorrow and go about their day without their grandpa, without their dad, without their husband. Thanksgiving and Christmas will be tough this year. While Warren has peace, we are left with grief. And so in David we see the comfort and hope that we have when our loved ones die in the faith. As the ancient king confessed, we may not be able to bring our loved ones back to us, yet we know that we will one day go to them. You will be united with Warren again in the presence of God, united around the throne of the Lamb in heaven, gathered together with all the baptized from the ends of the earth to celebrate with all the faithful the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which has no end.
And from Warren? What do we learn from him? Well, for starters, we learn that square dancing and bad magic tricks leave a lasting impression on the people you love. We learn that basement forts and rides in the golf cart will not soon be forgotten. But above all that, we learn that there is no better comfort that can be offered in the face of death than the comfort of the resurrection of the body unto life everlasting. Warren is living that life now, for Warren was a faithful child of God. Take comfort in that. He was washed by our Lord in the water of baptism. Find confidence in that. He was fed and nourished by our Lord’s Word preached from this very pulpit. He tasted the joy of his salvation at this rail. Find hope in that. For as the Apostle Paul says, we do not grieve for him as those who have no hope. We have hope, for we have Jesus. More specifically, we have hope because Jesus has us. Jesus has Warren, and he has you too. Therefore you will be reunited with him in Jesus in the resurrection. May God grant us steadfast faith as we wait for that joyous day.