Funeral Sermon for Bob Rang

Bob Rang
Funeral Sermon
Isaiah 25:6-9
December 14, 2015
Saint John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI

            When I drove to church yesterday morning, there was a thick blanket of fog laying over the road. It was so thick that as I backed out of my garage, I couldn’t even see the street at the end of my driveway. On the road, I could barely make out the faint pin-pricks of oncoming headlights until they were only a few dozen feet away. In the beams of my own downloadheadlights, the water molecules swirled around like a small swarm of gnats, darting this way and that. The moisture was in the air. It was thick. It covered the landscape like a bedsheet, like a quilt.  The Prophet Isaiah speaks of a blanket. He speaks of a veil, of a covering that is cast over all people: the covering of death. Like fog, this veil of death limits how far into the distance you can see. Like fog, this veil of death swirls around your life. Like fog, this veil of death is in the air. You can feel it. You can’t avoid it. Especially on days like today.

Days like today are tough to deal with. Days like today we are forced to deal with the reality of death.  Days like today we are forced to struggle through the paradox of memory. On the one hand, there are the memories of Bob from the days of youth, and vibrancy, and health. He was a man who loved the outdoors – fishing and hunting and camping.  It didn’t matter if it was a tent or his old pop-up camper, Bob was game for some time in nature. He designed houses, including his own. He was a devoted husband and father.  But covering those memories of Bob today are the more recent memories of his health struggles, of the toll that the cancer took on him and his body. The weakness. The weight loss. He refused to let the cancer define him. He remained a devoted husband and father – travelling to Washington D.C. with his family just this past summer. Taking Ashley to the park to push her on the swings. Bumping into a few bears in Shenandoah.  He didn’t complain about being sick; he worked to get better. He struggled against the disease. But eventually the blanket was too heavy. Eventually, the blanket covered him.

And that is why we are here today.  The Lord has removed that blanket for Bob. He has swallowed up the covering that is cast over all people. He has lifted the fog so that Bob can see the light of his goodness. Just last week, during some of Bob’s very last moments on this earth, I watched him struggle with a blanket. I was in Bob’s room with Diana, and Bob was lying in bed. But he was warm – he was trying to get the blanket off of his chest. It would have been a simple task for him 5 years ago, but it was a struggle that day.  He fought that blanket until finally he was either satisfied with where it settled or he ran out of energy and couldn’t fight it any more. As I was choosing readings for today, that image was at the front of my mind – Bob’s struggle against the blanket. I was reminded of Isaiah’s words that we heard just a few moments ago: The Lord will swallow up on his holy mountain the covering that is cast over all people, the veil that is spread over all nations, the blanket of death itself.

That is exactly what he has done for Bob.  One way or another, Bob’s life was a struggle against that blanket – all of our lives are. We are each of us struggling to free ourselves from the oppressive cloud of death that sits around us like a fog. We struggle against it. Bob struggled against it. We might even try to convince ourselves that it is just part of nature, treating the blanket as if it were a fort at a slumber party.  But it’s not. The blanket is death. And much of our existence is spent hiding from this fact, struggling to pull the blanket off our own chest, to free ourselves from its grasp. But we will never win. The blanket wins eventually. For Bob, that day came last Thursday.

But our Lord did not leave Bob to struggle on his own. While it is true that each of us struggle against the blanket of death, the truth remains that our Lord has covered us with a different kind of blanket too. That’s why we cover the casket today with a white blanket – it reminds us of the special covering that our God gives to his people.  In holy baptism, Bob was p_290204_e.jpgclothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covered all his sin. Bob was nurtured throughout his days with the life giving proclamation of God’s Word. He had his sins forgiven, time and time again. He feasted on the body and blood of Christ himself, heavenly food that strengthened him for his journey in the same way that bread from heaven strengthened the Israelites for their time in the wilderness. And like the Israelites, Bob is now in his promised land, in his promised rest, in the presence of God.

Behold, this is our God. We have waited for him that he might save us. Bob waited for him, and now his wait is over. This is the Lord. We have waited for him, let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

I was struck by Bob’s struggle against the blanket, and I was reminded of our own struggles. But there is something else that happened last Tuesday, something I’ll never forget.  When I saw Bob that day, he knew his time was short. While we were there talking and praying, with all the strength he could muster, with what little voice he had left, he uttered the words “I love you all.” And he made a hugging gesture. That man loved his family. He loved Diana. He loved Ashley. He loved his dad. But that’s not what struck me. What stands out to me is that he also knew what mattered most. You see, in a conversation with Pastor Smith a few weeks back, Bob asked that when he was gone, “make sure my girls hear the gospel.” What a remarkable thing for a father and husband to say and to care about. He loved his girls so much that when faced with the reality of his own impending death, his primary concern was for them and their salvation.

What tremendous perspective. What an example for each of us! As we heard from Paul a few moments ago, this body and life is destined to fail. It is sown perishable. It is sown in weakness. Bob knew that – and he wanted more for his girls. He wanted them to have a share in the imperishable life that he himself is now enjoying. Yes, we lay his earthly body to rest today, but his soul is with Jesus awaiting the day of resurrection, waiting for that day when he will be reunited with Diana and Ashley to live in a new and perfect creation, to celebrate the feast of rich food and the best wine.  For Bob knew that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and yet though he may die, in Christ he will live forever.

That is the promise that gives us hope today – hope for you Diana, hope for you Ashley, hope for all who mourn Bob, hope for all who mourn anyone who has gone before us in the faith.  Because Jesus lives, we have the promise of resurrection, the promise of reconciliation, the promise of reunion.  So we cling to that promise in the face of grief. For those who love Bob, the days will get harder before they get easier. This Christmas Psalm-27-13-webseason will be especially difficult. But as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we remember that we are celebrating the birth of our Savior. Jesus came for this. Jesus didn’t just come to earth so that we could send pretty Christmas cards of a mother and her child in a manger. No, Jesus came for days like today. Jesus came because death was a problem too big for any of us to fix, a blanket too big for any of us to pull back. Jesus came and pulled it back. He swallowed it up. Jesus is indeed the reason for the season, born into this world so that we might be born into the world to come.

And so we grieve, but we grieve with hope. We trust our Lord’s promise. We are saddened that death has stolen a father and a husband from this family. We are saddened that life will never be the same for anyone who loves Bob. But sadness does not get the last word. Hope does. Life does. Bob now lives in Christ, and we will see him again in the resurrection on the last day, where like stars, God’s children, crowned, dressed all in white, his praise will sound. May the God of hope and comfort cover you with his peace until the day he removes the blanket from your life and brings you to join Bob in the life to come.

+INJ+

 

 

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Funeral Sermon for Lorraine Porea

Lorraine Elsie Porea

Isaiah 41:8-13

Funeral Sermon

August 13, 2015

Saint John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI

            Playwright George Bernard Shaw is quoted as saying, “A happy family is but an earlier heaven.” From what I’ve heard about Lorraine, she would agree. From what I’ve heard over the past few days, for Lorraine, her family was a little piece of heaven on earth. “Sweet Lorraine” they called her, because she was a grandma to quote-George-Bernard-Shaw-a-happy-family-is-but-an-earlier-89240everybody. Having grown up in a large family with 11 brothers and sisters, she was no stranger to a crowded kitchen. In fact, it sounds like she preferred a bit of a crowd. Why else would she have everyone over every year to make Christmas cookies, a production so full and intricate that it sounds an awful lot like an assembly line: women baking, men frosting, grandkids decorating, and everyone sneaking a bite or two along the way?

Yes, her house was the gathering place, and it was important to her that everyone felt welcome. She was a woman of tremendous compassion. Compassion was such a fundamental part of her personality that even when the Alzheimer’s got bad near the end, if she saw someone who needed a hug, she would be the one to give it, probably with 10 small pats on the back. It didn’t matter if she didn’t know the person. All that mattered was that they needed to be loved, and she was going to be the one to do it. That’s probably why she was so willing to open her home to friends of her family. But her family itself held top spot in her heart. Going to the grandkids special events, coming here for Christmas Eve candlelight services, just spending time together. Yes, I think Lorrain would agree with George Bernard Shaw. I think for her, her happy family was indeed an earlier heaven, a piece of heaven on earth.

But we are here today because of the other family that Lorraine was a part of. You see, for all that she did with and for her own family, she was part of an even bigger family. On September 23, 1928 Lorraine was washed in the waters of Holy Baptism. She was adopted into the family of God, made his own precious daughter. He put his name on her and made her his own. And while her earthly family may have been for her an earlier heaven, because she was claimed by God himself as part of his family, she is now enjoying heaven itself. And it’s not because she was such a good mother or grandmother, and by all accounts she was one of the best. And it’s not because she was so active in Church, which she absolutely was, giving countless hours to the Ladies’ Society and their rummage sales. It’s not because of any merit or worthiness in her. No, today she is enjoying heaven itself because she is part of God’s family.

Being part of God’s family through the water of Baptism is a wonderful thing. Thinkwater baptism back to Lorraine’s confirmation verse, which is printed at the top of the bulletin and which was read just a few moments ago. God says to each of his children, he said to Lorraine, “You are my servant, I have not cast you off; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Because she has been upheld by the hand of our Lord, Lorraine is now enjoying the rest of the promises that are part of that section of Isaiah. Listen to them again: Verse 11 – “All who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish.” The Alzheimer’s that tried to put her to shame has been defeated. For all the confusion that it brought into her life these last few years, now it is the one standing confounded as it watches its prey being safely delivered from its grasp, as it sees Lorraine freed from its clutches to live in a new and healthy body, the body of the resurrection in the new heavens and the new earth.

From Verse 12 – “You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all.” All the evils of this world, not only the Alzheimer’s but all disease. All heartache. All hardship. All the enemies of a happy life. Where Lorraine is now, even if she looked for them, she would not find them. They are as nothing at all, for she is resting safely in the hands of the Good Shepherd. Jesus has given her eternal life. Now, she will never perish, and no one will snatch her out of his hand. For she is part of God’s family, and our Heavenly Father is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch her out of his hand. Yes, she is safe with the Lord.

But she is not alone. It sounds like Lorraine didn’t like to be alone, always surrounding herself with family and friends. Like the author of Psalm 42, she would go with the throng in procession to the house of God, worshiping with the multitude. She Easter_Christ_is_risenworshiped with a mini-multitude here, with the other members of God’s family who would gather to hear his Word, who would feast on the body and blood of our Savior, who would leave this altar singing, “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy Word.”  Now she has departed in peace, departed to be with the true multitude, people of every tribe and race and language all gathered before the throne of God in eternal praise. She is with her heavenly family, with all her brothers and sisters in Christ from all times and all places. She is in her Father’s house.

I know that you, her earthly family, miss her terribly today. How could you not? How could you not long for those days of homemade pizzas and apple pies and canned peaches? How could you not miss each little story that goes with every Christmas ornament? Decorating the tree will probably always remind you of her. She was such an important part of your family.  But find hope in the reality that she is part of our Lord’s family too, and though your time with her may be done this side of heaven, there is an eternity waiting for you in the Father’s house.  Washed by the blood of Jesus and clinging to his forgiveness alone, we too are promised new life in him. We too look forward to being reunited with those we love who have died in the faith.

For we are in our Father’s hand. What else is there to say? If God is for us, who can stand against us? Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, even in these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 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, no anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. He’s got Lorraine. He’s got you too.

So we are not here today to say good-bye forever. Lorraine used to like to say, “See ya later, alligator,” or, “After ‘while, crocodile.” We are here today to say “See ya later” to Lorraine. For as important as she is to her earthly family, she is part of our Lord’s family. So was dad. So are you. You will see her again in the Father’s house.

May God grant it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Funeral Sermon for Kathy Hacker

Kathleen Rose Hacker

Funeral Sermon

John 15:1-5

January 10, 2015

Saint John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI

             Just yesterday I had the opportunity to spend some time with the 7th grade class in our school.  They asked me to come in because they had questions that they wanted the pastor to answer.  It felt a little like going before the firing squad, but I’ve always enjoyed working with kids as they are maturing into young adults, so I didn’t mind.  They asked many wonderful questions, but one in particular sticks out in my mind today.  One boy asked: “What’s heaven going to be like?”  It’s a question that I’ve certainly discussed before as a pastor, and I had some thoughts ready to go.  In the Book of Revelation especially, heaven is discussed in such a way as to call to mind the Garden of Eden.  Other places in Scripture describe heaven as a restoration of creation to what it was before sin corrupted it, when Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden.

I was struck by that again this week because for those of us here at St. John who knew Kathy, she will always be remembered as someone who loved gardening.  After visiting with her children this past week I know that she was much more than that.  I heard of her dedication as a mother and how she worked tirelessly to raise you in the faith, making sure that you always made it to church, no matter how tired she was, even if that meant she might fall asleep herself during the service.  It was important to her to see you there.  I heard how her strength of faith, even in difficult times, served as a wonderful example for her children and grandchildren.  She was a hard worker, but when she did take time for herself, there was usually sunshine involved, whether that was something special like a family vacation to sunny California when the kids were younger, or the daily desire to simply find a few minutes to lay down out in the sunshine, or, most of all, to spend time in the garden.

It’s the gardening that people here seem to remember most.  I was struck this past week that as news of her death spread through the congregation even the newer members who didn’t yet know her by name knew her as the tiny blonde who was alwaysclx-gift-guide-gardening-de working in the flower beds.  She was active in so much around St. John.  Whenever there was a big event going on around church you were sure to find her in the back helping out without need of recognition.  But it was when the big events were over and the crowds went home that she showed her true colors, coming back here every week to tend to the flowerbeds out front, to clear leaves off the parking lot, to live out her love for gardening.  She never missed; she knew that those flowers needed continuous attention if they were to survive.  So that attention is exactly what she gave.

It is similar care and nurture that gives us hope today.  For Kathy was a child of God, and just as she invested so much time in her plants and gardens, so also our Lord has invested himself in her.  He planted the gift of faith in her when he washed her with the waters of Holy Baptism on July 21, 1944.  But he didn’t just plant that faith and then leave it to tend itself.  He has been cultivating that faith in her ever since.  He has been watering it with the living water of his word of promise.  He has been strengthening her faith through the gift of daily forgiveness.  Just as a flower flourishes when the dead petals and bulbs are removed, so also our Lord, through his gift of forgiveness, removes the sins and guilt that cling to his children so that they may flourish in the sunshine of his love.  That is what he did for Kathy for so many years.  He continually came to her with his word and revealed her need for a savior, and he revealed himself to be that Savior, removing the stain of guilt and shame in order that she might flourish in him.  He carefully and tenderly tended to her as his precious child, for as Jesus himself says, he is the vine and his children like Kathy are the branches, and he tends to those branches so that they bear much fruit.

And Kathy knew it.  Her hope was in the Lord.  She believed Jesus when he said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  Kathy believed that Jesus was her vine, so she continued to abide in him.  She faithfully came to the services of our Lord’s house to hear the proclamation of his Word.  She faithfully gathered together with other Christians in this place to pray together, to encourage and uplift each other, to sing God’s Word to each other.  She faithfully came to this very altar to receive the body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of her sins.  She knelt at the altar rail as a humble child of God, and here she was united to Jesus himself.  He lives in her.  He who was dead but is now alive lived in her.  He who the tomb could not hold now holds Kathy, so the tomb cannot hold her either.  She remained in the vine, and she bore much fruit.

She is still in that vine, still united to Jesus.  That gives us hope in the midst of john15_5grief, for our Lord is faithful.  There is definitely grief today, for a dear friend, a mom, a grandma is no longer with us.  There is grief, for although her health had been in decline for a while now, when her death came it came swiftly and suddenly.  There is grief because death is not what our Lord intended for Kathy or for any of his creation.  In this world created for life death is the ultimate corruption.  But when the vinedresser saw that his garden had been infested with this deadly disease, he did not abandon it.  He came down into it.  He walked among us as one of us, feeling the pain and grief that we feel, dying the death we deserve so that we might be given the life that is his.  For as many as have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death, united to him in a death like his so that we might also be united to him in a resurrection like his.

In these promises of our Lord we find hope amid the grief.  He has clothed Kathy with the garments of salvation; he has covered her with the robe of his righteousness.  As the earth brings forth sprouts and the garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, our Lord planted and nurtured the gift of faith in Kathy so that it sprouted up and flourished.  That gift has now been harvested, for Kathy has been taken out of the great tribulation of this world and brought into the joy of paradise, in that place where she is before the throne of God night and day, where she hungers no more, neither thirsts anymore; the scorching heat of the sun does not exhaust her, for the Lamb of God on the throne is her shepherd.  He is guiding her to springs of living water, and he is personally wiping away every tear from her eyes.

Our hope is found in these promises that our Lord made to Kathy – and to all his children.  In the midst of heartache and grief, don’t forget that these are our promises too.  church_easter_2007-139-web.gifOur hope is found in the promise that all who die in the faith will be reunited in paradise.  This hope leads to our prayer that our Lord would tend to our faith as intentionally has he tended to Kathy’s, as carefully as she tended to the gardens she loved so much.  Our prayer is that our Lord would continue to water our faith with the living water of his word, that he would feed it with the heavenly food of his own body and blood, so that when our last hour comes we might experience the joy of deliverance.  So Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.  And he will redeem his people from all their iniquities.  Thanks be to God that he has fulfilled this promise for Kathy.  May he would fulfill it for us too.

Funeral Sermon for Millie Reindel

Millie Reindel

Funeral Sermon

John 14:1-6

October 20, 2014

St. John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI

             1919 was a busy year.  In January, the 18th Amendment was ratified, ushering in the era of prohibition, bootlegging, and the Roaring Twenties.  February saw Benito Mussolini rose to power in Italy, while in March of that year a man named Mahatma Gandhi begin his crusade of passive resistance.  President Woodrow Wilson was in office1919d_one_cent_obv when the Treaty of Versailles brought an end to World War I in July.  And in December, 1919, Millie Reindel was born Millie Buelow at her family’s farmhouse in Mount Clemens, MI.  Just a few days later she was baptized by Pastor Wuggazer of St. John Lutheran Church in Fraser, MI, where she has been a member ever since.  December 1919 to October 2014.  Almost 95 years.  She was not only a lifelong member of St. John, she was a long life member.  A lot has changed around here in the almost century since Millie became a baptized member of St. John.  Pastors have come and gone.  Principals have come and gone.  Teachers, musicians, and members in general have come and gone.  The congregation has slowly moved itself to the north side of 14 Mile road, both by building and adding to the school facilities, and ultimately by building the sanctuary you are all sitting in today.  Yes, a lot has changed at St. John since 1919, and Millie was part of it all.  But one thing has been constant for all those years: this was Millie’s church.  From the cradle to the grave, St. John was Millie’s home.

Of course, there were plenty of other things that made Millie who she was.  She was a gentle and patient mother who was quick to speak a kind word about everyone she met.  She loved going to her lake house in Lewiston, loved her children and grandchildren, and was thrilled when she became a great-grandma.  She and Irwin were proud of the hardware store, a store opened by Irwin’s dad in 1898 and now in its third generation of Reidel ownership.  From what I hear, she had a special place in her heart for the antique car down there, and I’m sure many of you can still picture her sitting in the car’s rumble seat for the Fraser Parade.  Millie was involved in a lot of activities and had many things in her life that brought her joy, but you can’t tell the story of Millie without St. John.  So much of her social life and friendships were found at church in the LWML, in the 55-Plus Club, in the fish fries and pancake dinners.  Millie was a lifelong member here, and that’s a rare thing these days.  Fewer and fewer people attend the same church from the cradle to the grave.  Millie did.  95 years in one place.  95 years at one church.  That’s a remarkable thing.  And yet we’re here today because as remarkable as 95 years is, it was always destined to come to an end.  As Millie’s kids told me last week, she was the last Reindel of her generation.  Millie’s remarkable 95 years saw her outlive her husband, her siblings, and most of her friends.  As long a period of time as 95 years is, it has an end.  Her days on this earth were numbered from the start.  Each of our days on this earth is numbered.  None of us will be here forever.  No one will be a member of this congregation forever.

Which is why we celebrate that Millie was a member not only of St. John Lutheran Church in Fraser, MI, but also a member of the Body of Christ.  As the Apostle Paul wrote, we now regard no one according to the flesh, for if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[1]  Millie was a new creation, brought forth in the water of Holy Baptism on December 28, 1919.  Since that day, since that holy washing, the Spirit of our Lord has been alive in her, nourishing her through the proclamation of God’s Word, strengthening her through the body and blood of Christ given and received from this very altar, from these very hands.  In this very room, from this very pulpit, Millie heard week after week of her Lord Jesus.  She heard how he was born for her, how he lived for her, how he suffered for her, how he died for her, how he was buried for her, how he was raised for 09921b4fde359d4fc3cc49da1c3e272cher, how he ascended for her, and how he was now in heaven preparing a room for her in their Father’s house.  If it were not so, Jesus would not have told us.[2]  But it is so, and Millie knew it.  She knew it because she is a member not just of St. John, but of the flock of Jesus, her good shepherd.  She is one of his sheep.  She knows his voice, and nothing can snatch her out of the Father’s hand.[3]

That is our consolation.  That is our hope in the midst of grief.  For over 80 years Millie received the body and blood of Jesus from many different pastors in this place.  The pastors changed over time.  The language changed from German to English.  The location changed from the building across the street to the one we’re in today.  But Jesus didn’t change.  It was always the same Jesus coming to his precious daughter Millie to guard her and protect her in the true faith unto life everlasting.  And because it was always the same Jesus, Millie could always leave the altar singing, “Lord, now you let your servant go in peace.  Your word has been fulfilled.”  Dear friends in Christ, God’s Word has been fulfilled for Millie.  She has now departed in peace to be with our Lord.  In the Father’s house are many rooms, and one of those room’s belongs to Millie now.  December 1919 saw Millie Reindel born into this life in her parents’ farmhouse.  December 1919 saw Millie Reindel born into life eternal in the waters of holy baptism.  October 2014 saw Millie take the next step in her eternal life, one step closer to the resurrection of the body unto life everlasting.  Her time at St. John may have come to an end after 95 years, but her time in the Church Triumphant will never end.  Her days on this earth may have been numbered, but now she lives in the Kingdom of God that needs no sun or moon to mark the time, for there is no end of days there.[4]

There is no end to those days because our Lord has swallowed up the covering that is cast over all people in these.  He has swallowed up death.  Death may have swallowed up our Lord in the cold darkness of cross and tomb, but death could not hold him.  He burst forth to life that Easter morning.  In the resurrection of Jesus death itself is now swallowed up.  Now it has no hold over Jesus or any of those who have been united to him.  It has no hold over Millie.  Death may have swallowed up Millie on this earth, but that was just theIs25 trip through the birth canal into new life in paradise.  Millie has now added her voice to the chorus of saints in heaven singing, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.    This is the Lord; we have waited for him;    let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”[5]

Today Millie is rejoicing in the salvation of our Lord.  Let us learn to walk the same road.  For while we may not have been members of one single congregation all our days this side of heaven like Millie was, our days remain numbered like hers.  Our last day is coming.  She approached her last day with hope in her heart, for she knew she was a forgiven child of God.  Let us also learn to cling to that same hope, found in the cross of Christ.  Lift up your eyes to the hill of Calvary, and see your salvation.  From where does our help come?  Our help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved, even in death; he who keeps you will not slumber.   Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.  The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.  The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.[6]

He did it for Millie.  May he do it for us too.

+INJ+

[1] 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

[2] John 14:2

[3] John 10:27-29

[4] Revelation 21:23

[5] Isaiah 25:9

[6] Psalm 121

Funeral Sermon for Fred Adler

Fredrick William Adler

Funeral Sermon

Psalm 23

September 22, 2014

St. John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI

 HomeSweet

The date was April 13, 1917.  The place, Ruth, MI.  Fred Adler was born to a farming family.  He spent his childhood on the farm.  It’s where he learned to walk.  It’s where he learned to speak.  It’s where he learned the value of a hard day’s work.  The farm was in his blood a little for the rest of his life, not only in his work ethic, but also in little things like the joy he found in taking his grandchildren strawberry picking and apple picking as a way to spend time with them.  He lived on the farm 17 years before enlisting in the Army.  They were foundational and formative years, but the farm was not ultimately home.

Fred spent several years in the service, serving in World War II.  He spent time in France, Austria and Germany.  He was a decorated soldier.  He spoke proudly to me of 0_0_300_300his time in the service, never with any details, but one of the biggest smiles I ever saw on his face was the day he brought out his commemorative cane and his shadowbox of medals.  The Army was important to him, but the Army was not ultimately his home.

After the service, he moved to Detroit with his new bride and settled in to a 41 year career working at Parke-Davis.  He and Helen lived in Detroit for 30 years, raising a family together there.  They retired to Fraser, where they lived until their passing, Helen a few years ago, and Fred just last week.  During their time in those places, he lived a full life.  He would work at his workbench, fixing up old toys for his grandkids.  He would travel to Port Sanilac for summer get always.  But as good as the times were, neither of those places was ultimately home.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  It’s not that he was unhappy in any of these places.  I got the impression in my conversations with him that he had a very happy life in all the places he lived.  But these places were all temporary.  His time in each of these places was always destined to come to an end.  But there is one place that Fred has called home for almost 97 years: the house of the Lord.  On November 11, 1917, at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Ruth, MI, Fred was united to the body of Christ through the water of baptism.  Since that day, he has been at home in the house of the Lord.  He was raised in the house of the Lord, being confirmed at Immanuel in 1939.  He was fed and nourished in the house of the Lord, Sunday after Sunday, year after year.  Sunday after Sunday, year after year, he heard the story of Jesus.

It was a story he loved, for he knew it was ultimately his story too.  Our opening hymn was one of Fred’s favorites.  He requested multiple times that it be sung the day of his funeral.  “I Love to Tell the Story!”  What a wonderful story it is.  The story of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love, is why we are here today.  There are many ways that the world observes the death of a loved one, but we are here today because of the story of Jesus.  We are here today because precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his children.  We are here today because Jesus’s story gives us have hope in the midst of our grief.  For the story of Jesus is not only that he was conceived by thejesus-died-for-you2 Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, but that he did those things so Fred could spend eternity with him in paradise.  His story in not simply that he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried, but that he endured those hardships for Fred.  From heaven above, our Lord and Savior Jesus was sent to show God’s love to every sinful creature upon this earthly place.  Christ is the gift from heaven, God’s great gift of grace for Fred, and for each and every person here today.

But the story of Jesus doesn’t stop there.  The grave could not hold Jesus.  Jesus lives.  Jesus reigns with the Father.  But the story does not stop there, or “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.”[1]  Through Baptism, Fred has been united to the story of Jesus.  Through Baptism, Fred is now living in the house of the Lord under the care of the Good Shepherd.

The Lord is our shepherd.  He was Fred’s shepherd, and he is yours as well.  The Lord is our shepherd, we shall not want.  The Lord will provide.  He will provide for our physical and spiritual needs alike.  He takes us to the still waters and green pastures of his salvation.  He restores our soul with his life-giving Word so that we are strong enough to walk with him down the paths of righteousness.  He does this without any merit or worthiness in any of us.  He does this totally and completely out of his mercy.  He does it for his name’s sake.  He did it for Fred, which gives us a ray of light amid today’s darkness; it gives us hope in the face of today’s grief.

Today we see more clearly than usual the sad reality that is the valley of the shadow of death.  Above every step of our journey through this fallen creation hang the clouds of death threatening to burst forth in torrential rains and to make the way necklace_Psalm23IC_MAINimpassable.  Ultimately, the way will eventually become impassable for each of us.  For some, this happens at a tragically young age.  For others, like Fred, the Lord grants nearly a century’s worth of days this side of heaven.  But like Fred’s time on the farm or in the service or in Detroit all came to an end, our time this side of heaven will come to an end.  That threat is always before us.  Yet in the midst of this valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil.  We need fear no evil, for our Lord is with us.  The shepherd is with us, guiding us, protecting us every step of the way.  That’s why he has his rod and staff, to fend off the predators hiding in the shadows.  We need not fear the shadow of death, for our Lord has been swallowed up by death.  Jesus was swallowed up in death.  But death could not hold him, and now death cannot hold those who belong to him.  It could not hold the shepherd.  It cannot hold the sheep.

For this is not our home.  Our home is in the house of the Lord; our home is with our Lord in paradise.  He has prepared a table for us in his church, and even though we are surrounded by enemies at every turn, we are given a foretaste of the feast to come in the supper of Christ’s body and blood.  When we feast on this Holy Supper, the Supper which Fred received faithfully right up to the last days of his life this side of heaven, we are being given a piece of heaven on earth.  In this supper, our Lord is anointing our head with the oil of his forgiveness so that all the world knows we have been chosen for eternal life through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in our place.  That was true for Fred, and it is true for all the baptized.  Our Lord has given us so much mercy that it overflows the cup in this life.

Through the blessing of this supper, through the blessing of being united to Christ, through the blessing of being a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd, goodness and mercy follow us all our days.  The goodness of God follows us as he is continually forgiving, loving, and sustaining us.  He mercy follows us as he continually provides for our needs of body and soul.  Ultimately, the Good Shepherd will lead us safely home, to our true home – our heavenly home.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow us all our days in this life, but the days of this life will come to an end.  Yet even though these days end, we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Fred’s days here may have come to an end, but he is now dwelling in the house of the Lord forever.  Find your comfort in that.  Find your hope in the promise of the Good Shepherd who has been watching over Fred for 97 years already, and who will continue to do so for eternity.

Psalm-27-13-web Fred is finally at home in the land of the living, a home which will remain his home forever.  Oh, what his joy and his glory must be!  He is in the new J erusalem on the mountain of the Lord, in the land where the covering of death has been swallowed up forever by the resurrection of Jesus.  He is in the land full of joy and blessing, where his every desire is fulfilled and his every prayer answered.  Every tear has been wiped away from his face, for he is in the place where Jesus has made all things new.  May God grant us comfort in our grief, for Fred is at home in the house of the Lord.  And in the midst of our grief, may the Lord of life establish us in the hope of being reunited with Fred and all the faithful in the land of the living.

+INJ+

[1] Romans 6:2-5

Depart in Peace – Funeral Sermon for Bea Neu

Bea Neu

Funeral Sermon

Luke 2:25-32

September 3, 2014

St. John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI

             There’s a recent trend in the corporate world.  Consultants are being brought inAQ7O9KNW8UCBR9FB70BI to companies worldwide to give seminars on the newest trend.  These consultants are paid tens of thousands of dollars for these seminars, money that the companies feel is a sound investment in improving their customer relations, strengthening the morale among the workers, and cultivating a better work environment.  But here’s the thing about these consultants: their message isn’t really new at all, it’s actually quite old.  They preach servant leadership.  They instruct corporations and their workers in the joy to be found in an attitude of service rather than entitlement.  The joy of service is a reality that the church has known for years, since the beginning of time, in fact.  So while it may be cutting edge to the secular business world, it is quite familiar to those of us in the body of Christ.  We see it in action all the time.  We saw it in Bea, whose servant heart shone through in all she did.

She was always looking for ways that she could chip in or help out.  Whether it was something special, like helping organize the chancel flowers on Christmas and Easter, sewing costumes for Boar’s Head, or just the regular weekly responsibilities of being part of the Altar Guild, Bea found ways to help.  But it wasn’t just at church that her servant heart shined.  She had such deep love for her family, a love that I experienced each time I visited her and Marlin at home to bring them communion.  I heard the stories that can only be told by a woman deeply proud of her children and grandchildren.  Her love and concern for her family was so strong that in the last few weeks, while her daughters were by her side day and night, she even asked to be put back in the hospital so that they could go home and get some rest.  But that was Bea.  Always selfless.  Always thinking of others.

It is good to remember those things today.  It’s good give thanks to God for all that good that he did through Bea.  But that’s not ultimately why we’re here today.  The Easter_Christ_is_risenmost important thing to remember about her today is not what she did for others.  Wonderful as those things are, the most important thing to remember about Bea today is what our Lord did for her.  He who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many, he served Bea.  He worked for her salvation by taking on human flesh, being born of a woman, being obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  But death could not hold him.  He defeated that great enemy and rose to new life again.  He became the first fruit of the resurrection, but we will be the harvest.  Because of all that he has accomplished, we know that those who are baptized into his death will also share in his resurrection.

That’s Bea.  That’s your wife.  That’s your mom.  That’s your grandma.  That’s your comfort and your hope.  Your strength to meet the days ahead comes from the knowledge that she was baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus on February 26, 1928 at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Detroit, MI.  God strengthened the new creation given to her in those waters and nurtured her through the regular proclamation of his holy Word.  She heard that Word throughout her life as she continued to come to our Lord’s House, where she feasted on his body and blood given and shed for her for the strengthening of her soul.  For 73 years, since her confirmation in April, 1941, each time she left the table of the Lord she heard or sung these words: “Lord, now let your servant go in peace.  Your Word has been fulfilled.  My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people.”  Lord, let your servant go in peace.  For 73 years Bea came to the table of our Lord’s Supper, a foretaste of the feast to come, and left singing of peace and joy.  Today she is at the feast itself.  Today she is experiencing true peace and true joy – all because of what our Lord has done for her and given to her.

There is the source of hope in your grief.  There is your consolation.  Jesus promises us that the one who endures to the end will be saved.  That was Bea’s confirmation verse, a verse that is so appropriate to remember today, for Bea did indeed endure to the end, and now she is enjoying paradise.  Now she has been saved from the cancer that attacked her body.  Now she has been saved from the death and decay that hang over this creation like a storm brewing on the horizon.  We still have more storms to endure in the days, weeks, and months ahead, but as we prepare for these storms we can take our cue from Bea.  She endured to the end because even though she was always looking for ways that she could help do something for those around her, when it came to her salvation she left it all up to our Lord.  He is faithful.  He keeps his promises.

He is indeed a great and wonderful God.  In the words of the Psalmist, he is the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, the one who by his strength established the mountains and the seas so that all who dwell on earth marvel at his signs.  God’s marvelous creation has inspired hymns about being so humbled at the sights of the world around us that our soul cries out, “How great Thou art!”  But as magnificent as the creation is to behold, the true greatness of God is seen in the cross of Christ.  As the hymn writer put it:

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee, “How great Thou art!”

Our soul sings because it is in the death and resurrection of Jesus that our death becomes the birth into the life to come.  Bea knew this.  Bea believed this.  And so she departed in peace.  She departed to peace.  Her eyes are now seeing their hopesalvation as they never have before.  Her soul is now singing as it never has before.  She is experiencing the inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, unfading, and kept in heaven for her by God’s grace.  Those of us who are still this side of heaven will miss her.  We will mourn her death, but not as those who have no hope.  We have hope, for in the water of our baptism we have been promised the same inheritance.  We too have been promised life in paradise with those who came before us who died in the faith.  Find your comfort in that promise.  Find your comfort in that hope.

Bea was indeed a selfless and loving woman, so if you want to pay tribute to her memory, doing something helpful for someone else is certainly a good place to start.  She certainly had a servant’s heart.  But even more than that, she was a child of God.  More important to her than the things she did for others were the forgiveness, life, and salvation that were hers through all that our Lord had done for her.  Through her work, her memory will live on.  Through the work of Jesus, Bea herself will live on, not merely as a memory, but as a restored child of God in the new and perfect creation.  We who endure to the end will join her there.  May God grant you the faith to trust this promise as you mourn Bea’s death, and as you look forward to seeing her again in the life to come.

Funeral Sermon for Edna Bock

Edna May Bock

Funeral Sermon

Hebrews 2:14-15

July 9, 2014

St. John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI

 

It was built beginning in 1961.  It represented Berlin Wall 8 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

2009116205539661734_20Germany 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.

131218133657-01-berlin-wall-christmas-restricted-story-top

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.[1]  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.”[2]  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.[3]  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 Easter_Christ_is_risenand 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.[4]  You shall see him for yourself.  Edna will see him for herself, for Edna is a baptized child of God.

keep-calm-because-jesus-lives-3 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.

+INJ+

 

[1] Hebrews 2:14

[2] John 11:25-26

[3] Romans 6:1-11

[4] Job 19:25-27