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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.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2012 in Funeral, Sermons

 

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Funeral for +Loren Brenden+

LSB Icon_040The text that I have chosen for Loren’s funeral is Isaiah 49:13-16.

13 Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted. 14 But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” 15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. 16 Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.

Here ends our text.

Kathy, Bev, and Diana, Monday was a day that had been at times long coming, while at times seemed sudden. Regardless of whether it was sudden or long coming, it doesn’t make today any easier. The fact of the matter is that we are gathered to mourn the loss of a father, a brother, a grandfather, a great-grandfather and a friend.

At age 82, it is safe to say that Loren lived a long and good life. However, that wasn’t always the case. To bury a spouse is something that can be expected, but to bury a child is the most of unnatural things to do. Loren had to do this not once, but four times.

All of this can be devastating to a person. It can take a toll on a person, both physically and mentally. The prophet Isaiah experienced hardships and difficulties in his life. He brought good news to the people of God’s promise of salvation while at other times, he was the bearer of bad news and judgment from God to the people. As we look at our text, we see how distraught Israel was in thinking that God had forsaken and forgotten them. The reason why Israel felt this way was because of the many grievous sins they had committed. But throughout the many and various sins the people of Israel committed, God never forgot them. God could never forget them because Israel was His chosen people.

Just as God did not forget Israel, so did God not forget Loren. In all of his adversity, he still had a promise from God. In His Baptism, God placed His name on Loren and made him His beloved child. He forgave him all of his sins and granted to him the gift of everlasting life. This was a promise that God made to Loren and it was a promise that God kept, just as He keeps every promise He makes to His people.

Death comes upon us all because of our sinful condition. We all are mortal, meaning that one day, we too, will die. The reason is because we inherited our sinful, mortal condition from our first parents, Adam and Eve. Not only do we have that original sin, we also are guilty of that sin that we ourselves commit.

Even in our wretchedness of sin, God did not abandon us. God saw fit to send to us a Savior in the person of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We have been redeemed; our sins have been forgiven. All are wiped clean by our Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered on the cross for the sins of all people, including Loren. Jesus died. Death came to Him as a member of the human race, though He was without sin. His resurrection from the grave is our comfort and our hope in all aspects of our Christian life and especially at this time.

The words that Isaiah records from God are words that indeed bring comfort to us because they are a promise to us: “Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.” Focus your eyes and look closer into our Lord’s hands. On the palms of our Lord’s hands something is engraved. The Lord says, Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. Inscribed in the two palms of the hands of the Lord God Almighty, you are there! St. Paul writes, He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” From eternity you have been in the mind of God and inscribed in the palms of His hands and that is where Loren has been.

God is not a God of “cheap grace,” easy forgiveness. The payment for our sins cost Him the life of His Son—our Savior. But by Christ’s death and resurrection, we are forgiven people. God declares us righteous—made right again in His eyes—through Christ’s atoning work for us. We cannot save ourselves. Christ did save us. And He wants the assurance and peace and comfort and hope of that forgiveness to be a living reality in our daily lives. God says: “I have redeemed you . . . you are Mine.”

Loren believed that. He was baptized and knew he was a forgiven child of God. And that’s what he has right now: life with God. Three words sum up Loren’s state right now. These three words are “with the Lord.” That’s what life eternal is: being in the presence of the eternal God who is love. That is joyful bliss beyond all description.

As you grieve today and in the days to come, rejoice in the fact that your Lord has called Loren home to be with Him and the children that God saw fit to call unto Him. Amen.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2012 in Funeral, Sermons

 

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Memorial Service for +Norma Drovdal+

LSB Icon_040The text that I have chosen for Norma’s memorial service is 1 Corinthians 15:12-26.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

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.

Here ends our text.

Sharon, Douglas, Paul, Linda, Kari, Peggy, and Bryce, friends of Norma, we are here because our sister in the faith has died. Friday, her family and friends faced the loss of Norma from their midst. Now we are here together. Each of us bears a sadness. Each of us feels an emptiness that comes when someone near and dear to us is suddenly gone. While some may seek comfort in the hope that time heals all wounds, as Christians we turn to the Word of God, where we find comfort and joy as God’s people.

One thing that we all share in common with Norma is our sinful condition. Each and every one of us is a sinner. St. Paul says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That is not something that any of us want to hear or even acknowledge. However, it makes it none the less true. That statement is an all-true reminder of who we are. That statement means that we are separated from God and His glory. It means that we are separated from His righteousness. That is the result of our sin. That was the result of Norma’s sin. Fortunately for Norma and for us, that is not the condition in which we find ourselves today – eternally separated from God.

Because of all of this, we sit here today, mourning the death of one of God’s beloved children. One question that we ask ourselves is this: is death final? Is this all that there is for Norma or for any of us? How do we handle the possibility of death? Some people believe we can overcome its intrusion, that surely the medical advancements of today postpone death; but every medical doctor admits that 100 percent of their patients eventually die. Others believe life is a matter of sheer will. Still others ignore the possibility of death or shrug their shoulders and say, “It’s fate.” No human answer is satisfactory.

The answer that we have is this one from Romans: “For the wages of sin is death.” Death is inevitable. Death is the ultimate result of our sin and there is no way to get around it, at least not from anything that you and I could ever do. God saw it fit to redeem His creation from the Fall into sin. He sent to His creation the means of salvation from the effects of sin and death. He sent to us His Son Jesus. Because of Jesus, we have life. Because of Jesus, Norma has life.

In our text, St. Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians, who grew up disbelieving in the physical resurrection of the dead. For them, death was the final statement in any person’s life. Paul responded with the Good News of the Gospel. First, that God’s Son took the sins of the world upon Himself and died to pay that terrible debt. But death was not the last word in Jesus’ life. Second, God raised Jesus from the dead as acknowledgment of His Son’s payment. Because Jesus was raised, His death for our sins was accepted. Jesus was raised for our justification, that is, we are made right with God through Jesus’ payment.

What Paul is proclaiming is truth. Our faith, which hears these words and accepts them, is not useless; it holds solid comfort. We are not still in our sins, stuck in the dead-end direction of damnation. Those who die in the hope of their Lord are not lost. They live in Him.

Today, we celebrate the fact that our sister in Christ now enjoys the full joys of heaven. Norma clung to the promises found in God’s Word. It was God’s Word that called Norma to receive the gift of life in the promises of her Baptism. She confirmed her belief in Christ as a young woman. She bore witness to her faith in Christ by worshiping the Lord. She heard and responded to the promise our Lord made in His Last Supper, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Jesus was the living bread in her life, and in Jesus she knew she had eternal life. God worked grace in Norma’s life through the Word, and by the power of the Spirit Norma received the gift of life in Jesus’ name. Norma believed her sins were fully paid for on the cross and that her dear Lord won for her eternal life by grace through faith. This was Norma’s witness, what she believed. And this was her hope that he shared with you her children.

For us, we are left in this world grieving at the loss of a mother and of a friend. We do not grieve as those without hope. We do not have to wonder if Christ has been raised from the dead. We do not have to wonder if there is a resurrection of the dead. The fact that Jesus is risen from the dead declares that He did, in fact, die. He has paid the price for your sins and for Norma by His suffering and death—and He has been raised from the dead for our justification. You need not ever wonder if God the Father has accepted the sacrifice of Jesus for you. You know that the Father is well-pleased with His Son, for He has raised Jesus from the dead. And if the Father is well-pleased with His Son’s Passion and death, then you can be certain that forgiveness is yours—because Jesus is risen from the dead. While we mourn today, we look to that joy that we have forever because of Christ, a joy in knowing that we will be with those who have died in the faith, but more importantly, a joy where we will be with Him. Sharon, Douglas, Paul, Linda, Kari, Peggy, and Bryce, look to Jesus, for He alone can give victory, a victory that He has granted to Norma and a victory that He grants to you as well. Amen.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Funeral, Sermons

 

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Funeral for +Dorothy Jahn+

LSB Icon_040The text I have chosen for Dorothy’s funeral is Isaiah 61:10

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Here ends our text.

Maxine, Carol, and David, family and friends, it is the season of Christmas, a time of rejoicing and celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Instead, we gather today in mourning, or at least, that’s what you might think.

As hard as it might be, this is precisely the right time that we should be rejoicing and celebrating, not only for the birth of our Savior, but also for Dorothy as well. We rejoice and celebrate because our sister in Christ is now with Christ. She has left the valley of the shadow of death and she now rests in the everlasting light and life of Jesus Christ.

If there was anyone who would want you to mourn less, it would be Dorothy. It’s not because she doesn’t want you to worry or care about her or to mourn her passing. The reason why she would not want you to mourn is because there is nothing to mourn. Dorothy knew that. She knew that her time on this earth would be limited. She knew that one day, she would die. For Dorothy, that day happened to be last Wednesday. But she also knew that when she died, this would not be the end of her life. She knew that because God had placed His name upon her, that because Jesus Christ came to live and to die for her, she would have eternal life. She knew what would happen when she drew her last breath on this earth. She knew that her loving Father would welcome her with open and waiting arms.

That is why we should not mourn but rejoice! We should rejoice because of the eternal life that Dorothy received! Yes, it will be hard to rejoice when right now it feels only natural to mourn, but like all things, this too shall pass. If there was one who knew sorrow and mourning, it was David. But even for all the sorrow and mourning David experienced, he was able to say, “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”

We have every reason to rejoice at death and now is one of the two best times to rejoice because of what we celebrated on Sunday, the birth of Jesus Christ. We can and should rejoice because God sent Jesus for us, He sent Jesus for Dorothy. Because of the birth of Jesus, we know that Jesus is our Immanuel, God with us. We know that God is for us and that God is in us, redeeming us, giving to us his gracious gift of forgiveness of sins, something that Dorothy received all those many years ago in her Baptism, something that she heard every Sunday in church. And in the last few years when she was at the Beehive and Pioneer Manor, she heard them pronounced for her also.

On account of the work of Jesus Christ, we know that when we breathe our last breath, there will be more to our life than the years we live on this earth. We know that we too will see the face of Christ and the heavenly room He has prepared for us. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we will have everlasting life. St. Paul reminds us, “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. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”

We are able to come together not as those who have no hope, but those who know the hope that we have received through Jesus Christ. We rejoice as Dorothy rejoices – not in our accomplishments but in what Jesus has accomplished for us. We have received the gift of salvation through His atoning sacrifice for us. When God speaks to us in this way, when He comes to give us a garment of salvation, a robe of righteousness, it is most certainly better for us to receive than to give. In fact, when God speaks pure words of grace and mercy to us, there is really nothing we can give. God’s grace is complete. It is absolute. It is perfect. It lacks nothing and consequently nothing can be added to it.

It is God working righteousness for us, not us working righteousness for God. Dorothy could never do anything for God than to simply receive from His bountiful goodness. There is nothing that any of us can do except to receive from God. God gives and we are merely capable of receiving, nothing more. For 90 years, Dorothy received from the Lord: she received His gift of God’s name. She received the gift of forgiveness. She received His gift of body and blood which was given and shed for the forgiveness of her sins. She received His gift of everlasting life for her. She was covered with the robe of righteousness, the righteousness that she desperately needed but could not earn. The robe of righteousness that she received was not something that could be bought, earned or achieved. The robe of righteousness was given to her by Jesus Christ, won for her by His death on the cross. That very robe of righteousness that she received is what Christ brings to you as well. God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

For you Maxine, Carol, and David, you will mourn today and in the days ahead. But the joy that you have is the ability to rejoice – rejoice in the faith that Dorothy had, the faith given to her in her Baptism, the faith that gave to her everlasting life. Rejoice because this dear sister in Christ is now with Christ. Rejoice, for one day, we too shall stand with Dorothy and all the saints who have gone before as we gaze upon Christ, our heavenly King. Amen.

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2011 in Funeral, Sermons

 

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Funeral Sermon for +Ray Hopkins+

LSB Icon_040The text I have chosen for Ray’s funeral is Isaiah 43:1-3a, 25.

1But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…. 25“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

Here ends our text.

Shirley and Sandy, gathered family and friends, hear the words that the prophet Isaiah speaks and listen to them very closely: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” These are words that God our heavenly Father spoke to the Israelites while they were captives in Babylon, carried away from their own land because of their sin. They had been far from faithful: they’d become rebellious runaways who wanted nothing to do with the Lord, who snatched everything He gave to them and used it for their own desires. They’d put their trust in other gods for protection, and the Lord had let them have their wish: He left it to those gods protect them.

But the Lord was not all about anger. Despite their rebelliousness, God was still faithful. He had created them, formed them as His people – and He had promised that the Savior of the nations would be born among them.

We are just like the Israelites of old. We have been far from faithful. We have become rebellious runaways who want nothing to do with God. Fortunately for us, God wants everything to do with us. In just a matter of days, we will celebrate the coming of the Savior of the nations for us, to redeem a people of sin. That is precisely what God did for Ray. All those many years ago, in His Baptism, all of his sins of past, present, and future were forgiven. Because of the saving work of Jesus Christ, Ray now rests from his labors in the eternal glories of heaven.

The words that Isaiah records for us are words of hope, just as they are words of hope to the ancient Israelites. They remind us that God has not left us forsaken in our sins. He has not left us without a means of salvation. He reminds us that He has redeemed us and called us by name. Just as everything looked grim and bleak for the Israelites, God gives to them hope. The hope that He promised to them was Jesus Christ. It was the saving work of Jesus that forgave them all of their sins. It was Jesus who redeemed them. Today, we give thanks that Jesus has forgiven Ray all of his sins. We give thanks that Jesus has redeemed Ray, “a lost and condemned person, purchased and won [him] from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil…. All this He does only out of father, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in [Ray].”

What great comfort in knowing that because of God’s divine goodness and mercy our sins are forgiven. It is reassuring to us to know that God forgives out of love for us and not something that we have done. I am sure that it can be said that Ray was a good man. He was a loving husband, a loving father. He was a great employee, a great friend. All the way around, it can be said that Ray was a great man. But even for how great a man Ray was, one fact remains: Ray was a sinner, just as you and I are. Ray was damned and condemned for his sins, yet he received the gift of everlasting life; not because of what he did but because of what Jesus Christ did for him. All of us are damned and condemned sinners, yet for those that God calls His beloved children, we stand before Him as holy and sinless because the blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed us from our sins. When God looks upon His servant Ray, He doesn’t see a man damned and condemned but instead sees the holiness and righteousness that He has received from Jesus Christ and His life, death, and resurrection.

Isaiah records for us, “I have called you by name, you are mine.” Ray received the crown of life from Jesus Christ because God made it so. He stands in the company of the saints who have gone before him in the faith. He is reunited with his bride Ella, sharing together what would have been their 68th anniversary.

The Lord has called Ray and He has called you by name. He has put His name on Ray and you. He has redeemed Ray and you. This was not without cost: He has paid a ransom for you. But the ransom was “not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.”

This was the comfort that Ray had all the days of his life. He was comforted in knowing that because of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, one day he would stand before his God in all holiness and righteousness. He cherished this fact, a fact that he heard each and every Sunday. Seated each week in nearly the same pew, he would hear the same thing: he was a sinner, but he was forgiven. He would hear the love of God for him. He would hear of the forgiveness granted to him by God through Jesus Christ. Why was it so important for Ray to hear this week in and week out? Why is it so important for you to hear it week in and week out, day in and day out? We need to be reminded of the love that God has for us in Christ Jesus, for Paul tells the Romans, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Ray knew who he was and he knew what had been done for him. This was not something that he took lightly, because he knew the cost of his redemption was not something that came lightly – it came at the cost of God’s one and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

The psalmist David says, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” Ray should have received everlasting hell and condemnation on account of his sins. Instead, he received the opposite of that; he received everlasting life. God has chosen not to remember his sins or the sins of any of His beloved children because of what Jesus has done. Our comfort lies in the same comfort that Ray had: the comfort of sins forgiven by Jesus Christ. Through Christ, we are able to believe the words of God through the prophet Isaiah, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Amen.

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2011 in Funeral, Sermons

 

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Funeral for +George Larsen+

LSB Icon_040The text I have chosen for George’s funeral comes from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24.

16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise prophecies, 21but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22Abstain from every form of evil. 23Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

Here ends our text.

Ann, Diann, Don, and Dan, here we are gathered again. It just seems like yesterday we were here in remembrance of your mother. It is hard to believe that it’s been seven months. Now we are gathered in remembrance of your father. As hard as it might be after losing both of your parents, we need to focus on the words of St. Paul: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Now you might be wondering how that is even possible. How is it possible to rejoice when you have buried both of your parents? How are you to give thanks at a time like this? It is very difficult on one hand, but very simple on the other. As long as we live in this world, it will be very difficult to rejoice always, especially at times like these. We would be hard pressed, even at the best times of our lives, to give thanks in all circumstances. Because of our sinful nature, it’s just not possible. We are selfish people, especially when it comes to our loved ones. We would do almost anything to have just another day with our loved ones, especially those who have died. However, that is our own selfish nature and not God’s desire. According to Psalm 139, “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.” We live the exact number of days according to God’s timetable – not one day more and not one day less, and for George, that last day came Friday.

As hard as it may be, now is indeed a good time to rejoice. We rejoice in the fact that George has died and is now with Christ. We rejoice in the fact that George was called to the waters of Holy Baptism where he was given the title, “child of God” and had God’s name placed upon him. We rejoice in knowing that through Holy Baptism, George received the forgiveness of his sins: past, present, and future. We rejoice in the fact that George received the crown of eternal life, won for him by Jesus Christ.

This wonderful gift of Jesus Christ was given to George and he was most grateful for it. This is what he treasured because it was a gift from God. And for this wonderful gift, George gave thanks. He gave thanks for the bountiful richness of life that God granted to him and to you his family. He gave thanks for the times when there was plenty and he gave thanks for the times when there was nothing. He took the words of St. Paul to heart: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

For George, there was never a time when he didn’t give thanks. Even in the last days of his life, he would thank the kitchen staff of Pioneer Manor for the food they served him, even if he couldn’t eat it. He did it not just because it was the nice and polite thing to do, but because it was what the Christian was to do.

Today, all of us gathered here today give thanks to God for George. Some may give thanks because he was a great person or he did great things. I don’t think any of us would question whether or not George was a good person, but that’s not the reason why we give thanks to God. We give thanks to God because God made George His beloved child through Jesus Christ. God made George a saint. Some may have some reservation calling a person a saint, but not us, because we know that George is indeed a saint; not because of the things George said or did in his earthly life. George wasn’t perfect, and neither are we. We know that George is a saint because he was a baptized believer in God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. George is a saint not because of what George did but because of what Christ did for George. Christ came into this world to live and to die for George’s sins. George knew that and rejoiced greatly at that fact. That was one thing that George tried to pass on to you, his children. If you learned nothing else from him, he wanted you to know the love that God has for you by sending Jesus to die for you.

What a wonderful thing to hear, time and time again! George heard it every Sunday when he came to church. He heard it every time he heard the pastor say, “I forgive you all of your sins.” If you want to know about rejoicing, there it is. What better thing can a person hear than that their sins have been forgiven!

If there was one thing George was fond of, it was time. He ate at certain times. He liked church to last only for as long as it needed to and not a second longer. He valued his time and if you overstayed your welcome, he would be quick to say, “Ok, thank you for coming.” I heard that a time or two from George myself when visiting him. During a recent visit to the hospital, I went to visit him. I walked in the room and walked over to him and said, “Hello George. It’s Pastor Tucher.” George was very quick to respond with, “Ok, thank you for coming.”

As we prepare to receive Jesus in the manger on Christmas morning, how fitting are George’s words today. Those words of George can just as easily be spoken to Jesus, thanking Jesus for coming into this world, for living and for dying for him and for his lovely bride, Hertha; for living and dying for you, his children; for living and dying for all of you. There was nothing that brought more joy to George than knowing that Christ has forgiven him all of his sins.

Paul concludes the text by saying, Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God has sanctified George and now he is blameless, standing before God the Father, united with Hertha and all who have gone before him in the faith. God has been faithful to George in the promises He has made to him and God is faithful to the promises He has made to you as well. He has promised to George and to you forgiveness that comes through His Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2011 in Funeral, Sermons

 

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Funeral for +William Semlek+

LSB Icon_040The text that I have chosen for Bill’s funeral comes from 2 Timothy 4:6-8.

6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Here ends our text.

Jeanne, Jerry, Mark, and Vicki, it has been a long couple of months, hasn’t it? Bill has been in and out of the hospital, dealing with hearts issues that eventually claimed his life. Through all of this, it must have been difficult to see a father, a grandfather and even a great-grandfather who was fairly healthy go into a downward health spiral. However, there was a silver lining to all of this: Bill died in the faith and is now with Christ.

The words that St. Paul wrote, the words of our text for today, are words of comfort and assurance to you, the family, and to all of us gathered here today. When I visited with Bill Friday before his death, he was in a state of calm and relative painlessness. I think that after these last few months, Bill had realized that “the time of [his] departure [had] come.” As a baptized and redeemed believer, Bill knew of the certainty of death. He knew firsthand what Paul wrote to the Romans: “For the wages of sin is death.” He had seen sin in all of its evil gruesomeness. He had seen war and death in World War II. He had been captured by the Germans and made a POW. He saw death in the POW camps. He saw death at its worst when death claimed the life of his wife, Louise. He knew that death would even claim his own life because of his sin. But through all of this, Bill had hope, because he knew that death is not the end.

Paul continues, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Bill knew that death was merely the end of his earthly life. Because God placed His name upon Bill in the waters of Holy Baptism, he knew that he had the promise of everlasting life. There, in His Baptism, Bill received the “the free gift of eternal life.”

Death reminds us of life with Christ. As God’s beloved children, we have been redeemed by Christ and given new life with Him. That new life with Christ is what Bill looked forward to. He looked forward to that new life every Sunday when he came to church, to hear God’s Word and promises for Bill and for you. He looked forward to that new life when he came and received the body and blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of his sins. On Friday, Bill was welcomed into God’s heavenly kingdom where He received his crown of righteousness.

This crown of righteousness that Bill received was not by his own doing. It wasn’t because Bill was a perfect person. It wasn’t because of all the things that Bill did throughout his life. The crown of righteousness that Bill received was because of Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone. It was by Christ’s life, death, and resurrection that Bill is with Christ, where sin and death have no dominion over him.

Looking at Bill’s life, he too can say the same thing that St. Paul did: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” There were times in Bill’s life where he did fight, even times where he fought for his life. Serving in World War II must have been difficult. The old saying, “war is hell” could not have been any more true for Bill. After being held in a POW camp for eight months, Bill probably experienced hell on earth. But he survived. He “finished the race.” Throughout everything, Bill “kept the faith.” Bill continued to look to the future. Because he could. Because he had hope – the hope of heaven and eternal life for Jesus’ sake.

There is one thing that is stake for every single person: life and death. Paul knew that more than anyone. He sought to put to death anyone who sought new life in Christ. It wasn’t until he came into contact with Christ that he realized that he was dead. He was dead because he did not Christ and the salvation that He brought. Upon his conversion, Paul sought to bring that saving message of Jesus Christ to anyone and everyone. Praise be to God that Bill knew that saving message. He knew that he was heaven-bound. He knew that it on account of Christ, He was forgiven. It wasn’t anything that Bill had or hadn’t done that makes him certain of eternal life. It’s all about who Christ is and what He’s done.

That same forgiveness, that same eternal life that Bill has is given by Christ to you as well. That’s what Paul means when he says, “not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem brought peace and goodwill, and His appearance on the cross won salvation for the world. The Lord still appears in His Word and His Sacraments; and where He is, there is forgiveness, life and salvation. That’s why Paul can look ahead, because heaven is his solely for the sake of Jesus. And because it was solely for the sake of Jesus, that crown of righteousness is certain.

That same reward that awaited Paul is the same reward that awaited Bill and it is the same reward that awaits you as well. The crown of righteousness that Bill has received is nothing short than the complete removal of his sins and the giving of righteousness won by Christ.

That same hope is yours, and it is just as certain because it is for the sake of Christ. We are always in the shadow of death in this sinful world, and we don’t know how much time we have left here. But we can say with confidence, Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day. No matter what lies ahead, you always have more life to look forward to. That life is yours, not on account of your merit or worth and not on account of your actions. That life is yours on account of Christ and what He has done for you, the same thing that He did for Bill: was born into this sinful world to redeem it. The crown of righteousness belongs to Christ, who wore the crown of thorns for you. Risen again, He lives and reigns forever, and He shares that crown of righteousness with you. Eternal life is yours solely because Jesus died to make it so. Because of the cross, the Lord will rescue you from every evil deed and bring you safely into His heavenly kingdom. What Christ has done for Paul, what Christ has done for Bill, Christ also does for you. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2011 in Funeral, Sermons

 

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Funeral for +Karla Filholm+

LSB Icon_040The text that I have chosen for Karla’s funeral comes from Psalm 23.

1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. 3He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Here ends our text.

Shepherds are good people. They’re good people to know when it comes to caring. They’re good people to know when it comes to protecting. They’re good people to know when you’re in need. Sheep love to have a shepherd. The shepherd cares for their every need, often placing the sheep’s needs over their own. They protect the sheep when they are in danger or when evil comes calling. When the sheep need anything, the shepherd is there to see that the sheep are well taken care of.

For as good as a shepherd is taking care of sheep, there is one Shepherd who is greater than them all. Karla knew that Shepherd. She knew that Shepherd on May 1, 1960 when He called her to be His beloved child through the waters of Holy Baptism. There, at the font, Christ called Karla to be His beloved sheep and He promised that He would be her Good Shepherd.

Jesus tells us in John 10, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Jesus is the Good Shepherd who has taken care of Karla all of her life. He has watched over and protected her from her baptism to her death on Tuesday. He has done exactly what He said He would: He laid down His life for her that she would have everlasting life. Tuesday, she received everlasting life as she breathed her last and stood before God with a body that is glorified, perfect, and without sin. For Karla, that means that she stands before God with a body that is free from all sickness and disease, including MS. This disease robbed Karla of her life as a result of sin’s entering the world. What was once perfect became forever tainted and infected by sin, with the ultimate result of death. Paul tells us this in Romans 6: “For the wages of sin is death…”

God was not pleased with that. He did not create the world only to have it be infected with sin and death. That was not what He created. He created a world that was created in His image, perfect and without sin. But now, that is not the case. The world in which we live in is not perfect, it is not without sin. Sin is at the very fiber of our being. God did not want this and so He made a promise: He would send a Savior.

This Savior is your Good Shepherd. He has promised to care for you, to provide for you, to lay down His life for you that you may have everlasting life. That was a promise made by God all the way back in the Garden of Eden when man first sinned. He promised that He would send a Savior to redeem the world from the clutches of sin, death, and the devil.

Jesus Christ is that Savior. He is Karla’s Savior and He is your Savior. He is the Shepherd that David speaks of in Psalm 23. David knew of the promise of Christ. He knew of the graciousness that God had shown to him and the graciousness that He would show in the Savior. David was a shepherd himself. He knew what the role of a shepherd was: to provide, care, and protect the sheep of his flock. He knew exactly what this Shepherd would do: He would provide, care, and protect the sheep of His flock. The greatest way that the Shepherd could care for the sheep was to lay down His life for the sheep.

Karla knew exactly who this Shepherd was. She knew the words of the psalmist to be true, for she was given what she needed the most – God’s forgiveness, and because of God’s forgiveness, she was made to lie down in green pastures. She was satisfied and secure in the loving arms of her heavenly Father and His Son. God had shown His love to her when He sent His Son to live and to die in Karla’s place 2000 years ago. Everything that Karla would experience in her earthly life would only reinforce for her the desire and need she had to be cared for by the Shepherd because she knew she couldn’t do it herself. She could not bring about her own forgiveness. She could not make herself right in the eyes of God herself. She knew that only Jesus Christ could do that for her, and He did. Jesus did that for you and for me also. He did what we could not do – lead a perfect and sinless life.

God the Son came into this world, not to show us how to save ourselves, but to take upon Himself the sentence of God’s wrath. Jesus was Incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. That is what Christmas is all about, that God is with us so we may say, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” Christ was not born to condemn the world, and that includes you, but rather, to take upon Himself the penalty of all sins of all people, and that includes yours. That is what Good Friday is all about … God dying for you at that time, so that you might be able, to say, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”

Please understand that there is an eternity of difference between walking through the valley of death and walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Jesus went through the valley of death when He suffered for you during the darkness of the cross, when He was forsaken for you at the Place of the Skull, when He died the death you deserved that you might be given the Life that He earned for you. Is it any wonder that Jesus is our Redeemer? Three days later Jesus rose from the dead, and in doing so, the evil one was defeated and death has lost its sting. That is what Easter is all about … God rising from the dead for you.

The Lord leads His people by the still waters of Baptism, restoring our souls…not just once, but each and every day. Those who know His voice and follow Him are led in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. Think about some of His names: Savior, Redeemer, the Bread of Life, the Living Water, the Door, Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Prince of Peace, Immanuel, God with us, the Son of David, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Suffering Servant, the Rock, the Alpha, the Omega, the Resurrection and the Life, the First and the Last, and the Good Shepherd. Because He is all these names and more, our cup runneth over and He leads His people in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s Sake.

One thing Karla knew was that the Lord would indeed restore her soul. In the darkest and lowest hour of David’s life, God did not give him up to the whims of Satan. There were many things that David did throughout his life that would have made it very easy for God to turn His back to David and give him over to Satan, yet He did not. In Karla’s darkest and lowest hours, God restored her soul, but not how we thought. Instead of restoring her health, He called her to be with Him forever. There in that moment, she was restored to how God had created her: perfect, holy, and without sin.

To you Don and Marlene, Dale, Nole, Brian, and Duane, you have comfort in knowing that Karla’s Good Shepherd has laid down His life for her that she “may dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” In the name of Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2011 in Funeral, Sermons

 

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Funeral for +Hertha Larsen+

LSB Icon_040The text I have chosen for Hertha’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.

George, Ann, Diann, Don, and Dan, “if God is for us, who can be against us?” That is the question that Paul asks to the Romans. The question is not meant for the Romans to give a response, for the answer is simple – no one! No one can be against us if God is for us. God is for us all the way in Jesus Christ, who died, rose, ascended and intercedes for us. No one can accuse us before God, who has chosen us to be His own and made us His own through faith in Jesus Christ.

Hertha knew that. Throughout the years, Hertha had her eyes on one thing – Jesus Christ. Her eyes were focused on what He did for her all those many years ago in her baptism. There, in simple water, when the pastor said those fateful words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” everything changed for Hertha.

She received a gift like no other gift. She received a name and that name was “child of God.” In that simple act that might not look like anything special, something special did indeed take place. In that moment, her life forever changed, because her sins were forgiven. Every sin that she had committed, every sin she was committing at that moment, and every sin she would ever commit in her life were forgiven. This was something that she didn’t deserve and it was something she didn’t do, but it was something done for her. It was done for her and to her by the great love of God her heavenly Father throughout her life.

Her faith was something that Hertha held near and dear to her all Hertha. Before going into Pioneer Manor three years ago, Hertha would be in church nearly every Sunday. She and George would sit in the same pew week after week. On occasion, she would ask certain members of her family why they weren’t in church that Sunday. They would ask her what the sermon was about since they missed it. She couldn’t recall the sermon, but she knew who was in church and who wasn’t. Even if she couldn’t recall what the sermon was about, she still received God’s goods delivered to her each and every week through the Word as it came through the liturgy and the Sacrament of Christ’s body and blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of her sins.

Throughout Hertha’s life, there were two things that were important to her: her family and her faith. The words from our text today are indeed fitting words for Hertha. She exemplified the words of Paul: “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.” No matter how good Hertha’s life was or how bad it was, Hertha’s faith never wavered. She knew that while she was a sinner, she deserved nothing but death and damnation because of those sins. But she also knew that because of the saving work of Jesus Christ for her and for you on the cross, that all of her sins were forgiven. She knew that one day, and that day came for her Monday, that she would stand before God, not with a sick and diseased body, but with a body that has been made perfect and holy by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.

Over these last years as Hertha’s health began to worsen, unfortunately her mind began to worsen also. She would forget the name of her children, forget where she was, and sometimes even forget who she was. But when her pastors would go and visit her, when they would read Scripture with her, when they would pray with her, everything seemed to come back. Even in her last days, when I told her that I was going to pray with her, she would fold her hands, ready to pray. When we were finished praying, she would attempt to mouth or say, “amen,” even when she said little or nothing at all.

Who shall bring a charge against Hertha? Who shall bring a charge against you? It is God who justifies. St. Paul won’t let you forget your salvation. God has not spared His own Son for you, but has condemned Him on the cross for your sins. Because He has condemned His own Son for you, He is not going to carry out that sentence again on you. For Jesus’ sake, He declares you holy, innocent, righteous… forgiven. Christ has died for all, bearing all of their sins to the cross. Hertha knew that and she took great joy in that fact. She instilled that knowledge of God’s salvation to you, her children. If there was nothing else that she ever taught you, the love that God has for you was what she wanted you to know. That is what God desires for everyone to know, for those of you gathered here this morning, for those outside of this church, and for all peoples. As St. John records, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” That’s what God wants you to know and that is exactly what Hertha knew.

She had great peace in the knowledge that God sent His one and only Son to live and die for her, for her children, for her family and for her friends. She knew that nothing would keep her from the love that God has for her, not even death, for she knew that death in this life was not the end, but merely the last time that she would be with those she loved. Her eyes were focused on heaven, because there, she knew that she would be with her heavenly Father forever.

For you, her family, the days ahead will be difficult as your begin a life without a wife, a mother, a sister, and a grandmother. But as the psalmist says, Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” You will weep now, but your joy has come, knowing that Hertha is now in heaven, awaiting that day when those who fall asleep in the faith will be reunited with her. What a glorious day that will be; for Hertha, for you, and for all believers. In the name of Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2011 in Funeral, Sermons

 

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