Sunday, August 9, 2015

Christian Funeral for Johann "Jack" Hermann Knuppel

John 5:24-30; 2 Timothy 4:6-8; Lamentations 3:22-33

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to remember and to celebrate the faith and life of our dear brother in Christ Johann Hermann Knuppel, affectionately known to us simply as Jack. God the Father has kept His promise to Jack, He has called Him home in His Son Jesus, by His Holy Spirit in and through His Word, Holy Baptism, and through the Blessed Sacrament of Jesus’ body and blood. The Good Shepherd Jesus has called His faithful sheep Jack home, to where His sheep may safely graze.

Jack was a gentleman’s gentleman, possessing a gentle disposition and good manners, and carrying himself with both dignity and humility, and not a small amount of humor. He was a faithful, Christian man, and a staunchly Lutheran one at that. He lived his Christian faith and life naturally and publically. That is to say that, you knew Jack was a Christian by His love, just like Jesus said you should. Jack taught Sunday School and was an administrator of the Luther League, a Lutheran youth organization. He enjoyed reading the Scriptures. He even enjoyed reading Luther! I’m not kidding, he had the entire collection, all seven volumes, of Luther’s sermons – and he read them. I very much enjoyed having Jack in Bible class. He asked really challenging questions, and he never accepted anything just because I said so. Next week, he’d have a hand written list of more questions and several passages he had looked up that were pertinent. Jack enjoyed coming to our men’s confessions study on Saturday morning. He and his friend Edgar would drive together. I can imagine the conversations they had on the way!

But, Jack didn’t just show his faith and love for the Lord by attending church and Bible studies, he also lived it in loving service to others. His beloved neighbor, friend, and, in his later years, caregiver Mary Stops told me how Jack and Kay had promised to care for her sister Kelly who had Down’s Syndrome if anything should happen to her. And, Mary knew that they would have done it, too! For, Jack and Kay took care of each of their mothers, living right there in their own home, for many years. Since one of them had to be home to care for their mothers at all times, Jack and Kay took turns going to church every other week. Kay’s mother died peacefully in the Lord right there at home, but it became necessary for Jack’s mother to stay at the Kent nursing home in her last months. Still, Jack visited her daily and brought her cookies and, after her death, he continued to visit the Kent and brought cookies to the residents there.

Jack and Kay were married over 50 years. When Kay died in 2000, Jack was heartbroken. He spoke of her often, always with a sad and wistful tenor in his voice. When I visited his home, nearly every time he pointed out a picture of Kay. For his career, Jack was a court stenographer. Mary related to me a story of a time when Jack served as court stenographer and none other than Albert Einstein was on the stand! After the day’s proceedings, Einstein complimented Jack saying that he was good at his vocation and that he could never do that! However, Jack was also an artist. He painted watercolors, oil based, and tempera paintings of flowers, landscapes, and even neighbor’s houses! Once Jack donated a painting of Santa Claus landing against a neighbor’s house in a wintry landscape to our Oktoberfest Dinner and Auction. One of our parishioners purchased it because it looked so much like their home! On one visit to Jack’s home, he showed me some of his works in progress. He was working on watercolors of flowers at the time. What he often would do was to make a light pencil tracing of a beautiful flower out of a book or magazine and then paint it and bring it to life. Now, some might call that cheating, but I know that my painted flowers would look nothing like the beautiful works Jack produced, tracing or not!

And, this is all just scratching the surface. There is so much more to say and to remember and to give thanks for about Jack. Truly, his was a life well-lived, because he lived it in faith and love for his Lord and God, and in love and service to his brothers and sisters and neighbors to the glory of God. And, that is what we are all called to do. Therefore, we give thanks to God this day for the gift of Johann Hermann Knuppel, affectionately known as Jack, for, Jack was a gift to us and to many, and he was an example of how our Lord would have us live and serve.

I know that Jack’s last years did not go the way he had thought and hoped they would. All he wanted was to remain in his own home, and, thanks to money he’d saved over the years, and his loving neighbor and friend Mary, unlike so many others, he was able to do just that. However, as his strength left him and he couldn’t get out and about like he used to, and even moving around the house became challenging, he became lonely, and bored, and even a little depressed. Inevitably he began to ask, again, like so many others, “Why does the Lord keep me here?” That is a very human question, and there is no sin in asking it.

But, the LORD has words of comfort and hope for those who seem to be experiencing the LORD’s grief: “The Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.” Likewise, Jesus Himself taught that those who hear His Word and believe, even in life, already have eternal life: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” Thus, Jack, and you, and all believers in Christ can face the good times and the bad times with the bold confidence and confession of St. Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 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 me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”

That is the faith that our brother in Christ Johnann Hermann Knuppel had. That is the faith that sustained Jack all his many years, through good times and bad times, through Kay’s death, and through his own physical decline unto death. And now, we take comfort and find hope in the promise our LORD made to Jack, and the promise our LORD has made to you as well: “I will never leave you or forsake you.” “I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.” And, “nothing can separate you from my love, which is in Jesus Christ, your Lord.” If the LORD’s eye is upon the sparrow, then you may know that He watches over you too.

The LORD has kept His promise to Jack. Jack has died, but He is alive with the LORD, and with Kay, and with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven. Still, he awaits with the saints in glory that yet more brighter day when the saints, triumphant, rise in bright array, and the King of glory will lead them on His way singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: Alleluia! Alleluia! Take heart. We are not like those without hope. Jack is with the Lord, and you will see him again. On that day, you will stand with him and all the saints in flesh and blood bodies and see with your eyes, touch with your hands, and hear with your ears those you love who have gone before you, and together we will sing “Holy, Holy, Holy! Glory to God and to the Lamb and to the Holy Spirit evermore.”

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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