Sunday, September 18, 2016
Christian Funeral for Lars Snellman
John 14:1-6; Romans 6:3-10; Isaiah 43:1-3a, 25
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Nanny and Hassel, Anita and David, extended family and friends of our departed brother in Christ Lars Snellman: Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to remember and to give thanks for the life and faith of our brother Lars, and to give thanks to our Lord and God who purchased Lars from sin and death in the holy, innocent shed blood of His Son Jesus Christ, and has promised forgiveness and life everlasting to all who trust in Him: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
God redeemed Lars from sin and death when Jesus died on the cross for his sins, and for the sins of all men. But, Lars received that forgiveness and life personally when he was baptized fifty-seven years ago. Then the old evil nature he was conceived and born with was drowned in those cleansing and purifying waters and the Holy Spirit took up residence in Lars and created and sustained faith in him throughout his life until the day his soul was taken to Jesus. In Holy Baptism, God made His covenant with Lars personal, and He named him and claimed him as His own son with the promise, “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.” Therefore, you who grieve and mourn, take comfort and find peace, not in empty platitudes like, “Lars was a good man,” but in the rock-solid, objective love, mercy, grace, compassion, and forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ. God made a promise to Lars, even as He has promised you, that even a mustard seed of faith will receive sonship to the Father, the entirety of the Kingdom of Heaven, and life everlasting in Jesus Christ. God is good. God is love. God is truth. And, God is unchanging. Therefore, do not fear, but give thanks to the LORD and glorify His Name by trusting Him and clinging to Jesus in faith for forgiveness, life, and salvation, and show and share His love, mercy, grace, compassion, and forgiveness with others to the glory of His Most Holy Name.
Listen again to the words of the Prophet Isaiah from the Old Testament reading you heard just a moment ago: “But 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’.” Do you see how the LORD is not kidding here? What He has spoken in His Word, what He has promised you, cannot be revoked. The LORD’s Word and Promise is irrevocable, immutable, and eternal. The Word has truly gone out from His mouth and it will not, it can not return to Him void. For the Word of the LORD became flesh and Has made His dwelling with you. Jesus took up your flesh and blood as a man, was obedient to the LORD for you, as your brother, and has died for your sins, enduring in His own body the penalty of the world’s sin, death. And, He has been raised from death and the grave in His flesh and blood body and eternal soul, the sign, seal, and promise of your own flesh and blood bodily resurrection when He returns on the Last Day. This Word and Promise is for you, as it is for Lars. It is true. It will happen. You can take it to the bank and bet your life, now, and then, on it. For, He “is the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” He has blotted out your transgressions for His own sake, and He remembers not your sins.
Like His Lord Jesus, Lars was a carpenter. He used his hands to build, to serve. This was his vocation – His God-given, Spirit-equipped, vocation. Lars did excellent work! He restored antique barns from top to bottom. He labored carrying heavy wood and climbing to heights no one else wanted to. When David and Anita moved into their home in Wingdale, it was Lars who climbed a tall tree near the house to remove poison ivy so the family would be safe. Often his work was tedious and laborious, yet he did it patiently and carefully with much attention to detail. Lars was a carpenter. That was his God-given, Spirit-equipped, vocation.
However, Lars wasn’t perfect, was he? How about you? I recall that Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,” and that “There will be rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents.” In truth, Lars struggled mightily with addiction to alcohol. What false gods and slaveries are you tempted to submit to enslave you? Beware of trying to take specks out of your brother’s eye while you have a log in your own eye. There’s another saying worth remembering: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Let us all humble ourselves before the uncompromising grace and mercy of our God in Jesus Christ. Lars was clumsy. He loved fishing, but would invariably end up in the water himself before taking his catch home. One time he bolted down his friends planter so that, the next time he tripped over it, he wouldn’t knock it over. There’s a man who knew his weakness and tried to do something about it. No, Lars wasn’t perfect. If he was, he wouldn’t need God’s mercy and forgiveness, he wouldn’t need Jesus’ blood to cleanse him of his sins. No, Lars wasn’t perfect, but he was forgiven. And, thanks be to God, so are you.
Dearly beloved, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Lars believed in God, and Lars believed in his Savior, Jesus. Are you tempted to examine his fruits? That is fine, for Jesus taught that you will His people by their fruits. However, be careful to examine them in humility and in repentance at the paucity of your own fruit-bearing, and do not be tempted to examine them too critically or narrowly. Your LORD desires mercy, not sacrifice, and your love covers a multitude of sins, not least of all your own. Jesus went to heaven to prepare a place for Lars, even as He has prepared a place for you. And, Jesus will come again to take you and Lars to Himself that, where He is, you may also be. Remember that even faithful Thomas – you know him as Doubting Thomas; isn’t that comforting, since you undoubtedly have your doubts at times – remember that even faithful Thomas replied to the Lord, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus’ answer to Thomas is His answer to you and to Lars and to all men: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This is most certainly true, but it is not intended to exclude, but to encourage, for Jesus has blazed the way for all of His sheep to follow Him, and even now He leads the way through this valley of the shadow of death that is our lives in this world, guiding us with the rod and staff of His Word, leading us through the cool waters of Holy Baptism, and feeding us with His body and blood, even in the presence of our enemies. And, Jesus has destroyed the gate at the end of that valley that would keep us in death and has made it an open passageway into heaven for those who trust in Him. When He proclaimed from the cross, “It is finished!” it was. Believe it, for Jesus’ sake. If you have been united with Jesus in a death like His, you shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. This is our hope, our comfort, and our peace. This is why, along with the tears, there is also hope. We are not like those who have no hope. God keeps His promises. God will raise Lars from death to new and eternal life even as He will raise you who trust in Jesus.
Therefore, today we remember God’s promise made to Lars in Jesus Christ, a promise that He has kept. And, we look forward to that day when God will raise our bodies from death and the grave and reunite them with our eternal souls in heaven in life and joy and glory that never ends with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to whom be all glory and honor in our lives, in our deaths, and in our resurrection, world without end.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.