Saturday, November 4, 2017

Christian Funeral for Ralph Eugene Bloker

John 14:1-6; Revelation 7:9-17; Job 19:21-27

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dearly beloved family and friends of our departed brother in Christ Ralph Bloker, sons Steven, Kenneth, Roger, daughters Cheryle, Marie, Laurie, sister Evelyn, adored grandchildren and great grandchildren, friends – Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ. We are gathered here today to remember, to celebrate, and to give thanks for the faith and life our Lord granted to His servant, His child, and His son Ralph, whom the LORD in His providence has seen fit to call home to His heavenly pastures where His sheep may safely graze.
Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many rooms.” I expect that you Blokers could say the same. Indeed, these past seven weeks I have observed the immense love you hold for one another, for Mom and for Dad, for grandchildren and great grandchildren. Indeed, each time I paid a visit, whether to the rehabilitation in Tripoli, to the hospital in Waterloo, to the rehabilitation in Waterloo, back to the hospital, and finally to the rehabilitation in Denver – relatively large rooms were filled beyond capacity with hearts, and hands, and voices of love. How many rooms there must have been in that farmhouse in Janesville where you all grew up! Many rooms, filled to overflowing with love. But, that’s how it is with our God and those who trust in Him and obey His Commandments; He fills us full with His love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness, and then He keeps on pouring, filling, and giving until we overflow with His love and gifts towards others. Indeed, that is the image He presents us with in Psalm 23, isn’t it? “My cup runneth over.”
Tears and laughter, hand-holding and kisses, stories and remembrances, and Gospel bluegrass too! – That’s how love was shown and shared these past several weeks as you walked with Ralph through the valley of the shadow of death. That’s how love was shown and shared all your lives together, from the farm where you ate Dorothy’s home-cooked meals together as a family, to your own homes today. Today, there is great grief and sorrow, and rightfully so. You feel this way because death is not natural. In truth, death is the most unnatural thing there is. God did not create us to die, but He created us to live with Him. God did not create Ralph to die, therefore He did the unthinkable, the unimaginable – He sent His only-begotten Son Jesus to die for Ralph, for you, for me, and for all the world.
“Let not your hearts be troubled,” says your Lord Jesus. That is not a command of the Law, but a promise of the Gospel. I know that your hearts are indeed troubled, your hearts are grieving and rent asunder, and rightly so! But, Jesus speaks to you a word of comfort, of hope, and of peace. “Let not your hearts be troubled” is not a command, but a proclamation: For those who believe and trust in Jesus, there is peace and comfort for troubled hearts, for Christ has defeated death and the grave for Ralph and for us all so that He can also proclaim, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.” So certain is this new life that cannot die that Jesus had already prepared a place in His Father’s house for Ralph. And, so also has He prepared a place for you and for all who will believe.
Not only has Jesus prepared a place for you, but He has prepared the way for you to get there as well! Jesus is our Good Shepherd. Jesus has already walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death in which you live your lives, and He has knocked down the gates at the end of that valley that would have kept you in your graves. And He has made them to be an open door into His Father’s house and kingdom. Moreover, He who has passed through the Valley of the Shadow of Death has defeated death for you. And, now He accompanies you as you make your way through the Valley. He is your Good Shepherd who guides you and leads you on your way, who nourishes, cares for, and protects and defends you, who, in fact, is the very way upon which you walk and enter into the Father’s house, for Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life,” and “no one comes to the Father except through [Him].”
That’s how that multitude of saints no one could count got there; they entered the Father’s house and kingdom through Jesus, who is “the way, the truth, and the life.” In Holy Baptism, they “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” They have come out of the great tribulation that is our lives in the Valley and they have passed through death into life that cannot die. They are with God and with the Lamb, Jesus, and they lack no thing whatsoever, they have no want or need for anything at all. They hunger and thirst no more, they struggle to breathe no more, they battle cancer and disease no more, for the Lamb in the midst of the throne is their Shepherd, He guides them to springs of living water, and God Himself wipes away every tear from their eyes.
And yet, Ralph’s new life did not begin at physical death, on Monday morning October 30th, but in spiritual death and rebirth in Holy Baptism many, many years ago. Indeed, it is not only the blessed dead who stand amongst that heavenly host, but it is all who have been washed in the blood of Jesus in Holy Baptism, who trust in Him for forgiveness, life, and salvation. For, you too are in that number, if you trust in Jesus and are washed in His blood. Yesterday was All Saints Day, and we will commemorate that this Sunday here at St. John. On All Saint’s Day we give thanks to God for His promises kept for His people, His saints, all those who have lived, died, and who live in faith and trust in His Son and bear His fruits. Truly we remember and give thanks for them every Lord’s Day when we pray the liturgy singing “with angels, archangels, and with all the company of heaven.” All the company of heaven includes the blessed saints who have died in the Lord, a number in which Ralph is now blessedly included. But, we join with them, the saints, in singing praise to God and the Lamb as we gather at the communion rail and receive His precious body and His holy blood. For, the saints are there, even if we cannot see them – Indeed, the Preacher to the Hebrews says that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses – even if we cannot see them, they are there, on the other side of the altar, completing the circle of all the saints, on earth and in heaven, the family of faith, the body of Christ, the Church, His Bride. I often share with those mourning the death of a loved one, “You can go to the graveside, kneel down, say a prayer, and leave some flowers to be near your loved ones, but how much more can you be with them, sing with them, and bask with them in Jesus’ glory at the communion rail in the presence of the Lamb of God.”
Now, I can’t say that Ralph had a lot in common with Job, except that both men were blessed richly by God. As Job’s story goes, however, Satan challenged God saying that Job only loved Him because God had blessed him so richly – take away his blessings, Satan accused, and Job will curse you to your face. So, God gave Satan permission to afflict Job that His righteousness might be proven as Job remained faithful in spite of severe affliction and suffering. Satan attacked Job’s wealth and possessions, killing all his herds and flocks. Then Satan attacked Job’s children and killed them. Lastly, Satan afflicted Job’s body with horrible sores so that all he had left was his life. Throughout it all, Job would not curse God and die. Instead Job confessed, “The LORD has given, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the Name of the LORD.” I believe that Job’s confession is a confession that Ralph would make as well, for his faith and trust was not in material possessions or even family or health, but in the LORD. In the midst of His suffering, Job was able to make a powerful confession of faith in the resurrection of the body even two millennia before the birth of Jesus saying, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” That confession must be our confession too, now, as we mourn and grieve that the LORD has taken away our Husband, Father, Grandfather, brother in Christ, and friend. We confess that, in Jesus Christ, we will see Ralph again with our own eyes, hear his voice with our own ears, and hug him with our own flesh and blood arms.
That is why your hearts need not be troubled. You believe in God? Believe also in His Son Jesus Christ, who is the way to the Father and life now and forever. Ralph was a baptized child of God who trusted in Him throughout His life. All that Jesus died to give to Ralph, Ralph received through baptism into Christ and faith. God has kept His promise to Ralph, and He will keep His promise to you. This is God’s gift that we celebrate on All Saints Day and every day. Let us remember and trust that we may be encouraged and have hope all the days of our lives, through death, unto life that never ends.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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