Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Christian Funeral for Kevin Melvin Leisinger

John 5:24-30; Romans 8:31-39; Isaiah 61:1-3, 10

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“What then shall we say to these things?” What shall we say when a middle-aged man in presumably good health simply drops dead in front of his locker at work? What shall we say when a good, kind, hard-working, caring, selfless, and loving man, a man of faith who put his faith into action in loving service of others, his God, and His Church suddenly dies? What are we to say? Truly, there are no words. Truly, there is nothing to say that will change the harsh reality. Truly, there are no words except for the words uttered by the most devastated, derelict, and desperate people in the Bible – people like a man who was born blind, people like the Cannanite woman and her demon-possessed daughter, people like lepers, tax collectors, outcasts, Gentiles, the unclean – people who have nothing to offer and no way to help themselves, people who came before the Lord having no other words, having nothing to say but Kyrie eleison, “Lord, have mercy.”
It is said that Martin Luther’s dying words, scribbled on a piece of paper in his pocket, were, “We are beggars, this is true.” Luther was correct. In relation to our God, our LORD, and our Creator, we are all beggars, we are all on the receiving end of His mercy, His grace, His compassion, love, and forgiveness. We are all beggars; we bring nothing to the table. Even our lives were first His gracious gift to us. Thus did Job famously confess, “The LORD has given, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the Name of the LORD.” Life is the LORD’s to give us, and life is the LORD’s to take from us in accord with His holy and righteous wisdom and will. This is because life – your life, and my life, Kevin’s life – all life is the LORD’s. Life is the LORD’s to give, to take, to redeem, to raise from death to never die again. Kevin’s life was a gift of the LORD, and the LORD has seen fit to call Kevin home.
And so, the LORD has taken Kevin away. Or, shall we say, the LORD has taken Kevin back home. Now, let us ponder that for a moment. All life is from God. All life is of God. And, our Lord Jesus has said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to Father except through me,” and also, “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.” And, St. John says of Jesus, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” All life is from God. Kevin’s life was, and is, from God. Kevin belongs to God. He is God’s beloved son. And, this is not something new, something that just happened Saturday, but listen again to what Jesus says, “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.” Already in his earthly life, Kevin had passed over from death to life. For, this is what it means to be born again of water and the Spirit in Holy Baptism. Kevin died in those sanctified waters fifty-six years ago, and the life he lived those fifty-six years was a holy and righteous life, life in Christ, and life that cannot die. And so, there is something that we can say in the face of all these things; though Kevin’s body has died, his soul is alive and rests in Jesus, who promises that those who die in Him will live, indeed, can never die.
And, here’s something else we can say; the life of Christ was manifest in Kevin’s life, and he bore the Lord’s fruit in his faith and life and works. The love between those high-school sweethearts Kevin and Ruth was self-evident. They received and treated each other as sacred and holy gifts of God. Ruth may have initiated that romance in junior high when she “accidentally” dropped her pencil in Kevin’s direction. Kevin picked it up and handed it to her with a knowing smile. However, it seems that little exchange had been observed by the teacher; next day, Kevin was given a seat on the other side of the class! When they were courting, Kevin’s bicycle mysteriously always seemed to break down in front of the Orth household. Kevin liked to show his love by sending Ruth flowers when she was at work at the newspaper with this simple message, “Have a good day. Love, Kevin.” Likewise, together Kevin and Ruth shared the love they had received, not only with each other, but with others, always looking to the needs of others above and before their own needs. Kevin, in particular was continually using his mechanical and electrical knowledge, gifts, and talents in service of others, maintaining the low-rent housing in Shell Rock, fixing things around the church, seeking odd jobs he could do to help others. It seems that Kevin was extremely adept and speedy in replacing toilets. When someone at the hospital suggested that Kevin might be a good candidate as an eye donor, Ruth replied, “No! He’ll need his eyes to fix the toilets in heaven!” The Lord also gifted Kevin with a beautiful voice for singing, which he shared with the congregation by singing in the choir and by providing a strong lead in the hymns and liturgy. Indeed, Kevin’s selflessness and sacrificial service was evident early in his life as he had to take a leadership role in his family after his father died when Kevin was only twelve. He managed to take his sister Sara to the babysitter on a bicycle carrying a heavy school bag and a tuba! One of the neatest things I learned about Kevin recently is that he liked to do something he called telephone Russian roulette. He would scroll through his phone contacts and select a name randomly and call that person just to see how they were doing. I heard from a parishioner just the other day that he had recently been the recipient of one of Kevin’s telephone roulette calls and how unexpected and nice it was. And, most of all, Kevin loved being with his family and grandchildren. He was their “Daddy-O” and their “Pi-Pa.”
All this brings us back to our original question, “What then shall we say to these things?” Why would the LORD take such a good and faithful man from us? There simply is no answer to that question. And, the LORD is not obligated to provide one. And yet, there is much that we can say, for the LORD has revealed much to us in His Word, and in His Word made flesh, His Son, Jesus Christ, whom He did not spare, but gave Him up for us all. Jesus willingly laid down His life unto death on the cross out of love for His Father, and out of love for you, and for Kevin, whom His Father loves. Greater love is not possible than that a man should lay down his life for his friends. And, Jesus laid down His life for all of us when we were His enemies; while we were still sinners, Jesus died for us. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, - and He is - who can be against us? 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?” No, there is nothing needful and good that our Father will not provide for us or do for us. Moreover, no matter what we face and suffer in this world and life, it cannot touch the life we have received as a gift through baptism and faith in Jesus Christ. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Therefore, we can be certain of this: “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 [is] able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
What then shall we say to these things? Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. And, He does. The LORD has clothed Kevin with the garments of salvation and He has covered him with the robe of Christ’s righteousness, therefore we may greatly rejoice in the LORD and exult in our God. Kevin has heard the Word of the LORD and has believed and trusted in Jesus His Savior. He had passed over from death to life even in his earthly life. And, the life he now lives can never die. Our Good Shepherd, Jesus, has lead His dear sheep Kevin through the Valley of the Shadow of Death and into His Father’s house where His sheep may safely graze. Therefore, though we mourn, we do not mourn as those who have no hope. Our LORD gives us the oil of gladness instead of mourning. And, our Good Shepherd accompanies us, now, through the Valley of the Shadow of Death in the sure and certain promise kept and fulfilled in Jesus’ death and resurrection that, though we must all pass through it, death cannot hold us and has, in truth, become a doorway through which we enter our Father’s house. On that day on which our Lord returns in glory, He will raise our lowly bodies from death to be like His glorious body and, in our restored and glorified flesh and blood bodies we will see our Lord, and we will see Kevin again, face to face. We will see him with our own flesh and blood eyes, hear him with our own flesh and blood ears, touch him with our own flesh and blood hands, and hug him with our own flesh and blood arms – as it was in the beginning, so shall it be forever in His kingdom.
What then shall we say to these things? Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. The LORD has given, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the Name of the LORD. Thank you Jesus. Keep our brother Kevin in Your grace and peace, and bring us to live with him in your gracious presence and peace forever in accord with your wisdom and time.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

No comments: