Friday, May 10, 2019

Christian Funeral for Henry Donald Heine

John 14:1-6; Hebrews 2:14-18; Revelation 22:1-5

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
“My name is Henry.” That’s what Henry told his first-grade teacher when she called roll and called him Hank. “My name is Henry.” There was already a Hank in Henry’s life, and Henry was not Hank. Henry was unique, independent, different. And, that’s what you, and all his friends, and all who had the privilege to know him loved about Henry. Henry was unique, independent, different, and our world and our lives are better for it.
Henry’s uniqueness and independence was shown forth most explicitly in his art. Henry was a gifted artist, with the brush, with the hammer and saw, with his voice, and so much more. He created beautiful paintings of rural Iowa, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and other places Henry knew and loved. He painted landscapes from his days in Bemidji at the German Institute. He designed and built and painted props and sets for high school plays and community theater, some quite ingeniously designed so that they would collapse for easy rollaway between scenes. Henry acted and sang in plays and shows with the Chickasha Community Theater. He even designed costumes. Henry’s uniqueness and independence demonstrated that he saw the world differently, in a way that is better shown and seen than described.
I think of the Book of Revelation that way. What St. John has presented in the Revelation was what he was granted to see in a vision, a vision of heaven. Often, John struggled to find words to describe what he saw. “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month.” Sounds like the Garden of Eden, paradise, but on steroids! “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more.” The joy and peace of heaven will never end! “They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” Yes, I believe that an artist could appreciate the picture that St. John has painted for us.
But there was much more to Henry than his art. Henry was an honorable man, a man of his word. He was selfless to the point of self-sacrifice, willing to help anyone at his own inconvenience or cost. Not surprisingly, his wallet was found well-worn and empty save a single credit card. He was good with his hands and always willing to help with a building or repair project, a jack-of-all-trades, and always ready to use them in service of others. And, Henry was an excellent cook and chef. His pancakes and French toast were the delight of his family, both young and old, on Saturday mornings, just as was his bread and doughnuts by his peers back in his 4-H days. And, still there is more to say about Henry. Henry was a motorcycle enthusiast. He loved animals, especially his two canine companions Hagrid and Emerson. He was intelligent, thoughtful, and well-educated, able to speak German, Russian, and French.
However, as nice and enjoyable as it is to remember these qualities which represent why you loved Henry and why he was loved and appreciated by so many others, they do not really give you comfort in a time like this. No, when a loved one has died, now that Henry has died, there is only one place and one person that you can find true and lasting comfort and peace, and that is in our God, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who purchased Henry in His own innocent shed blood upon the cross, and who has purchased you and me and all the world as well. As the Preacher to the Hebrews says, “Since the children share in flesh and blood, he himself partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who were subject to lifelong slavery.” Jesus died for all that all might live, and Jesus named, claimed, and sealed Henry as His own in Holy Baptism long ago, and Jesus’ promise to Henry was never revoked and it never fails. Jesus says that those who believe and are baptized will be saved. And, St. Peter also has said, “Baptism now saves you.” Therefore, we are not comforted in knowing that Henry was a good person – though he surely was – or that he did good deeds – though he surely did – but we are comforted by Jesus’ promise to Henry, and by Jesus’ death and resurrection from the dead, the first fruits of those who believe in Him. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. But, all who trust in Him He has promised to raise upon on the Last Day.
Henry’s theater friends have said, “The curtain has gone down and he has taken his final bow.” But, our Lord Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” And so, we have a reason for hope, not because of Henry’s goodness, but because our Lord Jesus never breaks His promise. Therefore, let us say with Henry’s friends in German, “Halles und beinbruch!” That is, “Break a leg, and a neck!” Farewell dear Henry. God keep you in His grace.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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