“Feasting and Fellowship Forever” (Isaiah 25:6-9; Revelation 7:9-17)

Funeral Service
Thursday, January 21, 2021

“Feasting and Fellowship Forever” (Isaiah 25:6-9; Revelation 7:9-17)

Our brother Ron has died, and we feel the loss. And especially you, John, for Ron was not only your brother in Christ, he was also your father in the flesh. But for all of us who knew him, we will miss Ron. For our congregation here at St. Matthew’s, Ron was a reliable and faithful presence, coming to church whenever he was physically able, stationed back there in his wheelchair, where I would bring him Holy Communion. And before he became wheelchair-bound, even when he was in not-great health, Ron helped out in whatever way he could, like working at our Men’s Club barbecue. That was the kind of heart he had.

Barb and Del, you did so much for Ron, in the way that you have cared for Ron and John’s practical needs. And for me as a pastor and you as caregivers, there were several times when we had to rush to this or that hospital, thinking this might be the end for Ron. But each time, that tough old bird pulled through. It wasn’t his time yet. But now that time has arrived. And we will miss him.

These last months have been especially tough for us, and they were even more so for Ron. I was last able to go visit Ron in September, but then the Covid restrictions tightened at hospitals and nursing homes, and I couldn’t get in to see him since. Even you, John, could not get in to see him. But think of how that must have been for Ron himself. The isolation. Being cut off from friends and family, while his health was declining. And as his health declined, Ron wasn’t able to eat and keep his strength up. He kept losing weight. Then finally, it all became too much for his weakened body to take. A sad end to a good long life. And so here we are today.

But dear friends, today I want to assure you that this is not the end of the story for Ron Benear! On the contrary, this is only the beginning! For according to our Lord’s promise, Ron has gone from hunger and isolation to “Feasting and Fellowship Forever.”

First, from hunger to feasting. Our lessons today bring this out. Psalm 23: With the Lord as our shepherd, there is no more want. He causes his sheep to lie down in green pastures, where there is plenty of good grazing. The Lord has prepared a table before Ron, in the Lord’s house, where Ron will be dwelling forever.

Isaiah foretold this feast: “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.” This will be a sumptuous banquet. In the story of the rich man and poor Lazarus, it was the rich man who was feasting sumptuously every day, while poor Lazarus was left begging at the gate. But now poor Lazarus–along with poor Ron–will be enjoying a lavish feast, filled with the finest of food.

Or go to the Book of Revelation: “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore,” it says. Again, no more hunger, no more lack. And Ron will be able to enjoy this feast to the fullest. He received a foretaste of the feast to come in the Lord’s Supper. Now he will be feasting at the marriage supper of the Lamb in his kingdom, which will have no end.

Jesus himself told of the blessedness of those with a hunger for more than mere food: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Satisfaction guaranteed! By the blood of Christ!

And this is how Ron has been admitted to the feast: By the blood of Christ. Ron was clothed in the white robe of Christ’s righteousness in Holy Baptism. All his sins were washed away. His robe was washed white in the blood of the Lamb.

Yes, Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He took away Ron’s sin, and your sin, by his sacrificial death on the cross. You and I deserved that punishment for our sins against God, but Jesus took the judgment for us, in our place. The Son of God’s holy precious blood is strong enough to do the job, to cover all our sins. In exchange, we get Christ’s righteousness as a gift, and that makes all the difference. It made the difference for Ron. This was the gift that Ron received. This was the faith that Ron believed and in which he died.

And this atoning death of Christ is what destroys death and takes the sting out of it. Death was the great “swallower-upper.” But now death itself has been swallowed up. This is what Isaiah said the Lord would do: “And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever.”

This is what Christ has done. By his death, he has destroyed death. By his resurrection, Jesus has won the victory for everyone who trusts in him. Ron will share in Jesus’ resurrection. The body we lay in the grave today–this body, Ron’s body–Christ will call forth and raise to life once more. Only this time, it will be a glorious body–no more wheelchair, no more walker, not even a cane. Body and soul, whole, better than ever.

That will be true for Ron–Ron Sr., that is, and Ron Jr., and Doris, and for all who fall asleep in Jesus. We will all be raised on the day when Christ returns. And this creation, likewise, will be restored and renewed, better than ever. And then what? Life. Life in all its abundance. Life as it is meant to be. Eternal life, everlasting life, with no more sin or sorrow or suffering to afflict us.

And no more isolation! No, Ron and you and I will all be part of one great family of God, the communion of saints, spanning the ages. Koinonia, fellowship, as it is meant to be. We will be with our Lord and with all of his people, in a loving, joyful community. This will be great! And Ron will be there, along with the great multitude that no one can number, all of us glad and grateful for the great victory Christ our Lord has won for us. A happy reunion awaits us.

And guess what? This forever fellowship gives us the comfort we need, and a hope to hold on to, even now, even as we mourn the loss of our brother Ron. Feasting and fellowship forever: These are God’s gifts to Ron. And they are God’s gifts to you, as well.

Published in: on January 21, 2021 at 8:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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