“When You Walk through Fire You Shall Not Be Burned” (Isaiah 43:1-7)

Funeral Service
Wednesday, September 7, 2016

“When You Walk through Fire You Shall Not Be Burned” (Isaiah 43:1-7)

“When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” This is the Lord’s promise to his people. You heard it in the reading from Isaiah 43: “When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

“But, but, Pastor,” you say. “There it says that if we go through fire we will not be burned. But here we are at Doris’s funeral, and she went through a fire, that terrible house fire of a month ago, and she was burned. Burned very badly, airlifted to the hospital, and she was there for a whole month, and she ended up dying. So how can you say, how can God say, ‘When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you’? That didn’t seem to work for Doris.”

Well, yeah, you’re right. That fire did end up killing Doris. The flame did seem to consume her. So did God’s promise fail? Did God somehow forget about Doris? The Lord remembered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, when they were kept safe in the fiery furnace, but I guess the Lord loved them more than he loved Doris. Is that it?

No. I’m here to tell you today that the Lord did not forget about Doris. The Lord did not love Doris any less. The Lord did not make a promise that he failed to keep. That has never happened, and will never happen, that the Lord fails to keep his promises. And so this promise of God in Isaiah 43 was absolutely true for Doris, and, dear friends, his promise is absolutely true for you as well: “When You Walk through Fire You Shall Not Be Burned.”

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Published in: on September 7, 2016 at 4:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Death Is Swallowed Up in Victory” (1 Corinthians 15:51-57)

Funeral Service
Saturday, April 2, 2016

“Death Is Swallowed Up in Victory” (1 Corinthians 15:51-57)

Chuck, and the friends and family of our sister Gwen: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

First I want to say that you have our sympathy upon your loss. It is always tough to lose someone you have known and loved for many years. It is painful. It feels like we have a hole in our heart. And so we want to be with you at this time and give you our support. And certainly it is good to see the people here today, all the family and friends, who are here to do just that. And that includes many of your church family, Chuck, from St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Bonne Terre. We are a family, and so we are here for you and with you, Chuck.

Now Gwen was not a member of St. Matthew’s. But because Chuck is, I had the opportunity to visit Gwen a number of times when she was in the hospital or in rehab these last few years. I was able to minister to her as a pastor, and I’m glad to say that Gwen was receptive to the word of God, and she was grateful for the times I prayed with her and for her. This is encouraging, to know that her heart was open to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And dear friends, this is where we will find hope, even in the face of death. Namely, in the saving gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And in that vein, I want to key in now on a message that will bring comfort to our sorrowing hearts and give hope that is greater than loss. And it is this word from the Lord: “Death Is Swallowed Up in Victory.”

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Published in: on April 2, 2016 at 10:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Full of Good Works, Dearly Missed, in Resurrection Hope” (Acts 9:36-42)

Funeral Service
Friday, February 28, 2014

“Full of Good Works, Dearly Missed, in Resurrection Hope” (Acts 9:36-42)

Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed, and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. –Acts 9:36-42 (ESV)

She was a woman whose life was full of good works. She was a woman who, at her death, was dearly missed by all who knew her. And she was a woman who lived and died in resurrection hope.

Who is this woman I’m talking about? Was it the one we heard about in the reading from Acts, that woman named Dorcas? Or is it Elaine that I’m talking about? Answer: Yes. Both Elaine and Dorcas could be described as women “Full of Good Works, Dearly Missed, in Resurrection Hope.”

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Published in: on February 28, 2014 at 6:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Grieve Not as Those Who Have No Hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

Funeral Service
Thursday, August 2, 2012

“Grieve Not as Those Who Have No Hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

Louise lived a good, long life. Eighty-seven years is an above-average lifespan. And yet death always comes as a bit of a shock. True, Louise was not in good health these past few years, her heart was weak, and she was in the hospital just a couple of weeks ago. And yet–and yet her death still jolts us. That familiar face, that familiar voice–we won’t have Louise around anymore. And that hurts us. We will miss her.

And so we grieve. We feel the loss. Particularly for Louise’s immediate family, her death may mean some major changes in our life, transitions and adjustments we must now make. For Louise’s friends, for Louise’s fellow members here at St. Matthew’s–and she was a member here for many years–we too will miss her. I know I will miss her gentle spirit. I was able to visit with Louise a couple of weeks ago when she was in the hospital. She greeted me warmly, and she was receptive to hearing the word of God and grateful for the prayers of the church. Louise’s body may have been weak, but her spirit was strong, her faith was strong. There was no doubt she knew Christ Jesus her Savior.

A dear sister in the Lord, a dear mother and friend–Louise will be missed. We grieve her loss. And yet–and yet, in the words of Paul to the Thessalonians, we “do not grieve as others who have no hope.” Yes, we grieve, but at the same time we know the hope we have in Christ, the same hope Louise had and in which she died. And so my message to you today is the same as Paul told the Thessalonians: “Grieve Not as Those Who Have No Hope.”

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Published in: on August 2, 2012 at 9:49 pm  Comments (4)  
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“Talitha Cumi” (Mark 5:35-43)

Funeral Service
Thursday, July 12, 2012

“Talitha Cumi” (Mark 5:35-43)

So Jesus is ministering up in the region of Galilee, and here comes a synagogue ruler by the name of Jairus, coming to Jesus for help. “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” So Jesus goes with Jairus. While they’re on their way, somebody comes from Jairus’s house with a message for him: “Your daughter is dead.” “Your daughter is dead.” So you would think that would be it. Once somebody is dead, what can you do about it? Nothing, right?

Well, in every other case, that would be right. But not when it comes to Jesus. He can help. He can do something about this. So he tells Jairus, “Do not fear, only believe.” Are you kidding me, Jesus? “Do not fear, only believe”? Is this what you tell a man who has just lost his beloved twelve-year-old daughter? “Do not fear, only believe.” How can he not fear? What is he supposed to believe? How can you possibly relieve the fears of someone who has just lost a loved one to death? I mean, dead is dead.

Maybe you at this funeral would feel that way if I were to tell you, right now, “Do not fear, only believe.” You who are mourning the loss of your dear friend and family member Connie–what can I tell you that will take away your sense of loss and your sorrow and your grief? Well, I cannot take away your grief. You will indeed miss Connie. The reality of death does bring us grief and sorrow. Death does cause us to fear. We fear what the days ahead will be like as we go through the grief and feel the loss. And even more so, the reality of death coming so close to home–death, looking us square in the face–this causes us to fear in another way, also. We fear our own death. Death came calling for Connie when she was 69 years old. How about us? How much longer do we have? At any rate, we do know that death will come calling, for each one of us. It’s only a question of when, how soon.

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Published in: on July 12, 2012 at 10:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Place for Jim” (John 14:1-6)

Funeral Service
The Ascension of Our Lord
Thursday, May 17, 2012

“A Place for Jim” (John 14:1-6)

When someone we love leaves us, it can be very painful for us. Our heart aches. That person we know and love is no longer with us, and we miss him. That’s what we’re experiencing now with our brother Jim. We miss him now, and we will continue to miss him. Husband, father, friend, fellow church member–Jim Stewart was someone we got to know, and we liked him, and now he won’t be around anymore to share our company. That hurts, and understandably so. Even when we had months to get ready for this week–we knew Jim’s cancer was terminal–even so, it doesn’t take away the loss we feel at this time.

Death stinks. Death and disease, the dying process, the whole miserable lot we experience in this life–and lurking around in the back of our mind is that what happened to Jim will happen to us, too, in one form or another. Life here is only temporary. There will be other mourners in the future, except they’ll be attending our funeral. It’s on days like this that the reality of this whole sorry mess jumps out at us. And it is disturbing.

But maybe that’s why it is a comforting coincidence, in a way, that Jim’s funeral should occur on this particular day. “What, May 17,” you say, “what’s so special about that?” Well, nothing, really. But today happens to be forty days after Easter, which means that it’s Ascension Day. And the reality of Christ’s resurrection and his ascension into heaven and what will happen when he comes back to take us home–it is all this that gives us comfort in the face of death, Jim’s and our own. For on this Ascension Day, we’re reminded of why our Lord Jesus Christ died and rose and ascended and is coming again, and that is, as Jesus says, “I go to prepare a place for you.” This is the promise that will sustain us through all the difficulties and loss we experience in life. And so it is when we consider the sadness we feel right now. We take comfort in knowing that Jesus was going to prepare “A Place for Jim.”

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Published in: on May 17, 2012 at 2:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“O Death, Where Is Your Victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:51-57)

Funeral Service
Monday, March 19, 2012

“O Death, Where Is Your Victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:51-57)

“‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is our text.

On the ancient Roman calendar, the approximate middle day of a month was called the “Ides” of that month. And so, for March, it was the 15th that was called the Ides of March. And it became a famous date. According to the historian Plutarch, Julius Caesar was killed on March 15 in the year 44 B.C. A soothsayer had told Caesar, ominously, “Beware the Ides of March.” But Caesar did not heed the warning, and he went ahead that day to the Roman Senate, where he was killed. Caesar’s reign was cut short, and he himself was cut down, on the Ides of March.

March 15, an ominous day, a day when death came calling. It was on March 15 of this year, just last week, when death came calling for our sister, Lee Hoffman. It is striking to notice, as you see in your bulletin, that Lee’s death day came one day before her birthday. Lee was born on March 16 of 1923, and she died on March 15 of 2012, just one day shy of her 89th birthday. While that is still a long life by our standards, nevertheless, death did come calling and took Lee away from us.

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Published in: on March 19, 2012 at 3:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Forgiveness, Resurrection, and Life: God’s Gifts to Ron” (Apostles’ Creed)

Funeral Service
Wednesday, July 7, 2010

“Forgiveness, Resurrection, and Life: God’s Gifts to Ron” (Apostles’ Creed)

Ron, Doris, John, family and friends of Ron Benear Jr., dear brothers and sisters in Christ: Today we mourn the loss of a son and brother, a friend, and fellow member of this congregation. It hurts to lose someone we know and love. Ron and Doris, you’re not supposed to say goodbye to a son. It’s supposed to be the other way around. John, to lose a brother you’ve known your whole life–that’s like losing an arm, or maybe more closely, to lose a piece of your heart. And for all of us, every time we bid farewell to a friend or relative, we are exposed to the bitter pain of death and we are reminded of our own mortality, our own coming death. This is a time to mourn and to grieve.

But we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Indeed, we have the greatest hope there is–really, the only hope there is in the face of death–and that is the hope of glory we have in Christ. Today we find comfort in what we just confessed in the Creed, namely, “the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” “Forgiveness, Resurrection, and Life”: These were, are, and will be God’s gifts to Ron Jr., and they are the same good gifts our gracious God bestows on each one of us here today.

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Published in: on July 7, 2010 at 4:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Two Annas, One Redeemer” (Luke 2:22-38)

Funeral Service for Anna Skaggs
Thursday, December 24, 2009

“Two Annas, One Redeemer” (Luke 2:22-38)

Today I want to talk to you about an eighty-four-year-old woman named Anna, who loved to go to church and who found her Redeemer in the baby born at Christmas, Jesus Christ. Actually, today I want to talk to you about two eighty-four-year-old women named Anna, both of whom loved to go to church and both of whom found their Redeemer in the baby born at Christmas, Jesus Christ. One of these women is the Anna we meet in our text. The other is the woman we miss so dearly today, our beloved sister, friend, wife, mother, and grandmother, Anna Skaggs. “Two Annas, One Redeemer.”

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Published in: on December 30, 2009 at 12:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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