Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sermon: Funeral of Cleveland R. Jouglard

Reformation Day, 31 October 2007 at Mothe Funeral Home, Harvey, LA
Text: Matt 11:12-15 (Jer 31:31-34, Rom 3:21-28)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Dear family and friends. Death is a terrible thing. It is the ultimate expression of violence. Death demonstrates the violent nature of our fallen, sinful world. Our Gospel reading speaks of violence: “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”

Whether death comes to children or to the elderly, whether on the battlefield or in the bed – death is violent. It is not part of God’s design.

In my visits with Cleveland – all of which came late in his life – I found him to be a most nonviolent man – a gentleman in the finest sense of the word. He explained to me the reason for his difficulty in hearing – a violent explosion while he was in a foxhole in Guadalcanal that blew out both eardrums. While there, he also contracted the malaria that would continue to plague him the rest of his life.

Cleveland explained these things to me matter-of-factly. He was not boasting or complaining – just explaining. He would shrug and say: “That’s just how it is.”

The violence of sin and death visits everyone – the humble and the braggart, the soft-spoken and the boisterous, the stoic and the grumbler. Death overtook even the low-key warrior Cleveland Jouglard – just as it eventually claims each of us. For we Christians are all soldiers serving the kingdom of God, the Church Militant. We fight under our Commander in the war between good and evil. And no matter how brave our struggle, we will all be casualties of this conflict. We sin. We struggle. We die.

It is fitting that Cleveland, not only a battle-scarred veteran of the U.S. Navy, but a fallen comrade in the forces of the kingdom of God, is being committed to his maker on this day known to Lutherans as Reformation Day. This red stole symbolizes the blood of the martyrs and the fire of the Holy Spirit’s purgative work on the fallen world. On this day, Lutheran Christians around the world sing the stirring anthem: “A Mighty Fortress is our God” – in which the martial theme of the war between God and Satan, between eternity and mortality, between life and death – are played out in song.

As Cleveland’s life drew to a close, he had to deal with increasing attacks from the devil. He had cancer and other painful health problems. He had to leave his home and take up residence in a nursing home, leaving behind his life of privacy and self-sufficiency. His vigor had given way to frailty and weakness. And it is in our weakness, says St. Paul, that Christ is strongest for us. Every time I visited Cleveland, he was eager to receive the body and blood of Christ. He was grateful to hear the Word of God. He received holy absolution with joy. He knew his days on this side of the grave were drawing to a close, but he also knew he had the free gift of everlasting life promised by God’s Word. “That’s just how it is” he would say again and again.

For Cleveland understood that the violence and chaos of fallen creation and its master, Satan, have already been overcome by our Lord Jesus Christ. Cleveland understood the Good News, the Gospel that we baptized and believing Christians are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” And that our crucified Lord is a “propitiation by His blood, through faith.” This is how it is that every soldier in God’s army will die, and yet the kingdom of heaven remains forever victorious. Battles are lost, yet the war is already won. And though fallen, every soldier will rise again in his flesh to live forever. That is the promise of God, demonstrated by the resurrection of Jesus Himself, into whose death and resurrection we have been baptized. That’s just how it is.

As St. Paul asks: “Where is boasting then?” And answers the question himself: “It is excluded.” For “we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.”

In the words of the hymn “A Mighty Fortress is our God”:

With might of ours can naught be done,
Soon were our loss effected;
But for us fights the valiant One,
Whom God Himself elected.
Ask ye Who is this?
Jesus Christ it is;
Of Sabaoth Lord,
and there’s none other God.
He holds the field forever.

“That's just how it is.” Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.

3 comments:

Richard Bennett said...

Thanks Fr Hollywood... I knew Cleveland Jouglard through his family here in Texas. It's good to read the sermon on him and how he faced death and his new life.
I really enjoyed speaking with him and his company while he visited his family (my friends).

Richard Bennett 23 Feb 08

Debra said...

Hi Reverend Beane, my name is Debra Jouglard and I was Cleveland's niece. I want to thank you for the sermon you said at Uncle Cleve's funeral. He was a very wonderful person and is missed very much. I am a Christian and know that I will see him again some day. The thing I loved about my uncle was the way he could recall family history. I loved to talk to him about the history of our family. Again thank you so much for your sermon, it was very uplifting to me.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Richard and Debra:

Thank you for your kind remarks. Serving Cleve in the twilight of his sojourn on this side of the grave was a high privilege.

The Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!