Friday, October 10, 2008

Sermon: Funeral of Ronald Richoux

Funeral of Ronald Richoux
Friday of Trinity 20

10 October 2008 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 22:1-14 (Isa 55:1-9)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Dear Jean, June, Jason, Matthew, Mark, Liz, grandchildren, those related by marriage, all family members, brothers and sisters in Christ, and friends - the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

There are times when every father must do something unpopular, something his children do not understand. But fathers who love their children will do what is best for them regardless. It is up to the sons and daughters to put their faith in their father that “father knows best.”

Our dear brother in Christ Ronald Richoux certainly knew this – as do all of us blessed to have the title “father.” And so does the One to whom we pray: “Our Father who art in heaven.” For listen again to the Word of God: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

In times like this, we are tempted to ask “Why?” Why was our husband, brother, father, grandfather, friend, and parishioner taken from us? Why did he suffer illness? Why him? Why now? But our heavenly Father doesn’t answer such questions. Instead, He replies: “My ways are not your ways.” And there is great comfort here, dear brothers and sisters. For God is in control. He is all powerful and knows all things. But God is not just some capricious force of nature. He is our loving Father who cares for us and who knows what is best for us. Even though we don’t understand God’s plan, there is a plan.

Nothing is by accident.

Ronald passed from this life on the same date as his sister. And what a merciful statement of family solidarity our Lord, who is in command of all things, makes to us! Ronald breathed his last on this side of the grave on a Sunday – the day when his family would always gather as a family, in love for each other. Sunday is also the “family day” of the Christian Church, a weekly reminder of our Lord’s resurrection, a feast of thanksgiving in the Holy Eucharist, in which we have communion with our Heavenly Father by the forgiveness of our sins. Even the readings for today are the Church’s assigned passages of Scripture for last Sunday – and how appropriate they are!

We don’t know why Ronald was called home when we weren’t finished with him here. But God’s ways are indeed not our ways. His plan is not our plan – but there is a divine plan at work. Ronald’s mission is now complete, his reason for being with us in this “valley of tears” is over. He has been permitted to leave behind this fallen world of sin, sickness, and death, to be called into the marvelous light of paradise with the angels and archangels, with all the faithful departed, and with the Holy Trinity, to await the resurrection of the flesh, in anticipation of all of us joining him on that glorious day in which we too will find our rest.

We may never know for sure what God’s plan was for Ronald. Those details may well remain hidden from us. But we do know a few things he was created to do. Ronald Richoux was created to be Jean’s loving and devoted husband of 43 years. He was created to father a large, loving, close-knit family. He was created to be an example of manhood to his sons and to teach his daughter what to look for in a husband. He was given the gift of appreciation of the beauty of God’s creation, the gift of a dry sense of humor, the gift of many friends. But most of all, he was given the greatest of all gifts – eternal life, freely given to him through Holy Baptism, nurtured through Holy Absolution and the preaching of the Holy Gospel. He was strengthened in his faith through participation in Holy Communion.

Through these gifts, Ronald Richoux received faith – a real, flesh and blood faith that gave him the courage to look death in the eye and not be overcome. Through these gifts, Ronald’s sins were forgiven, and the ancient curse of our ancestors that separated us from God had been lifted. Through these gifts, Ronald was prepared for this day – the day his body will be laid in a tomb to await the glorious resurrection promised by our Lord, a promise Ronald believed without wavering, a promise that comforts us today.

In our Gospel, our Lord tells the story of a wedding feast. The king withholds nothing from those who are invited – a royal feast, a wedding banquet, the privilege to eat at the table with the king. But some were too busy. Some had other priorities. They had lost faith in their king, and now served themselves instead. In their selfishness, they squandered the invitation, and the king found others to invite to this feast – the good and the bad, the poor, the sinners and tax collectors, the imperfect, the hurting, and those burdened with guilt. In other words, all of us “poor miserable sinners” have been invited to the Lord’s Table. We are worthy not because of ourselves, but because the King has called us, and has chosen us. The king provides us with a wedding garment to wear, signifying that we are indeed worthy. This wedding garment was given to us when we became His dear children at baptism.

In the story, the king finds an impostor at this feast – a man without a wedding garment on. He is thrown out. For many are called, but few are chosen.

Like all those who believe and are baptized, like all those who commune with the Lord, hearing His Word proclaimed, those who know the voice of the Good Shepherd and are indeed His sheep – Ronald Richoux wears the baptismal wedding garment that is the gift of the King! Ronald is worthy and sits at the table, feasting with the Lord, “with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven”! And in this Holy Communion, we partake of the same Christ whose face Ronald now sees. In this Sacrament, we not only feast upon the Lamb who takes away all our sin, we feast with all others like us, those whose sins have been taken away by the same Lamb, all our departed brothers and sisters in Christ. They are all here with us! For where Jesus is, there is Ronald Richoux. Where the body and blood of Jesus are, there you are sure to find the Lord’s servants who are now at rest.

Good fathers must make unpopular decisions – and that is why we respect them so. They don’t act just to make us happy in the short term, they do whatever it takes to protect us, nourish us, make us into the men and women we have been created to be, and do whatever is best for us.

Our earthly fathers – as imperfect as they all are – are snapshots of the Fatherhood of God.

We do not always understand the will of our heavenly Father, but we always know that our Father loves us, takes away our sins by the blood of His only begotten Son, and that it is His will that we join in His Son’s victory over sin and death, a victory that gives Ronald and all the saints, everlasting life.

Indeed, “father knows best,” and “our Father who art in Heaven” knows best. We rejoice in the love of fathers, and in the “Father’s Love Begotten” in Christ Jesus that has brought Ronald Richoux victory over the grave and everlasting life! Amen.

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

1 comment:

Peter said...

Thanks for these beautiful words.