Sunday, December 11, 2016

In Memoriam: John C. Kiletico

John Kiletico was a member of Salem Lutheran Church virtually all of his life of 77 years.  He passed away on Friday, December 9, 2016.

Here is the announcement.

John began his life in Christ on his baptismal birthday on December 10, 1939 at less than a month old.  He was baptized by the Rev. Eugene E. Schmid (served 1919-1967), by whose own hand it was recorded in our congregation's historic Tauf-Register, the very last baptism at Salem of the decade of the 1930s.

John would live to see the restoration of the century-old font in which he was baptized.

Like our historic baptismal font, John was a fixture at Salem.  Over the course of his nearly eight decades of life, he held virtually every position one can hold in a congregation.  He took the Lord's Supper from the hands of nine pastors of Salem in his sojourn on this side of the grave.  He was also proud of his service with the Army during the Vietnam War, and you could always spot John in his Vietnam Veteran's hat, or driving his car with the Big Red One license plates.  He was ever quick to strike up conversation with visitors to church, especially fellow servicemen or veterans.

The greatest thing, however, I believe, that John did for his church and country was to faithfully raise up four children in the Christian faith, passing along the Gospel of Jesus Christ to succeeding generations.  The effects of this faithfulness is immeasurable.  His grandchildren today bear the fruits of John's tireless service as a Christian husband and father, one who always made sure the family under his care confessed the faith, participated in Word and Sacrament, and lived out the Christian life.  There is nothing comparable in the life of a faithful Christian.

In accordance with his wishes, we will hold funeral services at Salem Lutheran Church.  And it is particularly poignant that we will gather this Wednesday, the week of Gaudete.  Today is Gaudete Sunday, named for the Introit in today's liturgy, which begins in Latin: "Gaudete in Domino Semper: iterum dico, gaudete."  That is: "Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again will I say, rejoice!" from Philippians 4:4-5.  We also lit the single rose-colored candle in the Advent wreath today as a reminder that even in the gloom of winter, in the penitential season of Advent, in the at-times tedious and frustrating period of waiting for the Lord's return, in the midst of the world's anguish and bodily suffering - and even in the very face of death itself - we Christians have cause to rejoice.  We rejoice in Christ, in the Gospel, in the promise of the resurrection, in the new life that will have no end.  We rejoice in the hope and promise of a heavenly reunion.  And rather than curse the darkness, we defiantly light a rose-colored candle as a testimony against sin, death, and the devil - over which our Lord has triumphed!

Many years ago, John told me that it was his wish to have this passage of Scripture read at his funeral.  He will receive a double blessing from the Lord's hand, as it will be used both as the Introit of the service, as well as the epistle reading.

The Gaudete Introit as we sang it at Salem today is particularly poignant in light of John's departure from this life and entrance into eternity:
Rejoice in the Lord always.
Again, will I say rejoice!
Let your gentleness be known to all men.
The Lord is at hand. (Phil 4:4-5).
Lord, You have been favorable to Your land;
You have brought back the captivity of Jacob.
You have forgiven the iniquity of Your people;
You have covered all their sin.
Will You not revive us again,
that Your people may rejoice in You?
I will hear what God the Lord will speak,
for He will speak peace to His people. (Ps 85:1-2; 6, 8) 
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever.  Amen. (Gloria Patri
Rejoice in the Lord always.
Again, will I say rejoice!
Let your gentleness be known to all men.
The Lord is at hand. (Phil 4:4-5).

For today's gradual we used the fourth of the Great O Antiphons, which includes this petition to our Lord:
Come and rescue the prisoners who are in darkness and the shadow of death.

As part of our Gospel procession, we sang the fifth verse of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel":
O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery. 
Rejoice!  Rejoice!
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
Today's readings provided the opportunity to proclaim comfort to the Lord's people, especially those of us who have lost loved ones at this time of year.  We can indeed rejoice in the Word and promise of the risen Lord!

The final hymn today was a reminder of the hopeful words of our Old Testament reading, the glorious passage from Isaiah 40, spoken to the children of Israel in the darkest days of their mourning and exile:
"Comfort, comfort ye My people,
Speak ye peace," thus saith our God;
"Comfort those who sit in darkness,
Mourning 'neath their sorrows' load.
Speak ye to Jerusalem
Of the peace that waits for them;
Tell her that her sins I cover
And her warfare now is over."

It was the Lord's merciful and providential will to call John home on this week, honoring his wish to proclaim St. Paul's bold and audacious call to rejoice, even as St. Paul himself was imprisoned at the time when he wrote this joyful epistle to the Philippians.  It is an act of defiance to hold a funeral in the midst of lighted Christmas trees and an Advent Wreath joyfully flickering with flame upon a rose-colored candle of joy.

For in the midst of sorrow, sadness, and suffering, dear Christians, we have a promise, a joyful expectant hope of the return of Christ, the putting off of the fallen flesh, and the resurrection of our flesh in eternal perfection, and joy.  Even the gloom of separation cannot snuff out our rose-colored flame that calls to mind the light of "Jesus Christ, the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome!"

Our congregation's name, Salem, means "peace," calling to mind the prophet's message that for those redeemed by Christ, our "warfare is ended" (Isa 40:2) in Christ's victory at the cross and the empty tomb.  And in this victory, John is at peace, even as we continue our callings in the church militant until the Lord calls us home as well.

With love and affection, we pray for John's family, his wife Shelly, and his children Danielle, Lynette, Micah, and Leslie, their spouses and their children, as well as his brother Derril and his wife, in the hope of the resurrection and in the merciful providence of our Lord to call us all to rejoice even in the midst of our mourning.

I'm grateful for John's selection of Philippians 4 for his funeral, as well as amazed at the Lord's providential timing in driving home this theme that in Christ, even in the face of death, we have cause to rejoice.  Christ has won the victory.  Our warfare is ended.  The Word of God brings comfort, comfort to us, his people, including John's family and his church family who will miss him in our lives on this side of the grave.

And in spite of our mourning, we are bold to rejoice!

Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again will I say, rejoice!  Amen.

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