Friday, October 27, 2017

Sermon: Funeral of Elfair Bealer

27 October 2017

Text: John 14:1-6 (Job 19:23-27a, Rom 6:3-11)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Dear family and friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, and honored guests: peace be with you!  It is a sad day for us, but not for Jack.  It is hard to imagine life without someone who was born just shy under a century ago, someone whose life touched so many, and whose impact will continue for generations.  Once again, dear friends, peace be with you!

We often discover things about people from their obituaries – even after having served as their pastor for many years.  Often, in this part of the country, we learn people’s real names from the newspaper.  Now I did know that Jack’s real name was “Elfair,” although I don’t remember anyone in our church who ever called him anything other than “Jack.”  I knew that he was sailor in World War II and a railroad man, but what I didn’t know was that Jack had served as a fire chaplain for the Gould company.  That company is today part of the David Crockett company, for whom I serve as chaplain.  I’m honored to have this in common with Jack.

Jack was baptized in this very font when he was twenty-two days old.  And at the age of twelve years, he was confirmed here at Salem by Pastor Eugene Schmid.  I will think of Jack when I confirm a 12-year old boy this Sunday.

One of the passages from our catechism that young Jack memorized was this: “I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them.  He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have.  He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.”

God richly and daily provides.  This word “provides” is so important.  This is what Jesus means when He says, “In My Father’s house are many rooms.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”

In life and in death, God provides.  He loves us.  He does not leave us.  He provides for Jack a place that He has prepared. 

And dear friends, think about how our gracious and merciful Lord provided for so many people by using His servant Jack.  Through Jack, God provided life for his children, love and wisdom for his grandchildren, and a kind sympathetic ear to countless friends.  Through Jack’s faithful church attendance, God worked faith in others in the pews who were blessed by seeing him joyfully living out the Christian life.  Through Jack, God provided spiritual care for firefighters, faithful service to our country in time of war, and safe railroads for travelers over the course of his life’s work.  And for 73 years, God provided protection, love, and nurture to Rita Bealer in her need by the tireless devotion of her husband. 

God provides, dear friends.

And even more importantly, let us remember how God provided for Jack: promising a place prepared for him in eternal glory by Jesus Himself.  God provided eternal life for Jack by water and the Word in Holy Baptism.  God provided faith for Jack through the faithful teaching of God’s Word through parents, teachers, and pastors.  God provided Jack with the forgiveness of all his sins through holy absolution, and He provided Jack with eternal communion with God through decades of receiving the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.

God provided for Jack’s triumph over death, as St. Paul said, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

God provides, dear friends, and provides even unto eternity.  God’s provision goes beyond death itself.  God continues to provide for Jack – by Christ’s death on the cross that paid for all our sins, and by Christ’s resurrection from the dead, promising the same to those who confess His name – as Jack did in my presence again, and again, and again.  Jack confessed with St. Paul: “If we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”

The faith that we confess, the faith that Jack confessed here and confesses in eternity is that there is a bodily resurrection and restoration of the perfect heaven and earth.  We are not destined to float around as spirits, but rather to be reunited with our loved ones in the flesh –a new and perfect flesh that cannot die, suffers no illness or pain, and never wears out or fades away.

This is the same confession as the Old Testament saint Job, whose words we continue to sing: “I know that my Redeemer lives… And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.”

This promise applies to all who die in the faith, those who are baptized and believe, for this is God’s Word; this is the promise of the resurrected Christ!  “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.”

In life and in death, God provides.  He loves us.  He does not leave us.  He provides for us in our grief, dear friends, and He provides for Jack a place that He has prepared.  He provided a century of gifts to all of us through Jack, and He provides Jack with everlasting life.

Let us look forward to seeing Jack again, literally and physically, even as Jesus rose from the dead.  Let us confess God’s gracious provision for us, certain that Jesus has provided a place for Jack and for us.  And though we mourn, let us quote the Word of God as Jack’s wife Rita did every time I visited when she offered the prayer that she and Jack most assuredly offer together now in eternity: “This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  Amen.

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

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