Thursday, November 21, 2013

Christian Burial of Clyde Gray (21 November 2103)

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: 1Corinthians 15:19
Theme: True Hope

Dear family, friends and loved ones of Clyde; Julie, Robyn, Andrew, and especially you, Janette,

Death is the ultimate test. I’m speaking now not about Clyde. His soul has already crossed that dimension into the presence of the Living God. I’m speaking about us who are left to reflect upon this matter. If divine promises do not prevail as our refuge now, when will they ever be relevant? If the word of God does not calm our fears, whose words will? Human sentiments have their place. And it is an important place. But they are of limited value. Our confidence and comfort rests with much greater authority. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies.”1 And so we believe that Clyde lives even though he has died. This truth alone allows joy to overshadow our sorrow.

We can, therefore, gather not in despair or resignation, but in reflection and even celebration. Yes, we must come to terms with our loss, grief can bind us; but Clyde has been released. As Christians we are privileged to acknowledge the peace and vitality he now enjoys. The casket contains his bodily remains. These will be resurrected and reunited with his soul on the Last Day. The resurrection is the bedrock of Christian truth. It is our reason for hope. Yet only the Holy Spirit can hearten us in this hope.

What is the nature of true hope? The apostle Paul says, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”2 Hope is not a best-of-luck, shot-in-the-dark, cross your fingers and throw up a desperate prayer game of chance. Hope is not playing the odds or entering the lottery. Biblical hope is the patient but eager expectation of a promise to be fulfilled. Hope is a cousin to faith.

Now to be sure faith makes us vulnerable in one sense because it exposes us to the interests of God. In other words, our priorities are forfeited in preference to His. We trust He knows us best. We trust He is merciful. Hope is the expectation that our trust will not be betrayed. In another sense faith is the greatest certainty. It entails recognition of the clear evidence that we are frail, fraught with faults and foibles; and finally, that we are finite beings. We are mortal and our most passionate longing to transcend our limitations cannot change that fact. The search for the fountain of youth has always been in vain. Faith places us in the hands and at the mercy of the One who is almighty, immortal, and merciful.

Death is no small dilemma because it doesn’t simply mean that a human life has ceased to exist or that the spirit has magically passed into some mystical place. Death is part of the guilt and punishment for sin. The Scripture says, “The wages of sin is death.”3And if that crisis isn’t resolved by the time of physical death then it continues into eternal death. We quickly see the magnitude of the problem. The criticalness of the place and work of Christ soon becomes clear. The gospel becomes paramount: “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”4

As we reflect on God’s blessings to Clyde in time and now in eternity we righty give thanks that all of his favourite earthly endeavors have not been forgotten, but excelled.
Clyde enjoyed the contest of sport. Now his race of faith has ended and he shares in the victory. He crafted his own home brew and liked sharing it with others. He now participates in fellowship with the whole company of heaven. He enjoyed vegetable and flower gardening. He now resides in the new Garden of Eden.

Clyde was a gentleman in every sense of the term. He was a gentle man, caring and supportive. He was never brash or domineering. And he was a gentleman- courteous and well-mannered. He was polite and genteel. He nurtured these qualities and they served him well. As a faithful husband and devoted father Clyde was a great blessing to all who knew him. The more one knew him the more he was valued. An unassuming man he never wanted a fuss made over him.

But extolling the virtues of the deceased can serve only one beneficial purpose: To encourage imitation of such qualities among us who still struggle through this Christian walk of life. The moment recognition of such virtues is taken to mean that some merit has been earned before God then a dangerous deception has been distributed. Clyde would have never wanted that. Christ has done it all. Only He was pierced with nails. Only He wore the crown of thorns. His life alone was a worthy substitute for others. Clyde was a sinner, like all of us. But he was forgiven. He was made worthy to enter into the presence of God by the Lamb whose blood covered his sins. He was saved by grace, and through faith freed from his sentence of condemnation. Baptized and redeemed he was God’s cherished child.

Clyde was a late-comer to this congregation and the Lutheran fold, but not to the faith. His presence was a quiet but stabilizing leaven for the body of believers in this place. It was our loss that we did not know him longer. Here he received the reassurance of the forgiveness of his sins. In latter days, as his strength declined, he received communion at the hospital services and finally in his private room. Clyde no longer suffers from pain or weakness. He has been vested with immortality.

Janette, no human is the master of grief. No counselor, no expert, no widow or widower, no parent who has lost a child, no soldier who has endured the war can claim that they are the doctor with the cure. We cannot because death graphically reveals humanity’s utter helplessness in the final measure. Grief is the most visceral trauma of humanity. Jesus Himself stood outside the tomb of Lazarus and he wept. He, the Lord of Life, who was presently to raise Lazarus from the dead! He wept over the power of sin to separate, to destroy, to open the abyss of loneliness and doubt.

But His power to unite and restore is greater still. Easter morning showed life had triumphed. Love had conquered. Death’s grip had been broken. Every moment of heaven is a participation in the resurrection. Clyde enjoys that now. He is at peace. Thanks be to God that in Christ our hope is never in vain! Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Clyde John Gray
21 November 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

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