+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: John 14:3
Theme: A Place Where I Am
Dear family, friends, and loved ones of Arthur, and especially you, Verna,
Here we are at that place of inevitability; but nonetheless that place we’re never quite ready for. There is no practice for grief. Yes, we begin to grieve already in advance. Sometimes it’s long before we’re certain of the finality. Still, the moment is unique to every grieving spouse, every grieving child; every grieving friend. Genuine heartache is integral to our humanness. There will be some things to help pass the hours and fill the void but there are no replacements. To pretend otherwise is to misunderstand both the meaning of a person’s life and the significance of their death.
Grief stings. It hurts. It has no human cure. Only divine intervention can truly ease the pain of grief. And yet in the midst of sorrow we can give thanks. We can rejoice. Art has entered into his eternal rest. He suffers no more pain. He endures no more anxiety. He has no worries or cares. More importantly, the power of sin over him has been broken. The promise of his baptism has come to fruition. He has been awarded the crown of life. Thanks be to God!
The Scripture says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to be silent, and a time to speak. A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to be born and a time to die.” 1 But is also says that the last enemy to be destroyed is death2. Now either that is most important truth ever uttered or it is the greatest lie ever told. But it would not be a singular or isolated truth or lie. For death itself does not exist without subjects and it does not exist without a master. The fear of death lies with Satan. It is a powerful fear because it is guttural and tangible.
We should not underestimate how powerfully this can affect us. Some think God should spare us from all pain and ultimately death. They may claim God is either too inept too apathetic. There is a measure of human logic to this reasoning. But we can’t paint God into a box. He is actually being authentic by bringing believers into the next life in this way. God is just and His wrath over sin had to be pacified. His wrath cannot triumph over His compassion. It has been appeased by the blood of His Son. The death of Christ is what makes our deaths meaningful. It is His resurrection that gives victory in the face of what appears to be a defeat. For the Christian death is a seamless transition from time into eternity.
Dear friends, we can look back over life, assessing regrets and cherishing accomplishments. We lament failures and rejoice in successes. We may be filled with gratitude for blessings or resentment for wrongs that were never rectified. To be occupied with these things is typical of what it means to be human. But at that hour when the angels draw near, when our niche in heaven’s abode is almost complete, when our mortality has just about reached its limits; at that moment when the memories come flooding in life an ocean’s tide, nothing can bring peace to the soul save for the words of Him who stepped out of death’s grip, defying the power of the grave. He says, “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”3
The Scriptures help us to dispel popular misperception about death. Art has no interest in looking down on us. His soul is in the presence of Christ. His body awaits the great and awesome day of the resurrection of all flesh. He has no duty of care; no obligation to us who remain. Christ handles those things. He has neither concerns, nor queries, nor need for amusement. He is at peace and his joy knows no limits. He has been released from all the consequences of sin. There are no barriers to His enjoyment of divine love. We must be finished with all childish ideas that the saints in heaven are endlessly occupied with trivial pursuits like hobbies or personal interests, or that heaven will be boring or tedious. When we behold the face of God the enthrallment will sufficiently occupy all of our senses to the fullest capacity.
Art was devoted in his walk of faith. He was seldom absent from God’s house of worship. Here he was repeatedly strengthened by the forgiveness of sins proclaimed from the Scriptures and offered in the Lord’s Supper. The promise God first made to Him in his baptism has now been fulfilled. Redeemed by Christ’s blood, Art was declared righteous, like all repentant sinners, because of Jesus’ sacrificial death. Not his piety, not his good deeds, not his support for the mission of the church carried him over the threshold, but only the sheer mercy of God. No one is saved in any other way.
Grief is never something to be ignored or dismissed lightly. But it does not rule because death does not have the last word. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.”4 He says, “I am going there to prepare a place for you…that you also may be where I am.”5 That “place” is described in this way, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”6 Verna, may you be comforted especially with these truths.
Art Schubert is in that place. It’s more than a place where believers are kept safe. It’s the place where vitality and life know no bounds. It’s the place where the Saviour is met face to face. Thanks be to God that Art has taken his place in the assembly of the saints! May the Holy Spirit substantiate this truth in our hearts! Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Christian Burial of Art Schubert
4 January, 2016
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Ecclesiastes 3:1, 6, 7, 4, 2 2 See 1 Corinthians 15:26
3 Revelation 1:17-18 4 John 11:25-26 5John 14:2-3 6Revelation 21:4