Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Funeral for Verna Gerlach 5 January 2016

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

Text: Psalm 143:10
Theme: Led by the Spirit

Dear family, friends, and loved ones of Verna, and especially you, Pauline, Chris, Marlene, and Raelene, her daughters,

The prayer of a believer never falls on deaf ears. Psalm 143, which includes Verna’s confirmation text, is a fervent plea. Whether uttered in desperation, or in quiet reflection, the Almighty has made a promise to hear. And if He were not true to His promises we would all be without hope! But as it is we are gathered here today to witness the fulfillment of God’s promises to Verna. The Lord Jesus says, “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”1 Verna has been crowned with life. She rests from her earthly toil. She enjoys divine peace. Thanks be to God!

God blessed Verna with a long and active life. She saw a lot of change during her lifetime. Tractors replaced horses on the farm. Computers replaced typewriters in the office. Appliances and gadgets of every sort radically changed the daily routine. Not all the change was good. Technology left some people less connected from others and more isolated. Families started meeting together and eating together less and less. Jobs became more of a means to a financial end instead of vocations of service. Societal values have shifted radically during Verna’s lifespan too.

Truth is not held to be an objective reality underpinned by the presence of the Almighty God but simply whatever you deem it to be. Life itself is believed by many to be the result of the random probability that inert material organized itself into complex systems without any rhyme or reason to the process. The deeper meaning of life is increasingly drained of purpose and replaced by the race to acquire more material stuff. A hollowness of soul is encroaching on our culture. Verna was witness to this transition.

We’re accustomed to associating change with progress, invention, and improvement. In regards to technology this is often true. But spiritually things are different. In this fallen world change is ultimately characterized by decay because sin is running its course. When sin is fully mature it results in death. There can be no progress or improvement in the conception of human life. Each infant conceived is unchanged in its human nature from those conceived ten years ago, a hundred years ago, or a thousand years prior. All are born sinners. All need a Saviour. When we reflect on the death of another it’s always an opportune time to consider our own mortality. No one is immune to the consequences of sin. No one is exempt from the power of death. It has the capacity to radically change everything in an instant. Recognizing this truth is always a call to humility and repentance.

But Verna understood, as do all Christians, that one thing does not change. The unfailing love of God in Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God is immune to decay. He possesses immortal, unending life. That life is mediated through His Son and extended to believers through the Spirit. He says, “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.”2 And again, “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you.”3 Verna was led by God’s good Spirit. God’s promises were Verna’s rock and her fortress. Christ was her Good Shepherd.

Verna was faithful in her life of bearing the cross. She was regular in her attendance in God’s house where her faith was strengthen by the gospel and by the reception of Jesus’ body and blood in Holy Communion. In that strength she went about her daily vocation as a wife, mother, and grandmother with dedication and reliability. She worked hard on the fruit blocked, loved her garden, and kept her mind sharp well into old age playing cards. In all these activities Verna still understood that she was journeying through this life to a better, permanent life to come.

That journey can only reach its destination through divine intervention. Verna was saved by grace through faith. Christ carried her sins to the cross and buried them in His tomb. His resurrection proved that He has the power to resurrect her also. The Holy Spirit led her over every hill and through every valley. Through prosperity and adversity He attended her. Verna has now crossed the threshold. She has received her baptismal inheritance. The place in heaven prepared for her is now occupied.

Even though we can rejoice that Verna now rests from her labours grief is still real. It has no cure, humanly speaking. It’s necessary for us to acknowledge loss. It reminds us that life is fragile; that each day is a gift. It reminds us of our own mortality. Most importantly, it reminds us of our need for Christ, the Immortal One. The most eloquently spoken human words can never alleviate the pain of sorrow. Only One has the authority to truly cheer our hearts. 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, “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.”5

The prayers of Verna Gerlach have been answered. Thanks be to God for His incomparable love! In Christ’s most holy name, amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +

Christian Burial of Verna Gerlach
5 January, 2016
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Revelation 2:10 2 John 5:26 3 Romans 8:11 4 John 11:25-26 5Revelation 1:17-18

Monday, January 4, 2016

Funeral for Art Schubert 4 January 2016

+ 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

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Second Sunday after Christmas (C) 2016

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

Text: John 1:1-4
Theme: Word and Life

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

The beginning of John’s gospel is weighty. The Holy Spirit cuts to the quick. “Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.”1 He’s not introducing casual information in hope that uninterested mortals might pause to satisfy their curiosity. There’s no small talk to build rapport in the manner we might talk about the weather, our plans for New Year, or the outcome of the game. He moves immediately to the heart of the message: The Babe of Bethlehem is the Messiah; the Eternal Word; the Source and Author of life; the only Light that pierces the spiritual darkness. He is the immortal God in human vesture. He is full of grace and truth.

John fully intends his listeners to ponder the deeper questions of existence. How did everything come to be? What’s our place in it? What does the future hold? What lies beneath the surface, beyond the horizons, and behind the threshold? How can we make sense of our existence even as we plod along in our daily routines?

The starting point is our status in relation to God. We have no power to sustain life. We have no ability to be redeemed by obedience to the God’s law. “The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”2 Paul reminds us that long before the law was given sin and death were in the world. The knowledge of God was written on the heart, it was etched on the will. Sin and death were unalterable, immovable parts of reality. Even in their longevity the ancients were aware of their mortality. When wickedness increased in the early generations God said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal.”3 Sin brought death. It was inevitable. Aside from a couple of notable exceptions- namely Enoch and Elijah- who were swept into the presence of the divine, all would succumb to its curse.

Nothing has changed. Today our society struggles to distinguish between civility and Christianity. This is nothing new. Scholars in the church have long argued about whether the ancient pagan philosophers were saved by their ethical integrity. Were Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle redeemed by virtue of their contribution to society? Can any altruistic person be pardoned by God in spite of steadfast unbelief? The Scripture has a clear answer.

Dear friends, do not be deceived. There are many who seek the prosperity of our society, contributing sacrificially and tirelessly to the improvement of systems and conditions that benefit the lives of many. These investments are to be commended. Yet they steadfastly deny the final judgment, accountability to the Almighty, and the inevitability of life either with God or eternally separated from Him. The Scripture says flatly that they walk in darkness. They are the blind leading the blind. Like us they are called to repentance.

Without knowledge of God’s true disposition towards us it’s impossible to make sense of the contradiction of life. One day the warmth of the sun brings a smile to the face. The next day it brings terror to the heart. One day its heat dissipates a cold chill. The next it facilitates a destructive fire. One day the passion of a lover binds one closely to the spouse. The next day it turns to lust for another and tears the union apart. One day a child is born, cherished by its parents. The next day a child is aborted, its life deemed worthless. One day a neighbour is commended, praised for her virtue and support. The next, day condemned, slandered for her failure to agree with one’s opinions. These are the contrasts and inconsistencies of life. Unbelievers experience them too but view them from a different perspective. They trapped within the framework of the law.

You see, the gospel is not a Christianized version of a universal code of ethical standard. It’s not a platform for the progress of temporal prosperity. It’s not one in a long list of human ideologies meant to facilitate an understanding of how the human psyche can be pacified or gratified in the face of life’s prosperities and adversities. It’s not a plan for self-help or a formula for do-it-yourself achievement. The gospel is the light that shines in the darkness.

The gospel breaks in upon us like the sudden rays of the sun through a dark cloud; like the nativity angels to the shepherds in dark fields. It asks no questions. It makes no demands. It calculates no exertions. It judges no motives. It takes count of no failures. It measures no transgressions. It comes dripping with grace. It comes laden with peace. It comes bearing forgiveness. It proclaims boldly and clearly the unparalleled news that in Jesus Christ the power of sin has been overthrown. The infant of Bethlehem will sit on the throne of heavenly Zion. “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.”Isaiah 9:7

“He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.”Ephesians 1:4 Think how mind-blowing that is: Before the creation of the world! Baptism is the point at which God’s eternal plan becomes truly meaningful for the believer. God is no longer only the Creator and Judge, He also becomes the Redeemer. You become a heir to His kingdom. And you become the ongoing focus of His attentive love.

Each Sunday the Holy Spirit continues to meet you in the promise of your baptism. He keeps you connected with the source of life. “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”John 1:14 Come and eat the body of the incarnate One. Come, drink His precious blood. In this sacrament we see His glory. With the eyes of faith we touch and taste His forgiveness.

Dear friends, death is not the answer nor does it have the final say. Death is not the solution; a convenient method of escape for those no longer able to cope with the burdens of this life. Nor is it the last word. Its power to silence has been broken. “For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”1 Corinthians 15:25-26The crucifixion has robbed death of its power. The risen Jesus lives, never to die again.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Second Sunday After Christmas
3 January, 2016
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 John 1:3-4
2 John 1:17
3 Genesis 6:3
4 Colossians 3:12-14
5 1 Corinthians 13:12
6 John 1:14