Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Funeral Sermon for Gunnar Warpness, +31 January 2018

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Psalm 139:16; Ezekiel 37; John 1; Ephesians 3
These Bones Live
Funeral Sermon for Gunnar Warpness + 31 January 2018
Tuesday of V after Epiphany,6 February 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY

Bulletin Cover Verse:
([My Savior’s] eyes saw me before I was formed; before a single one of my days took shape, they were all prepared and written in His scroll.)

In the Name of Jesus Amen.
To celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, the LCMS had a hymn competition. The winning hymn, “Though All Our Life is Like a Scroll,” by the Rev. Dr. Wilfred Karsten, echoes Psalm 139 verse sixteen
as found translated on your bulletin this morning:
Though all our life is like a scroll Unrolled with blemished pages; Though sin has shredded what was whole And death is now our wages; Yet here we stand in confidence, With Jesus as our sole defense, For He alone still saves us.
Sin blemishes the pages of our life. All we can earn in this life is eternal judgement. We Christians call Jesus the Savior because He saves us from sin and its consequences, guilt, death, and eternal condemnation. With Jesus Christ as our substitute, the Savior grants us forgiveness of sin, life, and eternal salvation.
This contrast between death and life, sin and forgiveness, condemnation and salvation is reminiscent of the contrast in Nathaniel before and after he meets Jesus. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip says, “Come and see.” Seeing Nathaniel coming, Jesus said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” “How do you know me?” Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, I saw you.” In faith Nathanael confessed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said those things to you do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”
Today’s Gospel lesson was the last I was able to share with Gunnar as one of his pastors. Ann and I went to visit by request. The Lord knew then what we only know now: that Sylvia’s time resting that day gave Gunnar a special time with God’s Word, prayer, a hymn, and the Sacrament of the Altar to prepare him for eternal life in Christ.
Born on Christmas Day 1924, Gunnar received the washing of water and the Word of God in Holy Baptism on January 7, 1925, the day after Epiphany. An Epistle lesson read on Epiphany is the one heard today from Ephesians 3. Like Gunnar, we “are fellow heirs, members of the (same) body [of Christ], and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” I’m told that it builds character to live with a Norwegian. Immanuel, Sheridan in northern Wyoming still had services in German when Gunnar was baptized in southern Wyoming. It’s a good thing we all switched to English! Can anything good come out of the little town of Laramie, WY in 1924? Yes, Gunnar Warpness, because he was forgiven in Christ in Baptism.

Though pompously we try to dress In costumes of our making; Though fig leaves of self-righteousness Are futile and heartbreaking; Yet filthy rags Christ gladly wore So we would perish nevermore. His grace alone still clothes us.
The white robes worn at baptisms and confirmations, the white garments of Christian clergy and brides (and even sometimes caskets) all reflect the white robes of the saints in heaven. Gunnar was confirmed in Christ and received his first Communion on April 15, 1953, the week after Easter that year. An Old Testament lesson often read that week is the one heard today, Ezekiel 37. Gunnar married his bride Sylvia in 1950. A wedding and a Confirmation are reminders that Christ clothes us Christians in His righteousness. That is His gift to us. We rejoice in the gift that Gunnar was to us in his 93 years of life and 67 years of holy matrimony. We are grateful for the gifts the Lord gave to him that He also still gives to us.

Though earth’s deep waters foam and roar As surging waves are rolling; Though all the nations rage with war While bells of doom are tolling; Yet God gives peaceful fortitude, He nurtures us with Heaven’s food. True faith alone still anchors.
Faith in Christ anchored Gunnar’s life even in the midst of war. Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Gunnar saved a man’s life by pulling him from a burning tank. As impressive as that is, Gunnar knew that Jesus’ rescue of us is the true fulfillment of Jesus’ words and the Greatest Love.
That Greatest Love, the Gospel, is the Lord’s plan of salvation from Genesis 3:15. Jesus is the One who crushes the serpent’s head underfoot. Sin brought death. Death is not a part of life. Death is anti-life. Death feels wrong because it is. The separation of loved ones from one another was not part of the Lord’s very good creation, nor was the separation of our bodies and souls at death. The Resurrection of Jesus means that because He rose from the dead we will rise from the dead. His Resurrection means that those who die in Christ will be reunited with all who have died in Christ. And the Resurrection means the reunion of our souls with glorified, perfected bodies. Such is the comfort Scripture gives us.

Though critics cut out Scripture’s claims And treat them with derision; Though they conduct their hostile aims With scalpels of suspicion; Yet how the living, two-edged sword Proclaims the dead and risen Lord! God’s Word alone: still truthful.
It was a great joy for us to see Gunnar’s smiling face here as he regularly received the gifts of God in Word and Sacrament. The Lord gave him the gift of faith. It was also a joy to bring church to him and Sylvia at home, sometimes with family gathered around. He was thankful for the care from his children in these last years. We knew that this day was coming, but not how quickly it would come.
In recent days Gunnar got new hearing aids from the VA. On the road home I’m told he marveled to hear his own voice and he whistled. He heard the sound of his wife’s voice. He got one last game of cribbage in. And then he heard his family read John 14, today’s psalm, psalm 23, and Revelation 21. And you prayed with him and for him and the Lord called Him home.
Earlier in today’s service we heard about the Lord’s promises to us about the connection between Holy Baptism and our bodily resurrection. Whatever the Lord does not heal in our bodies according to His good and gracious will in this life, He will in the life to come.
“Can these bones live?” the Lord asked Ezekiel in chapter 37. Later the Lord God answers His own question: “Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.” These bones live!
The great mystery that St. Paul reveals in Ephesians 3 is that we Gentiles are fellow heirs with Israel, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Therefore, goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives in Christ, and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Now sing a high doxology To God who gives salvation. Both here and in eternity Let this be our vocation. To Father, Son, and Spirit raise A symphony of grateful praise, For He alone is worthy.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Funeral Sermon for Duane Raymond Terry on 15 September 2017, + 9 September 2017

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Romans 1:17, Ephesians 2:8-10
A Lutheran
Funeral Sermon for Duane Terry + 9 September 2017
Saturday of Pentecost XIV, 15 September 2017
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY

In the Name of Jesus Amen.
“You know, you’re really a Lutheran.” That is exactly what two close family members told Duane Terry. So he called us up. And according to him, after hearing answers to his questions, they were right. In recent months I visited him at home. He came to church on Sundays. I answered his questions. And now he is at rest and at peace in Christ Jesus. This afternoon you have heard Scripture that he heard here, at home, and on his last day on earth.

There is a common theme throughout today’s memorial service: grace—amazing and ours in Christ alone. Ephesians 2:8-10 explains: 8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Faith is a gift from God. Salvation is not a result of works. These are truths echoed throughout Scripture. We aren’t saved because of our works, we do not deserve forgiveness, and we could never earn heaven by being “good enough.” Instead, God loves us, forgives us, and saves us not because of who we are or what we do, but because of the work of Jesus. We are declared righteous by God Himself because of the work of Christ as our substitute. By faith, we receive those gifts, His righteousness. That is the good news of the Gospel.
Duane’s questions began with the differences between his background and a Lutheran confession of the Christian faith. We did this with respect, honestly, and in light of what God’s Word says, our primary text.
Luther’s Small Catechism, a teaching tool used across denominational lines for five centuries, focused us on the Six Chief Parts of the teachings of Holy Scripture: the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, Confession and the Office of the Keys, and the Sacrament of the Altar.
He didn’t have to learn a different numbering system for the Commandments. He learned the Law shows us our sin and the Gospel shows us our Savior. Our time with the Creed focused on the work of Christ for Him, the Gospel, in anticipation of heaven and the resurrection of the dead. He knew the Our Father and prayed it often, especially while looking at the crucifix across from his recliner. Lutherans use those, too. We are included as children of Our Heavenly Father because Jesus said so! Luther’s teaching on confession was comforting to Duane because the Bible teaches that Jesus make complete satisfaction for sin, that it is impossible to remember to confess every sin, and that making confession mandatory turns the Gospel of Christ into a new human law. We were about to review Baptism and Communion as his health suddenly declined, yet based on his early questions, he was also comforted that he had been baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and that Lutherans confess that the Lord’s Supper is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine given for the forgiveness of sins. At the time of his passing, we had yet to talk about the duties Scripture lays out for different vocations, and more questions. We did discuss daily prayer and how Lutherans may make the sign of the cross. +
Why have Scripture alone as our authority for faith and life? Individual Christian leaders and church conventions contradict one another and sometimes go against Scripture. Humans are sinful and institutions are often not trustworthy. Our emotions are an unreliable barometer of spiritual truth. Popular opinions change frequently. Culture always demands changes of Christians and never will be satisfied. Experience varies from person to person and people can disappoint you. The truth of Scripture is always reliable and is worth wrestling with, as Duane did.

Luther did, too. He was struggling with a phrase from Romans 1:17: "In it the righteousness of God is revealed." He felt that it stood in his way because he had been taught, like many Christians of his day and ours, that it referred to a philosophical understanding, where God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner.
Luther wrote, “Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience.” He was angry at a God who crushed sinners because of both original sin and breaking the Ten Commandments. Luther understood “gospel” at that time as God “threatening us with his righteousness and wrath.”
 “At last,” he says, “by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, ‘In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.”’” There he began to understand that the righteousness of God is righteousness from God as a gift, that by which the righteous lives by another gift of God, by faith. He continues, “And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which [our] merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’ Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me. Thereupon I ran through the Scripture from memory. I also found in other terms an analogy, as, the work of God, that is what God does in us, the power of God, with which he makes us wise, the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God.” Luther's Works Volume 34, Career of the Reformer IV (St. Louis, Concordia Publishing House, 1960), p. 336-337. In summary, “of God” means “from God” and for our benefit.

On one of our visits after Duane had been here for church several times (and even had a Small Catechism of his own in book form), he held up his smart phone and said, “I found an app of the Small Catechism. Is this an ok translation?” Indeed it was. And we both smiled.
Lutherans are Christians who confess the truths of Holy Scripture about all matters of faith and life. We see Scripture as the only true authority because it alone is God’s Word. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone as taught in Scripture alone. And all this is to God’s glory alone. Our righteousness comes from God in Christ! By faith, Duane Raymond Terry confessed Christ. In God’s mercy and grace, he is covered by the blood of Christ. Now, with him, we await the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Funeral Sermon for Jean Robinson

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Psalm 51:10-12
That’s the Savior
Funeral Sermon for Jean Robinson
Tuesday of Trinity XXIV, 17 November 2016
At Champion Funeral Home
While Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY

In the Name of Jesus Amen.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Jean Robinson prayed these verses of Psalm 51 on countless occasions during her life. In so doing, she confessed her sins. As a Christian, she also confessed her Savior.
When I was invited by the family to visit Jean at Sheridan Manor, I took the weekly bulletin and my hymnal with me. My wife and Jean’s daughters were there, too. As soon as Jean saw the bulletin for the Third Sunday of Easter, featuring Jesus as our Good Shepherd, she exclaimed, “That’s the Savior!” Over the course of that visit and many others, we read Scripture, including John 10, prayed, and sang. Jean was able to sing along with us on many hymns that remained in her heart by faith and in her long-term memory, even in the midst of the horrible disease that afflicted her. And Judy and Jody both read, prayed, and sang with her, especially in these last weeks. They were also smiling, crying, and hugging because of Jean’s response to the Word. The family had prayed for God the Holy Spirit to work through the Word and He did, answering those prayers.
Christians are not perfect. We are forgiven because of who Jesus is and what He has done for us. His suffering, death, and resurrection creates in us clean hearts by the work of God the Holy Spirit. He creates a right spirit within us. In the Father’s love, mercy, and grace, because of the atonement of Jesus, He does not cast us away from His presence. The Holy Spirit abides in us and we abide in Him by faith. The joy of salvation is restored, joy that the family and others saw for ourselves. The Lord Himself upheld Jean, gave her a willing spirit, and she joyfully heard the Word of the Lord, prayed with us, and sang with us. Today, as we miss and remember her, we sing some of those hymns and scripture songs.
In this life, each Christian is simultaneously a sinner and a saint, still in the flesh and in this world, yet forgiven in Christ. Jean’s family was important to her, and you know it. She loved kids. She also loved gardening and moving rocks…repeatedly. Jean Robinson also loved her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. She confessed her sins and was forgiven. She confessed her Beautiful Savior and is now at peace, at rest, and with Him and all who trusted in Christ in this life. With Jean, we await the Last Day and the Resurrection, when the Lord’s long-term plan for her and us and all creation will be fulfilled. Creation itself will be restored. And we will rejoice.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit.
As you look at the picture of Jesus the Good Shepherd on the cover of this bulletin, pray Psalm 51 and confess with Jean, “That’s the Savior!”

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.