The Rev. Paul J Cain
Romans 1:17, Ephesians 2:8-10
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.