Sunday, January 10, 2010

Howard Flateland Funeral Sermon

Resurrection of ChristImage via Wikipedia

Howard Flateland
Funeral Sermon
January 4, 2010

Dearly beloved in Christ, the text that we have before us today at this service in memory of Howard, but also looking forward to his resurrection comes to us from the book of Job in the Old Testament. In chapter 19 we read verses 23 to 27.

Job had several friends trying to come to him and to console him. The problem was Job became sick, and he had lost most of his family. And his friends thought that Job had committed a particular sin to bring down God's wrath upon him.

But listen to Job's confession:

23 “Oh, that my words were written!
      Oh, that they were inscribed in a book!
 24 That they were engraved on a rock
      With an iron pen and lead, forever!
 25 For I know that my Redeemer lives,
      And He shall stand at last on the earth;
 26 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
      That in my flesh I shall see God,
 27 Whom I shall see for myself,
      And my eyes shall behold, and not another. 
      How my heart yearns within me!
We just sang the hymn, only a few verses of the hymn, “I know that my Redeemer Lives!” It's an Easter hymn. And here we are in the season of Christmas, and we've just celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ into this world. Now, for many people Christmas is nothing more than a time for getting families together.

Well, all of you who know Howard and Sylvia's family know that this has been a very intense time of gathering together. Gathering together not knowing whether this day or the next day would be the last for Howard: Having hope! Seeing how well Howard was taking what was going on. His wonderful attitude through all of this tragedy. His willingness to just put his hands around his children and grandchildren, and his loving wife. To let them know that he was comforting them.

He knew that this kind of thing could happen. It's in the family's history: a massive stroke, a little while of lingering and then death.

But he faced it without fear. And it's not because it's not a scary thing. It is a scary thing. It's a scary thing for any of us to be incapacitated, to have somebody else change our pants. It's humiliating. It's embarrassing. And some of us may have too much pride. And never suffer such an indignity, and forget that God will use even these hard times.

He doesn't cause these bad things to happen. But He will use these hard times to show us where we have idols, and where we worship falsely—so that we can learn to love God and each other rightly; to drive away all the different things that clutter our lives; that we used to think are important; to learn to focus on what is important.

Because the end result of the fact that we are sinners is right here [point to the coffin holding Howard's dead body]. Our physical death.

And Howard wasn't selected out for physical punishment any more than Job was selected out for special punishment. We deserve far worse because we day-by-day rejectGod's Word and His Command. That we tread upon His grace every day.

Even as we come through this celebration of Christmas; singing those Christmas carols; acknowledging Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of all—hurting and harming our families—thinking of only ourselves.

But Howard is now celebrating his first Christmas with our Savior. The celebration, as I mentioned last night at the visitation, the celebration is not complete right now. None of those who have gone before us, their celebration is not complete, because they wait for one thing that we all wait for. And that is Christ's coming again at the end of the world. Where He will take this body [point to Howard]. And He will make it perfect. He will raise it from the grave. And He will bring Howard before the throne of God Himself. And He will say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

And Howard will confess that he never saw Jesus hungry, he never helped Him, he never fed Him. Because, in truth, none of us has ever done what we should for God, and Howard knows that. And He knew that.

But he was also washed in the Blood of Christ; liberated from the actual guilt of his sin. Because his Savior loved him enough to come into this world to give His life for Howard, for you; for Sylvia; for you kids. For all of us.

That's why we tie together Easter and Christmas here at this service. Because Christmas is all about the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This little child didn't come to be a cute thing to be put upon a fireplace mantle at every Christmas.

He came to die a bloody, brutal death. So that we would not have to suffer. So that we would have the resurrection.

I know that my Redeemer lives. And one day, even though worms shall eat this flesh; I will stand, I and not another, will see my Lord when He comes again. We confess with Job.

Saint Paul wrote in his first letter to the Thessalonians, in chapter four:

13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Says Saint Paul.

We will miss him, because he has been such a big part of our lives. And there is nothing that is going to fill that gap. Because Howard himself will fill that gap when he is raised from the dead.

We don't have to try to stuff ourselves with activities. We don't have to try to hide the grief, to try to get rid of the grief. Because Howard himself will come back at that last day; and fill the hole that's there now.

We can remember him; both the good and the bad. We can know and we can learn from what was wrong and what was right.

And we can build on this confidence: That just as Christ has forgiven him, He also forgives us. And He enables us to forgive each other—from all of the things that have affected us through our lives: especially when we have hurt each other and sinned against each other.

So that we too, will rise again in that day; cleanse by the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. And we will live forever.

Amen.


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