Sermon for the Funeral of Del Bauer (June 8, 2007)
“A Grain of Wheat” (John 12:23-26)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, especially to you, dear Larry, Dennis, Randy, Nancy, and to all you grandchildren, family, and friends gathered here today.
The text for our time of reflection on God’s Word is the Gospel lesson read a few moments ago, from John 12. Please listen as I read it one more time:
And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:23-26)
Del certainly loved farming. I will always remember visiting Del and Lucille in their home, and seeing a picture on the wall of two little boys in overalls. One boy, with hands in pocket, leans in to the other and asks, “Been farmin’ long?”
It all started back in South Dakota. And his earthly life ended in South Dakota. I guess you could call that trip that he took with his sons his “farewell tour.”
Yes, Del loved farming. Even out here in Washington these past 48 years he couldn’t keep his hands out of the dirt. That story about his famous sweet corn was a new one to me. But I was well aware of his backyard gardening skills here in Marysville.
Our Lord Jesus was not a farmer. He was a carpenter by trade. But there was agriculture all around him. As he traveled and taught his disciples, he often used images of fields and farmers and vineyards and vinedressers.
Besides all that, as the Creator of all things, Jesus certainly understood how things grow. You take a grain of wheat and bury it in the ground. It appears to be dead. It’s just a seed inside a husk. But in this dying of sorts, it bursts forth from the ground and bears much fruit. A new wheat stalk grows with many more grains on its head.
Now, Jesus was not giving us a lesson in farming here. He was talking about his own death and resurrection. Jesus Christ is that grain of wheat that fell into the earth and died. He died on the cross to pay for the sins of the world...for Del’s sins, for your sins, for my sins. The Bible says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) But then it goes on to say that Jesus became an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. What does that mean? It means he lived the perfect life that you and I could never live. And it means that his death was the perfect price that you and I could never pay. And all who trust in his saving death are forgiven and given the gift of eternal life. The Bible says, “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
After Jesus died, his body...like a seed...was planted inside a tomb. And like a seed that has been planted in the ground, bursting forth with new life, ready for the harvest, so also did Jesus rise to life again on Easter morning. Jesus is the firstfruit of the harvest. When the first of the harvest arrives, you know that there’s more to come. The same goes for the resurrection of Jesus. The fruit of his body that burst forth from the tomb will indeed bear much more fruit...the fruit of all who will one day rise to eternal life because they trusted in Jesus in this life. And Del is included in that number. Even now, he is enjoying life everlasting in heaven with his Savior Jesus. And his body that was planted into the ground this morning will also burst forth from the grave when Jesus comes back again on the Last Day, just as he promised: “An hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out.” (John 5:28)
After all that farm talk, Jesus kind of switches gears. He goes on to say, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”
Because of his faith in Jesus, Del “hated” his life in this world. Now, that doesn’t mean he didn’t love the gifts that God had given him. He certainly did...his wife, his children, his country, his friends, even Dude, his dog. That’s another image I’ll always have of Del, by the way...I’d be driving to the office in the morning, and I’d see Del taking Dude for a walk...or was it Dude taking Del for a walk? He most definitely loved those gifts that God had given him. He loved you. More than once I saw him get a little misty eyed when he talked about Lucille and his children and his grandchildren. But when Jesus says to “hate” your life, he means to acknowledge that you are a sinner, to trust in him for forgiveness, and with God’s help to put everything second to him. By God’s grace, Del did that. He and Lucille faithfully came to church every Sunday...even in their times of weakness. They came and confessed their sins, trusting that they were forgiven “for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter suffering and death of [God’s] beloved Son, Jesus Christ.” They heard God’s Word of absolution where God uses the pastor’s mouth to say, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And they received Jesus’ invitation to come often to eat and drink his very body and blood as the sign and seal of his grace and forgiveness.
By God’s grace, Del will keep his life for eternal life. By God’s grace, Del served his Lord by serving his wife, his family, and his church. Jesus said, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, my servant will be also. If anyone serves me, my Father will honor him.” And so, Del is with Jesus right now. And he is honored not because of the things he did, but because of all the things that God did in and through Del, especially because he was brought to faith in Jesus as his Savior. The Bible says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
My prayer for you...and I’m sure it would be Del’s, too...is that his life and example would serve as a kind of seed for you. Jesus planted the seed of faith in Del’s heart. The way he lived his life was the evidence of that seed that was planted there and that bore much fruit. May the Word of God that you have heard today plant the seed of faith in your heart, too...or cultivate the seed that is already there...so that you, too, can bear the fruit of faith in Jesus as your Savior, follow Jesus, and be with Jesus when your last hour comes, too.