Monday, April 25, 2011

Sermon for the Funeral of Harold Goodkind (April 25, 2011)

Wordle: Untitled

“After Easter” (Luke 24:13-36)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, especially to you, dear Claire, Ben, Sandy, Janet, Elaina, and to all family and friends gathered here today.

There are many things I’m going to miss about Harold. I’m going to miss hearing those silly jokes and puns that I regularly heard in Bible Class. They usually didn’t relate to anything that we were talking about, but I still got a kick out of them … not to mention Claire playfully smacking him and saying “Oh, Harold, just be quiet!” I’m going to miss that impish grin and that mischievous chuckle. I’m also going to miss hearing him talk about how much he loved his family. He bragged about all of you every time I visited him … his kids and grandkids and his great-granddaughter whose birth he was hanging in there to see. And 65 years of marriage! How can that not be an inspiration to all of us?

Last week, as Harold’s earthly life was coming to a close, we were getting ready in the church to remember how our Lord’s life came to a close. The day after Harold entered into glory, we came to church and remembered how the Lord Jesus instituted his Holy Supper. Then, on Friday, we commemorated his crucifixion and death for the sins of the world. Saturday we joined together for the Easter Vigil, anticipating the great feast of victory on Sunday morning. And yesterday, we gathered together once again for our annual celebration of our Lord’s resurrection. Our solemn Lenten songs turned into boisterous Easter praise. The Alleluias we had set aside during Lent were restored to our worship and we sang them with all our might. Jesus is alive! The grave could not hold him! And that brings us joy and hope!

Here we are gathered together on the day after Easter for quite a different occasion. It feels more like Good Friday for you than Easter.

Your feelings at this time are probably not all that different from the feelings of those disciples on the road to Emmaus in the reading we heard a few moments ago. It was later in the day immediately after that first Easter. They were hurting. Their master was gone. They were confused. They had heard the rumors about the empty tomb and the angels, but they weren’t so sure about it all. Perhaps they were angry, too. They expected this mighty prophet and miracle worker to be the one who would save Israel from Roman domination. They got on his bandwagon. The placed all their bets on him. But then, he was arrested, put on trial, sentenced to death, and became just another traitor who was executed in the Romans’ favorite fashion.

Like the Emmaus disciples, you are hurting this day after Easter. The sadness you feel can be overwhelming at times. You are confused. Your mind is in a daze. You probably feel numb at times. Even some of the simplest, daily decisions you have to make are a challenge. You’ve heard the good news that Jesus is alive. “But what difference does that good news make in my life right now?” And perhaps you are angry, too. “Why did it have to come to this? Why did Harold leave me? Why did dad have to suffer the way he did?” You and those disciples on the road to Emmaus have much in common.

The most important thing you have in common with those men is this: the Risen Jesus is truly present with you. Jesus walked right along with those disciples. At first, he kept them from recognizing him. And even though you may not realize it or feel it, Jesus is with you right now, too. He is walking right beside you. He has promised, “I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20) … “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). And so you can say right along with the psalmist, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4).

Before Jesus decided to reveal himself to the disciples, he had some further teaching to do. After the men described their doubts about what their friends had told them, Jesus proceeded to explain to them that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and die and then to enter his glory. St. Luke doesn’t give us all of Jesus’ words here. He simply says, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” But you can be sure that Jesus quoted passages like Isaiah 53, for example, which says that “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Is. 53:5) Jesus died with the sins of the world laid upon his shoulders. This was all necessary because our sins had separated us from God. Because of sin, the world is broken, and along with that brokenness comes suffering and death. And so God sent his Son into the world to experience suffering and death for us. Jesus paid the price we owe to God for our sins. Now, through Jesus, our relationship with God is restored. Through faith in his saving death and resurrection, we have the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. Harold confessed that very same faith in his Savior Jesus. Jesus forgave him all his sins. And he is now enjoying life everlasting with his Savior.

The disciples finally recognized Jesus when he was at table with them. Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.

You and I don’t get to see the Risen Jesus before our eyes. But we get to be at table with him when we come to the Lord’s Supper. Here, he gives us his true body to eat and his true blood to drink for the forgiveness of our sins, life, and salvation. Here, we commune with him. And more than that. Here we also join, as we sing in the liturgy, “with angels, and archangels, and with all the company of heaven.” In this life, you are never as close to heaven as you are when you eat and drink Christ’s body and blood. And if you are that close to heaven, then you are also close to your loved ones who have departed in the faith and who are communing face to face with Jesus in eternity.

The Emmaus disciples went and found the Apostles and told them what had happened. At that moment, Jesus appeared again to them all and said, “Peace be with you.” The Risen Jesus speaks peace to troubled hearts. He speaks peace to your troubled hearts today. But Jesus’ words of peace are meant to do more than just calm us down and soothe our anxieties. Jesus brings peace between God and Man because he conquered sin, death, and hell when he rose from the dead. And he shares that victory with us in the water and Word of Holy Baptism.

One of the last times I visited with Harold in the hospital, I asked him how he was doing. He looked at me, and matter-of-factly said, “Bury me.” I told him, “Well, Harold, we’re not quite ready to do that just yet. That timing’s not up to me. We’ll leave that in the Lord’s hands.”

The Lord’s “timing” for Harold was last Wednesday morning. We’ll bury his body this afternoon. But the truth is, Harold was already buried. He was buried with Christ in baptism. St. Paul wrote, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Rom. 6:4-5). In baptism, Harold was united with Jesus in his death and resurrection. Everything that Jesus did in his death – paying the price for sin and earning forgiveness for us – was given to Harold in baptism. And just as Jesus rose again on Easter morning, Harold will also rise to life again on the Last Day. 1 Thessalonians 4 describes that day: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of god. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:16-17).

My prayer for you, this day after Easter, is that all these words you have heard today have encouraged you. The Risen Jesus is present with you to comfort you, to strengthen your faith in him, to give you his peace that passes all understanding, and to assure you that Harold is with his Savior right now. I pray that you will be able to encourage one another with the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life on the Last Day. I pray that, in spite of your Good Friday sorrow, you can still have Easter joy.


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