Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Funeral Sermon: "The Good Fight"

+ In Memoriam: Tom Brannon, October 18th, 1940 – June 17th, 2014 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Isaiah 25:6-9; 1 Cor. 15:51-57; John 11:17-27

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Anyone who knew Tom knew he was a fighter. Whether you knew him for a shorter time (like myself) or a longer time (like good friends and family). Now, Tom wasn’t the sort that picked the fights like a school yard bully. No, the Lord gave Tom a quiet, yet stubborn strength.

He fought hard for his education and working his way through the business world.

He fought hard at his daily work for the sake of his customers, fellow colleagues, and especially his beloved family.

He fought hard to protect and support his family; and really, what man with three daughters wouldn’t!

Later in life he fought health issues: two heart surgeries, rehab, hospitalization, medication, chemo, and lung surgery.

Throughout life he fought and wrestled – as we all do – with his old sinful nature. But he did so knowing the whole time that the outcome of that battle had already been decided long ago – first on the cross where Christ paid for all Tom’s sins and yours; and then again in the font of Holy Baptism, where Tom and all God’s people are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. Tom knew that his sin was dead and buried and washed away forever in the blood of Jesus, shed for him and for you.

Yes, Tom was a fighter all right. But to the outside, and unobservant eye, today it might appear that death has won, that Tom found a fight he couldn’t win. It appears that we’re no match for death. But the joke is on the world and the devil too. Yes, the sting of death is sin. But in Jesus, Death doesn’t get the last word. Death doesn’t win.

Jesus’ death destroyed death. Jesus’ death destroyed Tom’s death and yours. Jesus died for Tom, and for you, and for all – so that when the Last Enemy of death comes and stares us coldly in the face, each of us can look at Death in the eye and say, you lose. Jesus wins. And in Jesus, so do I. Death you cannot end my gladness; I am baptized into Christ.

O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting? You are weak, powerless, and empty. Jesus has died my death, Tom’s death, your death. And in Jesus’ death, death is swallowed up in victory. Mt. Calvary is the mountain Isaiah was talking about where Tom’s death and yours and mine, is swallowed up forever in Jesus’ cross.

Yes, Tom was a fighter. But it wasn’t Tom’s fighting that kept him alive throughout life’s battles. It was Christ who fought for Tom, fought to the death to redeem him. That’s why Tom would be the first to admit that his strength was not his own; it was a gift. For Tom knew that outside of Christ he had no strength. Tom knew that Jesus was the source and sustenance of his daily strength, in body and soul, at home, at work, with the family.

As good of a fighter as Tom was, he knew that there is One stronger. And he would want us to know that there is One whose strength is made perfect in weakness and suffering on the cross and whose strength is made perfect in the weakness and suffering of the crosses we bear. Jesus fought for Tom and He is stronger than any surgery or cancer, stronger than our heart which is so frail. Jesus is stronger even than death itself.

That’s the hope this day and on the day we die. Not that we fight, but that Christ has fought, is fighting daily, and will fight for us. Not in our strength, but in Christ’s, so that in death our comfort lies in him and in his promises:

I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.

Never die. Now, them’s fighting words. That’s the battle cry of the Christian faith. That was Tom’s confession. And may it be yours as well until that great day when our Lord calls forth the trumpets and the dead in Christ rise, Tom and all the saints.

God grant us strength and faith in Christ that we might confess with Paul and Tom and all who are in Christ: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.(2 Tim 4)
Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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