Monday, July 17, 2017

Funeral Sermon for Charles L. Gralewski: "Life in Jesus' Word"

+ Funeral Service for Charles Louis Gralewski: November 4, 1936 – July 1, 2017 +
Isaiah 43:1-3, 25; Romans 5:1-11; John 3:16-18
Redeemer Lutheran, HB

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

For Chuck, words were his life. Like the prophet Isaiah and the apostle Paul, Chuck spent many years preaching and teaching God’s Word. In his 43 years of sales he used words as he served others in the food industry. And he never tired of reading and studying God’s word, whether it was something from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or inwardly digesting God’s Word in the book of Romans.

More recently, he shared his love and joy of words with Audrey in their daily life together, their love of receiving God’s Word together, and their conversations and adventures to Hawaii, among many other places. And of course, Chuck’s unforgettable, joyous words of greeting, “Hey, brother!”

Yes, Chuck had a love and joy of words. And yet, as great as these words were, God’s Word was his greatest joy.

That’s because he believed, taught, and confessed, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, that “There is no human word of comfort strong enough to those who have been afflicted by death. It is God’s own word alone which helps us to the right vision of things and which gives us a brave and quiet heart in such troubled times.”[1]

In life and in death, God’s Word was Chuck’s life. The Scripture readings we hear today proclaim God’s salvation, promise, comfort, and life that belongs to Chuck, and to each of you, in his Word. 

God’s Word calls us by name, just as he did Chuck. By water and the Word, God placed his saving name - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – upon Chuck in Holy Baptism, as he does in your Baptism. As the Lord created and formed us in the womb giving us earthly life, so too, he creates and forms us to be his children giving us eternal life in body and soul in those blessed baptismal waters. In Baptism you are, as Chuck is, a new creation in Christ. As the prophet Isaiah declares to Chuck and to you: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

God’s Word calls also us to a life of repentance of our sin while revealing our Savior from sin in Jesus, just as St. Paul declares in Romans 5:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 

Chuck knew that God’s word had plenty to say about our sin; that it separates us from God and from each other; that the wages of sin is death; that we indeed are great sinners. But he also knew that God’s Word had even more to say about our salvation in Jesus, a Savior greater than our sin. A Savior who took our weakness, failures, sin, and death upon himself. The cross is the path to victory. The cross is his triumph over suffering [and our sin and death] (Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship, p. 92).

For Chuck, and for you, “God is a God who bears. The Son of God bore our flesh, he bore the cross, he bore our sins, thus making atonement for us. In the same way, his followers are also called upon to bear…and that is precisely what it means to be a Christian” (Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship, 92).

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

This was the confession Chuck made at his confirmation, throughout his life, and at the end of his life. God’s Word gave Chuck life.

And yet, that is not the end of God’s promises for Chuck or you. God’s Word will continue to be Chuck’s life as well. As God’s Word declares in John 3:

God loved the world in this manner, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 

God’s Word is eternal life for Chuck and you as well. For God’s Word is unlike any other word. I may command the lights to turn on but they won’t; I may yell at the stoplight or the referees on TV but it won’t turn green any faster and the ref won’t reverse their call because of my word. But God’s Word, on the other hand, well, his Word does what he promises. God’s Word says let there be light; God’s Word calms the storms, heals paralytics, and raises the dead. And it happens. Jesus speaks and gives life to Chuck and to you.

God’s Word is Chuck’s life and yours yesterday and today…but also tomorrow and every day after, even to eternity.

God’s Word and promise of eternal life is the hope that Chuck died in, and the Word that will raise him and all the faithful in Christ on the Last Day. Everything Jesus did, he did for Chuck, and for you. He died to set you free from sin and death. He rose so that in him you will rise again. And just as the Lord called Lazarus forth from his tomb by his Word, so too, he will call Chuck and each of us from death to life…by his Word.

To quote Bonhoeffer once more…“The fact that Jesus Christ died is more important than the fact that I shall die, and the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead is the sole ground of my hope that I, too, shall be raised on the Last Day…I find no salvation in my life history, but only in the history of Jesus Christ…Only in the Holy Scriptures do we learn to know our own history.”[2]

This is our hope and comfort. We live our life together under the Word of the cross awaiting with our dear brother Chuck, and all who rest from their labors, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, that great and glorious endless day. And in the meantime, God speaks and delivers his strength, healing, and life in his Word; hope, comfort, and salvation in God’s Word; pardon, peace, and promise in God’s Word.

God’s Word is Chuck’s life, and yours - today, and always.

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

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, vol. 13, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007, p. 409.

[2] Bonhoeffer, Life Together, NY: Harper Collins, 1954, p. 54.

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