Funeral of Arnold Viebrock

Readings: Psalm 23, Job 19:23-27, 1 John 3:1-3, John 14:1-6, 19

Watch the entire service here. (The audio of the sermon is above).

      Dear family and friends of Arnold Viebrock:  Grace mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

      Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” These are comforting words. Here we have our Lord and Savior recognizing that our hearts do get troubled and then He tells us that we have no need to be so troubled. After all, He’s our Good Shepherd. He’ll take care of us. He knows our need and well provides us. He loves us everyday the same, even calls us by our names (drawn from “I am Jesus’ Little Lamb).

      Some, however, when they hear anyone, even Jesus, say, “Let not  your hearts be troubled,” they find little comfort. Perhaps they have heard too many times people offering a false comfort, saying, “It will all be ok” when it is not ok. Some might even say to Jesus, “Easy words for you to say. Look at the struggles we face. Look at the suffering, the uncertainty, the sickness that many are going through. How can our hearts not be troubled?”      

      Or look at those who cannot see their loved ones due to the lockdown. Arnold did not get to spend his last Christmas or Thanksgiving with family. That was hard on him and it is hard on all who are going through these heartbreaking ordeals.

      And look at why we are gathered here today in church on a snowy Wednesday morning. A loved one has died. How can our hearts not be troubled?

      Jesus then explains. Believe in Him. Don’t be troubled. In His Father’s house there are many rooms. Jesus Himself is going to prepare a place for you—a place for Arnold—a place for all who abide in Christ. He was telling His disciples that He is about to depart and go to the Father and prepare homes in Heaven for all Christians to dwell.

      Arnold believed in Jesus. He was a great and talented man. People knew him to be kind, honest, and fair. He was a talented woodworker. He helped steer many people in the right direction. He touched the hearts of many through his selfless service to the school and the community. He was very active in the education of the young in our church.

      I really could give lots of specific examples of Arnold’s kindness that I experienced, but Arnold was not a man who liked to focus on himself. Yet, he was certainly honored by having the Activity Center named after him and being admitted into the Minutemen Hall of Fame. And honestly, Arnold wanted the funeral sermon to be about Christ’s saving work for Arnold, instead of Arnold’s amazing achievements.

      For as nice as he was, Arnold’s niceness was not sufficient to get him to Heaven. That’s why Jesus says, “Believe in Me.” And as talented as Arnold was, he did not possess the ability to believe. You see, faith is not a man’s work. The Bible teaches that we were once dead in our sins and trespasses (Eph. 2:1). The dead cannot make themselves live. And so God must come to us and enliven us in faith.

      And God did just that when Arnold was brought to the waters of Holy Baptism. God continued to work saving faith in Arnold through the Word of God. Because Arnold knew his sin and his own inability to save himself, Arnold came to church every Sunday to hear the Word, he faithfully attended Bible study, and he loved Christ and His Word so much that he taught many children here the saving message of Jesus and his cross.

      When Arnold could no longer attend services here, the Church came to him. Arnold requested Holy Communion every week. And who am I as God’s servant to prevent him from having this very pious and Christian request? So, I gladly made the weekly drive to Higginsville to bring the Gospel to Arnold and feed him the Body and Blood of Jesus.

      For Jesus said, “The way you know.” Isn’t that the truth about Arnold? He knew the way. He knew the way was not through the wonderful things he did in this life. He knew the way wasn’t through his good intentions. Instead, the way is through Jesus.

      I certainly would have enjoyed more years of seeing Arnold every week. He was so caring. He always asked how I’m doing. He would always ask if my family and everyone at church are ok. He sent cards to countless people. He made sure we take our vitamins (ok, what he called vitamins were actually Hershey’s Kisses). He touched so many people through His teaching and administrative work at the school. He loved his students and was respected by them. He was very supportive and encouraging.

      You all have many more memories of Arnold and his caring ways and words.

      We will miss him. Perhaps your hearts are troubled. Maybe you did not get to say the goodbye that you wanted to say to him. Maybe there are other cares in this life that are weighing you down.

      The way you know. Follow Arnold’s steps. Hear with great joy the saving Word of Christ. Go to the Lord’s House to hear Christ. Learn His Word. Pray. Receive Holy Communion. That is the way to life. For Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

      Jesus spoke these comforting words on Maundy Thursday. He was preparing His disciples for His death. He is about to die and go to His Father. He is letting His disciples know how to also join Him in Paradise.

      So Jesus certainly knows what it is like to live in unprecedented times. Look at the time He lived in. The world was so angry with Him that they crucified Jesus—the Son of God!

      Those who still loved Jesus witnessed horrific crimes committed against Jesus as He was betrayed by Judas, arrested by men who came with torches and lanterns and weapons, brought to a kangaroo court, flogged, and crucified on the cross.

      Yet, the Lord said something unexpected to the disciples as He comforted them prior to His arrest. He said, “Because I live, you also will live.” What? He’s preparing them for the troubling event of witnessing His crucifixion and yet He says He will live. And not only will He live, but He is also promising the gift of life to you.

      You see, our Lord’s life did not end with His death. As final as death may appear to be, it is not final at all. For our Lord is risen. Our Redeemer lives. He has triumphed over sin, death, and the grave. He lives. And He grants life to us.

      Arnold is not dead, but sleeping. His soul is with the Lord. He has received the crown of everlasting life. He rests from his labors. He no longer endures the hardships of this life. He is with the Lord.

      We are about to go to the cemetery where Arnold’s body will be placed in the grave, tucked in for a short rest. His body now awaits the return of Christ when Jesus will raise all the dead and give to Arnold and all who believe in Him the gift of eternal life.

      That’s right. Arnold’s body will rise. His body and soul will be reunited on the Last Day when God acquits Arnold of all sin. Arnold’s time in the grave is temporary. But his time with the Lord is eternal.

      This also means that time of our separation from Arnold is also temporary. It may seem like forever, but Jesus is faithful to His promises. Arnold certainly does live, as He said. Arnold and Martha are together again in Paradise. And the way you know.

      God be with each of you as you take comfort in Christ’s resurrection and the eternal life granted to Arnold. Amen.

      The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen.