Funeral of Gordon Wright

Lessons: Psalm 23, Psalm 121, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, Romans 8:28-39, John 10:7-18
Hymns: LSB 461, 537, 744, 878

Listen to the entire service here (the sermon alone is above).

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

      My normal practice for a funeral is to focus on the Confirmation Verse of the one who died. By focusing on a Bible verse, we are reminded that our only hope and our salvation is found in Christ our Lord—the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep. The Confirmation Verse is normally given by the Pastor when a youth is confirmed. The verse is carefully chosen, and it is hoped that this verse will be considered, reflected, and meditated upon throughout the individual’s life.

      Gordon, however, did not receive a Confirmation Verse, which is normal for adults who are confirmed. His journey to being a confident, committed Christian was not the usual path. Born in St. Louis, his family attended the Methodist Church. When he was 5, his family moved to Lexington. When he was 12 or 13 years old, he was attending the Presbyterian Church here in Lexington because his friends were attending there. He learned about Baptism. His parents couldn’t remember if he had been baptized so Gordon was baptized into Christ, being clothed in Christ, and adopted into God’s family.

      Such a remarkable desire for a youth of his age! To be baptized. When we are baptized, we die to sin and rise to newness of life. God applies to us the forgiveness of sins earned by our Savior, Jesus, who paid for our sins by dying in our place on the cross.

      Not long later, Gordon set his sights on Jeneane, and you could say the rest is history. Married on the great day of Epiphany at the age of 17 at the parents’ home, they were blessed with 66 years together. God blessed them with five children. Before the last one was born (between LeeAnn and Melissa), Gordon, under the instruction of Pastor Kleindienst, confirmed his Christian faith. He was received into full communicant membership at this congregation. And ever since, Gordon has remained a member in this Church. I’ve known him to be active, concerned, and interested in the activities of our church.

      I visited Gordon twice during his final days which he spent in the Lexington Hospital. Of course, he displayed his usual levity with the nurses, giving them a hard time and blessing them with laughter. He had things to say about some current events and decisions made by those in all levels of government. But he also got quite serious. Perhaps he was considering his eternal future. Gordon said something that I don’t often hear. He said something like, “In all my years, there is something I have never doubted. I never doubted God.” As many of you know, Gordon faced many health issues in recent years. The challenges he faced would put to trial the faith of many people. Yet Gordon never doubted God. He knew and trusted in the sure and certain promises of God.

      After all, the Bible says, “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4). I certainly observed that with Gordon. His hope—his confidence—rested in Christ his merciful Savior. He never doubted the treasures he had in Christ. After all, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep. Jesus really did go to the cross to pay for the sins of the world and open the gates of Heaven to all who believe. We heard in Romans 8 that nothing separates us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Not death or life, not angels or rulers. Not even tribulation or distress. Nothing can separate us from His love.

      It is this love that motivated the Father to send His only-begotten Son to die for us. It is love that motivated the Son to send the Holy Spirit to guide us into the way of faith. It is love that still motivates God to teach us God’s Word, bring us into His family through Baptism, and shepherd us until we reach the green pastures and still waters of Paradise.

      God has granted this blessed gift to His servant Gordon. While we all would have loved to hear Gordon’s jokes, his commentary on just about anything, or just to be in his presence for several more years, God has seen it fit to allow Gordon to rest from his labors. There is for everything, after all, a season and a time for every matter under heaven: even a time to be born, and a time to die” (Eccl. 3:1-2).

      We will cherish our memories of Gordon. In doing so, we will find ourselves weeping over the great pain his death has caused. The anguish and the hurt that we feel is normal, and it is part of the grieving process. I’m sure Gordon wouldn’t want you to put any fuss over him, but the pain his death brings demonstrates the love you have for him, and the many ways he impacted your lives with his love.

      Death hurts. It is not what God intended when He created this world. For God originally made a perfect creation. All was good. Because there was no sin, there was no death. But sin destroyed that blessed life.

      And thanks be to God, Christ Jesus has defeated sin and death. In fact, He cancelled out our sin and swallowed death up in victory. And when Jesus returns on the great day of Judgment, He will make all things new. Jesus will judge all believers in Him to be righteous, and He will grant them eternal life. He will raise the bodies of all who have died and will grant to believers an eternity of perfection. As Christians, we will dwell forever with our risen, perfected bodies. There will be no suffering, no pain, and no death. All will be good. And our joy will never end.

      When we realize these blessings can be ours for free by God’s grace, how can we not but have the confidence Gordon had? Even in our tears, as we suffer the great pain Gordon’s death has caused, we remain confident and steadfast. We know God uses all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). We press on till our rest is won.

      We will close today’s service by singing “Abide with Me.” In the final stanza we will sing, “Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes.” That’s the point of coming to church and even Christian funerals. That the cross of Christ may be held before our eyes. That way we can depart in peace for our own eyes have the salvation which God has prepared in the sight of every people (Luke 2:29-32). The cross is held before our eyes to teach us that Jesus died to take away our sin and atone for our sin. He rose to grant us everlasting life. Because He lives, so does Gordon and all who call upon the name of the Lord. May God grant this blessing to you, too. Amen.

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