Lessons: Job 19:23-27, Revelation 7:9-17, Matthew 6:24-34
Hymns: LSB 570, 537, 770, 461
Dear family and friends of Lester Luehrs: Grace mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” This is the verse that was given to Lester when he was confirmed at our church when it was on 14th and Franklin in 1953.
This is a promise given by our Savior, Jesus. Even on a day like today when we are burying a loved one, we can rejoice in that God keeps His promises.
I’m sure you can think of times when you did not follow through with something you said you would do, or when you deliberately broke a promise you made. Despite our inability to keep all our promises, God keeps all His.
The first promise personally given to Lester by God was when he was added to God’s family through Holy Baptism on April 21, 1940, when he was just a few weeks old. God promises that whoever believes and is baptized will be saved (Mark 16:16). For the next 81 years, God continued to fulfill the promises He made to Lester. In his Baptism, Lester was united to Christ’s death and resurrection; Lester died to sin and rose to newness of life. In fact, Jesus clothed Lester with His very righteousness and promised to never leave Lester nor forsake him.
God fulfilled these promises. Because faith is not an act of the human will but is worked by God the Holy Spirit, we can be confident that Lester’s faith was sustained all his days, even when he was unable to articulate the faith. Just as he had faith upon his Baptism and would later learn to express it, so also God continued to sustain faith in Lester all his days. What a blessing! And what a promise fulfilled by our merciful Lord!
Faith is not something God grants once and then becomes a lifelong possession. It is possible for faith to shrivel up and fade away. To prevent that, God establishes churches for God’s children to keep on hearing the Word and receive the blessings and promises of Christ. For Lester, he learned the Christian faith throughout childhood and confirmed his faith here at Grace. He continued to hear the Word at our church and took an active role in our congregation, serving many offices over the years. In recent years, he seemed to be an unofficial greeter, getting to church early, greeting people in the narthex as they arrived. Afterward, he approached many people to greet them. Friendly and sporting a smile. Might I even say his smile sometimes sported a bit of a menacing, but well-meaning, look?
That, of course, extended outside the Church, too. He enjoyed visiting with people around town and especially at the Margaret Gray Center. It seemed like he went out of his way to greet me and my family whenever he saw us, and I’m sure he did the same for each of you. His smile and happy demeanor are unforgettable.
It’s almost as if he had not a care in the world, as if he was able to follow his Confirmation verse quite well. In that passage, Jesus is teaching us not to be anxious or filled with worry. God knows we need food, water, and clothing, so He will provide them. If God can take care of the smallest sparrow, He will also take care of all humans, whom He has given souls and whom Jesus has redeemed.
Lester embodied this reality when he was willing to give a kidney to preserve the life of his sister. It demonstrates his love and compassion he had for others.
God not only takes care of the needs of the body, but also the needs of the soul. He sent Jesus to pay for our sins on the cross so that all who call upon His name will be received in the gates of Paradise. We heard a glimpse of Heaven in our reading from Revelation. There is a multitude which no one can number who came from all places around the globe. They are arrayed in white, cleansed by the Blood of the Lamb of God. Their tears of hardship and sorrow have been wiped away. Christ, the Lamb, is in their midst as their Shepherd, who is guiding them to springs of living water. Christ Jesus, who died on the cross to take away the sins of the world, rose bodily from the dead the third day at His glorious resurrection. He fulfilled the promise made to the disciples when He said to them, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me” (John 16:16). Christ is risen, and so eternal life is granted to all who believe in Him.
This is what God prepared Lester in this life to receive in the life to come. When we know we will receive these blessings, we can in confidence and refrain from worry or anxiety. God will take care of us. He did that for Lester. God was with those who worked with Lester these last few years as the effects of age set in. God was with Lester, fulfilling His promise to him. And now we rejoice Lester is with God. He is with Virginia again. All hardship is gone. He will be tucked in to await the glorious resurrection. And when Jesus returns, Lester’s body will be raised from the dead. He will live eternally. He will be perfect in every way. And all who abide in Christ will receive the same blessing.
For God fulfills His promises. Every prophecy concerning the first coming of Christ was fulfilled when Jesus was born in Bethlehem and went to the cross in Jerusalem to take away the world’s sin. Surely then, every prophecy concerning Christ’s return to Judgment will also be fulfilled.
What will Lester’s verdict be? Will he be forced to answer for all the things he did wrong? The answer is clear. Lester is a Christian, a child of God. He has received the very righteousness of Christ. His sins are taken away. And so, the verdict Jesus will render to Lester is “Not Guilty.” Lester will be declared innocent for that is the status all Christians enjoy before God. Christ Jesus was held guilty in Lester’s place so that Christ will uphold Lester as innocent before our Father in Heaven.
From this, we can see why we should seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. God only grants us blessings through it, and we lose nothing.
That’s not to say we cannot enjoy things in this life. Lester enjoyed watching sports games, being physically active, spending time with family and friends, volunteering at Habitat for Humanity and at Church, and his pickup truck. Let’s enjoy these and many other gifts from God as we also take comfort in the blessings and promises of God.
As we are about to go to the cemetery to bury Lester’s remains, we will shed tears. The separation caused by death is painful, and we’re never really prepared to say goodbye. It seems so final. We fight to live, and we long to see loved ones who now rest in peace. We grieve. Our hearts get full of sorrow.
But in your weeping, know that God is still fulfilling His promises. He fulfilled it for Job who wanted to see with his own eyes Christ, our Redeemer who lives. Job remained faithful and entered the gates of Paradise. God fulfilled His promises made to Lester and saved him so that he is now part of that multitude in Heaven arrayed in white.
And God also grants these same blessings to you. So “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen.