Funeral of Larry “Corky” Nienhiser

Lessons: Isaiah 25:6-9, 2 Peter 3:8-18, John 3:1-17
Hymns: LSB 673, 575, 490

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

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

      God the Holy Spirit inspired St. Peter to write these words in 2 Peter 3:18, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen.” This is Larry’s Confirmation verse.

      Many of you know Larry to be Cork or Corky. He told me when he started his veterinary practice, he chose to use his given name instead of his nickname, a decision he said he wish he hadn’t done. I will use Larry primarily because that is the name by which he was called at his Baptism, when the name of our Triune God was placed upon him, and he was added to the holy family of God.

      I’ve only known Larry for six years, which is a small portion of the 83 years God blessed him with life here on Earth. He was bright, accomplished, well-liked, and above all, Christian. For two decades, our community relied on him to take care of our animals. Our church relied on him to faithfully serve as Treasurer for many years. It was rare for two weeks to go by without Larry stopping by at church to run errands or perform various tasks. When doing so, we would visit for a few minutes, or even an hour. There’s so much to fondly remember. No doubt he will be missed by family and many friends. Your memories of Larry will continue to live on.

      When God added Larry to His family through the waters of Holy Baptism, God declared Larry to be a holy one—a saint—covered in the very righteousness of Christ. If Larry tried to live a saintly life, he still would have fallen short, for we all sin and we all have inherited the sin committed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

      That’s why God sent His only begotten Son. Jesus was lifted up on the cross to take away the world’s sin. He bore the sin of the world in His body. Jesus shed His innocent Blood as the payment for our sin. Through Christ, we are reconciled to our Father in Heaven. In Christ, we have access to Heaven.

      It is this message that Larry relied upon throughout his days. His Confirmation verse is fitting: “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Many think that Confirmation is like graduation. Once you’re confirmed, then you know what you need to know and can pretty much move on with that chapter in life. Larry did not stop growing at his Confirmation or at his various graduations. He continued to learn. He seemed to enjoy new challenges. It was fascinating to watch him continue to learn more tricks in Excel as Treasurer and was looking forward to fiber Internet coming to his home. Most professionals need to continue taking classes. I have no idea what classes Larry took to keep on advancing his skills with veterinary science, but I do know that he took classes at church to keep learning the Word of God. In addition to reading theology, he attended our two weekly Bible studies. As Martin Luther put it, “Christians—especially pastors… should… steadily keep on reading, teaching, learning, pondering, and meditating on the Catechism [Ten Commandments, Creed, and Lord’s Prayer]. And they should not stop until they have tested and are sure that they have taught the devil to death, and have become more learned than God Himself and all His saints.” (LC Preface 19). What Luther is saying is that we never get to the point where we can stop growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

      A man as bright as Larry remained a student, listening attentively to the Word as it was preached and taught in the Divine Service and Bible Study. Perhaps above all others in our congregation, Larry regularly talked to me about my preaching and teaching, highlighting what he found interesting and sometimes offering helpful criticism. Also, I was looking at some of our church attendance records from last year. Just five members had perfect attendance here. Larry was one of them.

      Does this mean he earned his way to heaven? Or does this make him “holier than thou?” By no means. The only way he can get to Heaven is by grace through faith in Jesus. And he is not better than the next. Instead, he would readily admit his condition—that he’s a sinner and the only way to eternal life is through Christ. So, Larry came to the place where Jesus meets sinners, absolves sinners, teaches sinners, and feeds sinners His Body and Blood. That way, Larry would continue to stand in the grace of God, grow in faith, be forgiven, and receive eternal life.

      Today is a sad day as we consider the reality that death has separated us from our loved one. But today is also a joyful day for we know that Larry has gone to be with the Lord. In our grieving, we can take comfort in the hope we have in Jesus Christ. After all, Christ is risen! Death could not contain Jesus in the grave. Satan had no power over Him. On the third day, Jesus rose victoriously from the grave.

      This victory is given to all who abide in Christ. It may seem so final when we bring Larry’s body to the cemetery for burial. We know that we will not see him again in this life. But, in the life to come—when we join all the saints in Heaven—we will be with our loved ones again.

      And it gets even better. Just as Jesus rose from the dead, so will all people who have ever lived. When Jesus returns on the Last Day, He will raise the dead, and all who abided in Christ will be raised to eternal life. Larry’s own body will be raised in perfection. His soul, which is now with the Lord, will be reunited to his perfect body. And he will live forever with Christ and all the saints on the new earth in which righteousness will dwell. What joys await us! What marvelous hope we have in Christ! What blessings God grants to sinners. This shall be our confidence!

      Psalm 23 speaks of these blessings in the midst of trial. Christ Jesus is our Good Shepherd. He leads us in the paths of righteousness. He comforts us. Goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives. Yet, we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Jesus must use His rod and staff on us. Enemies of the Gospel will oppose us. But “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” for we know “that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:37-39).

      With this confidence in Christ—knowing that Jesus has triumphed—believing in the hope of eternal life, I commend all you who grieve Larry’s death to our Lord’s gracious keeping. God is with you. The forgiveness Jesus earned for all on the cross is yours by grace through faith. The hope of a happy reunion in Heaven awaits you.

      God bless you all as you take comfort in Christ’s resurrection and the eternal life granted all who abide in the saving Word of Christ. Amen.            

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