Lessons: Psalm 23, Job 19:23-27, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, John 14:1-6
Hymns: LSB 461, 718, 363
Dear family and friends of Eddie: Grace mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
When Eddie was confirmed in Germany, he received these words as his Confirmation verse: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” This is such a fitting passage for Eddie; wonderful words to help carry him through his earthly life unto life everlasting. This passage of Scripture found in 1 Thessalonians is also excellent for us to consider as we prepare to tuck Eddie’s body in his place of rest to await the glorious resurrection of all flesh when Christ Jesus returns on the Last Day.
Many would probably say Eddie followed his Confirmation verse rather well. “Rejoice always.” He usually sported quite a smile and a jolly demeanor. Most who met him would say he was filled with joy. I certainly saw him as joyful when being in the house of the Lord on Sundays and Christmas.
“Pray without ceasing.” Eddie was a lifelong Christian, being born on the second day of Christmas in 1931 and baptized into Christ on the twelfth day of Christmas when he was ten days old. Perhaps being a Christmas baby explains why Stille Nacht (Silent Night) is his favorite hymn, which we will sing at the close of this service. Because he was a lifelong Christian, he devoted himself to prayer. I never witnessed his personal devotional life or prayer life, but he certainly prayed when he was at church, I’m sure he prayed without ceasing when his life was in danger during the War, and his family spoke of how he was often found praying, day and night at his home.
“Give thanks in all circumstances.” Eddie also had many reasons to give thanks. After all, the Lord preserved Eddie through the awful things that he experienced during the War, brought him to a new beginning here in America, gave him a wonderful family, and blessed him with many opportunities to be of service to his neighbor. Above all, he was redeemed by Christ Jesus his Savior, who went to the cross to pay for his sins and grant him the gift of eternal life. So even when life is filled with crosses and trials, when the future seems bleak in this life, or when one is suffering immensely, one can continue to give thanks for he is a child of God—shepherded by Christ—who will be received into God’s eternal kingdom.
As a pastor, I have had the privilege of meeting many different people throughout my ministry. I have been especially interested in those who persevered during the most challenging of times. I have met several who survived the war in Europe. All lived with scars. But none that I met endured more than Eddie, who was forced into Hitler’s youth army at the age of 12, supplied ammunition to German soldiers as the Russians were capturing Berlin when he was 14, at times went days without eating, and was not treated well by his Russian liberators. What he endured certainly brought about lasting scars for him. The trials most of us face in our lives today pale in comparison to what Eddie endured.
No wonder, then, he in his freedom here in America could “rejoice always.” How good his life was here in Lexington as he owned his own businesses, worked hard, and served the community. In addition, Eddie could rejoice that he is set free by Christ who would liberate him from the scars of the past, wipe aways all tears from his eyes, and give him eternal life with his Savior and Good Shepherd.
Many live life without hope in Christ. They figure God is uninvolved and uninterested—perhaps thinking they are a result of evolutionary chance. They don’t know how Christ Jesus was promised to Adam and Eve after they sinned, that Jesus would take away the sins of the world at God’s appointed time, and that He would grant the gift of eternal life to all who trust in Him. Instead, they look to the fleeting things of this life to bring them joy, they fill their homes with incredible amounts of stuff, and figure all is over when they die. This is such a sad outlook that plagues our modern society and way of thinking.
But consider the true blessings we have in Christ. God created the Heavens and the Earth. He made a world without sin and suffering, without hurt and hunger, without danger and death. He made a world that is good. But then sin entered the world when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. With sin came corruption of all things, along with death. But God promised to Adam and Eve a Savior who would be born of a virgin who would defeat the effects of sin and Satan. Later, God prophesied that the Savior would be born in Bethlehem and that Jesus would suffer and die, being held accountable for the sins of all people of all time, and that He would rise from the dead, bringing life and immortality to light. Jesus, bearing the sin of the world, would shed His innocent Blood as the payment for all sin.
This means Jesus atoned for my sin, Eddie’s sins and faults, and even the sins of those who caused so much pain to Eddie. Those who repent of their sin and believe in their Savior Jesus receive the benefits of our Lord’s death and resurrection. They are set free from their own sins and the filth inflicted upon them by others. And they are declared God’s children, redeemed by Christ, holy, and acceptable to Heaven.
Eddie was faithful in his church attendance. He was here Sunday after Sunday because he loved Jesus who redeemed him. He wanted to ensure that he would be received into Heaven. He came to church so that his faith would be sustained by God the Holy Spirit and to receive the Body and Blood of Christ for his forgiveness. If you want to go to where Eddie is, you will do the same.
Even though Eddie was cleansed of all sin he committed and was even cleansed of the pollution put upon him by others, he still lived with the effects of sin. He certainly had scars from his past—scars that many would not see as they saw his joyful smile and thankful appearance. But now our dear Eddie has breathed his last and his soul has been received in the gates of Paradise. His body will be laid in the grave to await the glorious return of Christ Jesus who will raise his body from the dead in perfection. When Jesus comes back, He will raise all the dead and give to all who believed in Christ the gift of eternal life. At the resurrection, there will be no sin or sorrow, no tears of sadness, and no Satan to trick or deceive. All will be good.
We rejoice that Eddie is now with the Lord. And we look forward to our Lord’s second coming in which all things will be made new. God will restore creation to perfection.
Because these promises are sure and certain, we live our lives in hope, anticipating our Lord’s glorious return. As we grieve the death of our loved one, we are allowed to shed tears from the pain we feel from our separation from Eddie. But as we go to the Lord’s altar to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, we do so with angels and archangels and all the company of Heaven. We commune with Eddie and with all who died in the Christian faith. What a joy!
And so we “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
God bless you and may He grant you His peace. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen.