September 29, 2011
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
David's Confirmation Verse
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord! Psalm 31:24
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ;
You know, I only got to know Curley (and Curley is the only way I will every know him, that's how I was first introduced to him with his full white Santa beard... I think he was even wearing one of those red plaid flannel shirts), I only got to know him for a bit more than three years. It was not long enough. But you know that. Because for you too, it was not long enough. Pat you were married to him forty four years, and that wasn't enough. You brothers and sisters, children, friends, firemen, and military... all of you who knew Curley realize today that it doesn't matter how long it was it wasn't enough. I'll miss him and so will you. You don't get a guy like Curley very often and when you meet one and you call him friend, father, husband, brother or anything else you know you have met someone special. And when death comes it comes too soon.
You all know lots more stories about Curley than I do. And now is a good time to tell them and remember how wonderful it was, what a gift of God he was. The one I like is his retirement flight in the F16 over Lenox. When the jet buzzed main street some folks thought it was an invasion. When they made a low run over his house, windows every where rattled. I love the picture from that day. Curley standing in a flight suit next to the pilot, grinning from ear to ear. In fact I'm not sure which is bigger his smile or the fighter. Now that's taking up eagle's wings!
Another thing I know about Curley is how strong he was. When he and Pat sat in my office a few short months ago and said he had cancer I had no doubt that if anyone could put up a good fight it would be him. When we received the cancer free news it was a day to rejoice. How devastating it was to find out that it was back. And then to be here so soon. And yet, even then, as he was home dying among his family and friends, his airplanes and eagles, there was strength there... to the end. He fit his confirmation verse. "Be strong!" and we are not only talking about physical strength here. His faith was strong. Not in the sense that he depended on himself to get through this fight. He looked to Jesus, especially at the end when his body failed him. He took great comfort in God's saving work for him in Jesus Christ.
There is so much good to say about Curley. And yet, we need to recognize the truth. And the truth is, Curley was a sinner. Of course I'm not saying anything that those of you who knew him didn't know. Especially you who knew him best. You know that more than anyone. He was a good father, but not a perfect one. He was a good husband, but not a perfect one. He was a good friend, but not a perfect one. Curley wasn't any different in this respect that you and me. There were times when he was selfish. There were times when he was unjustly angry. There were times when he wanted nothing to do with God at all. The whole ugly awful truth is, that we are here today because David "Curley" Stream was a sinner. There is no greater proof needed than his body lying before us. This right here is the wages of sin. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that the cancer that killed him was some personal judgment for some evil thing that he did. He hasn't received anything that we don't all deserve because of our sin. God's word is very clear.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23, ESV)
And so, Curley was a sinner no different from you or me. That's what all means. It's just that at a funeral we are a bit reluctant to speak like this. But the thing is even if I didn't know him I could say these things. Even if it were you here in this casket I could say the same about you. And you could say the same about me. There is nothing that brings home God's point about sin better than our gathering together with tears and heavy hearts at the problem of sin and death. It's our problem. It's your problem. It's mine. There is no amount of physical strength, no mental attitude, no human spirit that can prevent what we are seeing and feeling today. Sin means death. So open your eyes and see it. Open your heart and feel the awfulness of it. Be angry. Be afraid. This is sin's face full on. You will one day be here, just like Curley.
What made Curley so strong in the face of this enemy? How did he cope with his coming death? It wasn't the strength of his arm or heart, it was his faith in Jesus Christ. I saw it these last few months when I sat beside his hospital bed and spoke of Jesus. I saw it when Curley longed to receive Holy Communion before he went to the hospital or when he came back from the hospital with bad news. God blessed him with physical strength to fight against the evil in his body. His spiritual strength came from complete dependence on Jesus for the forgiveness of his sin. Curley knew that when the physical fight was over, if and when this enemy took his life, his sin wasn't going to keep him from life with Jesus forever. It may kill his body, but Curley is with Jesus now. On the cross, Jesus suffered and died for this sins of the whole world. God's eternal punishment for our sin. That means he suffered and died for Curley's sin. That means that Curley's suffering and death aren't about punishment for his sin. It is simply his turning from one life to another. Setting behind a sin broken world for life with Jesus. An end to sin, and pain and suffering to wait for the resurrection of the body.
That's the renewing of strength that that the passage is talking about. That's the waiting it's talking about too. Some day Jesus will return and raise all of our bodies out of their grave. That means Curley, too. We'll place his body there for safe keeping. At Jesus words that strength will return to his body. And all those who died in faith trusting in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, like Curley, will live in these newly strengthend bodies forever. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.