Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Funeral - Augie Bernau - 1.John.3.1-2


Funeral for Augie Bernau, July 13, 2005

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1-2, NIV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

How great the love the Father has lavished on us… I heard Augie say that a thousand times… well not exactly in those words. He’d say something like, “I really can’t complain, I’ve had a good life.” And Indeed he has. When I read this verse from St. John’s I can’t help but think of that picture with Amelia and Roland and Augie… with those shoulder length curls! How lavish they are (although maybe not in those days). After all, according to the doctor that brought him into the world those curls belonged to a future Governor of Iowa. Well, maybe he wasn’t Governor but it seems he was just as well known. One of the relatives told me, and I’ve had some experience with this myself, as you travel around Iowa when people find out you are from Burt they will ask you if you know Augie Bernau. People loved Augie. You see, that’s also a part of that great love God had lavished on him. We could talk to about Augie’s family, his brothers and sisters, his children, grandchildren, etc., not to mention his two wives. One wife for his youth and another for his old age, they were two totally different kinds of women, two totally different kinds of love lavished on Augie by his God. Since God had so blessed Augie, he was a great blessing to everyone who knew him.

Now today we struggle with the pain of losing this much loved person. It was difficult to see him fight with death these last few weeks. It was difficult to deal with his confusion over the past several months. Augie would have given anything to be able to be home among his animals. But even in this God’s love was given to Augie through the people who where always around him to comfort him.

Now, God lavished all this love on Augie, but as much as we loved him we also know that Augie didn’t deserve the love of God. He’s no different from any of us. Just like you and me Augie had sin in his life. He got angry when he shouldn’t have gotten angry. He raised his children the best he knew how, but his parenting decisions weren’t always the best. He fought with his wives (and they fought back). All of you can come up with some event in your mind when Augie didn’t live up to God’s standards for living. Now some of you might be put out by my saying these things. We’d rather just say good things about people at funerals. But that sin in Augie’s life is the reason we are here. In fact, death is the proof of sin. The wages of sin is death. I mention all this because when you think about it, it makes that great love lavished on Augie all the more incredible; the fact that God loved Augie, in spite of his sin.

Today as we look into the face of death, as we deal with the pain of separation caused by our own sinfulness, there isn’t really any comfort at all in the worldly blessings that Augie received from the hand of God. In fact, if you want to really understand God’s love for Augie you don’t need to look at any of those blessings, you need only look at one, St. John tells us about that one blessing in the text. How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! That is what Augie is, a child of God through faith in Jesus.

Augie knew Jesus. He knew about His sacrifice on the cross to bring him forgiveness. And most of all he knew that the forgiveness purchased by Christ’s precious blood was for Augie. The love of God found in the forgiveness of sins was lavished on Augie, not because he was a good person, but only because he was loved by God. Augie held onto his faith in Christ, even at the very end. A few days ago when he wasn’t responding to much else he responded with a strong “Amen.” To the Lord’s prayer. It was great to hear; it warmed our hearts and gave us comfort. But, still if we want to see the proof of Augie’s faith we don’t have to think about that event, we don’t have to hold on to Augie’s words. We can go to the one who is always faithful. We can look at the promises God made to him in Baptism. Just like we said together a few moments ago:

P In Holy Baptism name was clothed with the robe of Christ's righteousness that covered all his/her sin. St. Paul says: “Do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”

C We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with Him in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection.

You see, more that all the wonderful gifts that God gave this wonderful man through out his life, the most important is the gift of faith. How great indeed is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called the children of God!

So, family and friends of Augie Bernau; today we need comfort because we have lost a good friend. Take comfort not in anything that Augie did, but in what God has done for Augie and you and me, by lavishing His great love on us through Jesus Christ. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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