Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Funeral Sermon for Rudy Rentschler

Funeral Sermon for Rudy Rentschler, Tuesday, August 08, 2006
The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. (Exodus 15:2, ESV)
The Lord is my strength.  We all need strength.  Especially at times like this when we have to face death.  It wasn’t easy watching this strong man die last Saturday.  We sang and prayed and talked, Rudy struggled and fought for breath.  He was a very strong man, but not strong enough to over come death.  I leaned over and whispered in his ear, “Rudy, you can fight this as long as you like, your family is here with you, they’ll all be fine, when you’re done you can go and be with Jesus.”  You see, I see no problem with Christians fighting death.  God hates it.  So can we.  Rudy struggled for awhile, then he relaxed and when to be with Jesus.  It’s ok to be angry.  It’s ok to be sad.  It’s ok to grieve.  We’ve lost someone very dear and very special and very strong.  Even though God rejoices in the salvation of His people, God grieves over death, too.  It’s ok, you don’t have to be strong today.  The passage from Exodus says it “The Lord is my strength.”  God is strong; you can rely and depend on Him, especially in the face of death.
Talking to people the most common thing they said about Rudy is that he was strong.  I knew he was because you could see the strength that used to be in his hands and arms.  The tell-tail signs were there even these last years; big hands, and the like.  Everyone told me about Rudy taking the bathroom scale and squeezing it until the needle was pegged out.  I tried it… but I’m not strong.  I won’t even tell you where the needle was for me.  Suffice it to say, I didn’t peg it out.  I can see Rudy doing that with a smile on his face, kind of like the smile that smile in the picture in the folder.  And at least a dozen people told me how he could bend the handles of a pair of pliers flat together.  As many times as I was told about that I’m thinking there’s a great big pile of ruined pliers out there somewhere on the Rentschler farm.  Now although it was great testament to Rudy’s strength, at least now that Rudy’s with the Jesus, I know now that my pliers are all safe.  I never saw Rudy in his pickup, either.  When I came to town he was running around Good Sam in his wheel chair.  Maybe he would have been a little more comfortable there if they would have dropped a Zane Gray on his lap, or painted the chair the color of his pickup.  We’ll that’s the way life is.  Rudy was strong; he loved to be outside on the farm and working hard.  Even with all that happened to him, he was blessed by God.  He was a strong man, from a strong family, strong in faith.
Rudy was a man of faith.  I have no reason to doubt that.  He came to worship over at Good Sam whenever I had them.  The last few months he wasn’t himself.  He wouldn’t take Holy Communion any more.  He was a faithful member of St. John’s, born, baptized, confirmed and married and now buried here.  (BTW: Walter and Judy, and Ruth, They were married in the parsonage living room).  He enjoyed his family and his farm.  But again I don’t look to the things that Rudy did to show me weather he had faith or not.  I look to God’s promise.  Because as strong as Rudy was, as good a person as he was, he wasn’t strong enough to save himself from hell, he wasn’t good enough to earn a place with Jesus in eternity either.  You see, you know and I know about sin in the world.  We see the bombs dropping.  We see buildings falling.  We see the ugliness of human beings every day.  You and I are no different from any of them.  Neither was Rudy.  Sin lived in his heart, too.  Sin that leads us to do what we want to do instead of what God would have us do.  And no matter how strong you are you’re not strong enough to save yourself from the sin that in here.  And so we have death; the punishment for sin.  It’s never more clear than at a funeral.  We pretend that it’s not the reason we are here but we know it is.
So today, to overcome this big problem that forces itself into our lives, we don’t look to our own strength we look to the strength of the One who is stronger than me, stronger than you, and stronger than Rudy, that’s Jesus Christ.  The text says The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.  God has become our salvation in Jesus Christ.  His strength didn’t fail him even in the face of death.  He didn’t have to suffer and die on the cross for you and me and Rudy.  He chose to do it.  He chose to do it because He had you and me and Rudy in His heart.  He knows how we hate death.  He knows how we fear it.  He knows what sin does to us.  So there on the cross He took our death for sin, our punishment.  And what’s most important to remember today, that even though Jesus was strong on the cross, He showed us strength we really need to see today.  Jesus, crucified, dead and buried… on the third day He rose again from the dead.  You see, Jesus is really the strong one.  He is stronger than death.  He can die and rise again.  He can even die, rise again, and raise you and I, and Rudy from death, too!  And that’s just what he promises to do.  At the beginning of the service we put this cloth over Rudy’s casket.  We are saying this very thing.  Jesus promises in Holy Baptism to do just that for this dead strong man.  He was united with Jesus in his Baptism.  He held on to that faith throughout his life.  He died in that faith last Saturday, and now he standing with Jesus waiting for the resurrection of his body out of the grave.  Jesus was Rudy’s strong man who saved him.  That’s the difference Jesus makes for you and me, too.  We can’t avoid it.  We still face death, but through faith in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins, we face Jesus on the other side instead of eternal separation from God.  
So today, we miss Rudy.  It’s ok to miss him.  God didn’t make us to be separated by death.  What we look forward to today is joining Rudy and all the saints of God that have gone before us on the day when Christ will raise us all from the dead.  That’s when we’ll really do what the verse from Exodus says.  I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.  Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

No comments: