Saturday, September 08, 2007

Funeral Sermon, Lyle Schneider Mark 10:13-16

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

To say that Lyle was quite is to speak a great under statement. In fact, I doubt in the times that I visited with him he ever said more than 3 words in a row. I knew Lyle for only about 2 years, saw him maybe 2 times a month so 2 times 24 months times 3 words is about 150 words. That’s not a lot to found a relationship on. I’ve been told some things about him. He told me some things about himself. Other people, members of St. John’s have told me other things about him.

But you who are gathered here today, knew him. I’ve been told that he loved children. I never had the pleasure of seeing him with children, but with his quite, gentle demeanor I can see how children would have loved him. I can tell also by the mischievous twinkle in his eye that he would have found ways to lovingly tease them, and they would have responded in the way that children do, “Stop it some more.” Really meaning, “Please do it again.”

The other thing I know about Lyle is that he worked for the railroad and he liked it. The first day I sat in his room over at Good Sam and asked what he did he said he worked for the railroad 39 years. Immediately I looked at his hands. “Well, Lyle, it’s pretty good that you worked all those years for the railroad and still have all your fingers.” He laughed. In case you don’t know, railroad workers notoriously loose several of their fingers. The equipment is dangerous and heavy. Fingers are often trapped between cars and under track sections… Many railroad workers take their missing fingers as a badge of honor.

Well, thinking of how Lyle loved children and the railroad caused me immediately to think of this doing this. My daughter got this whistle at the fair last week. It’s a train whistle and she loves it. She’s 9. Lyle loved trains and children. So, somehow, I think he would have loved this whistle.

The text I’ve chosen for Lyle’s funeral sermon is:

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. (Mark 10:13-16, ESV)

It’s not that I think Lyle was childish. It’s that I think he would have related to Jesus here in this text. I think he would have liked the picture of Jesus surrounded by all those children. You might even be able to picture Jesus pushing a train whistle up to his lips and the children giggling with delight, and Jesus smiling a big smile. And there would be Lyle smiling right along with him. I think I’ll always think of Lyle now when I read this passage.

Now Lyle may have loved children, but there’s something else I know about Lyle. And it’s something that you know, too. He may have been gentle and quiet, but to know Lyle and who he was is to know that Lyle was a sinful man. I’m not talking specifically about the things you may think I’m talking about, family troubles he may have had. Lyle had simpler issues, like not attending church. It’s difficult to see how one could receive the kingdom of God like a little child and at the same time never set foot in the church building to spend time with Jesus. He had other things, sinful things that you know about and I don’t. All those things point to a deeper sinful condition. Lyle had sin in his life. Lyle was a sinful man. Now you might think I’m speaking ill of the dead. Don’t think I’m saying anything about him singling him out as somehow a horrible person. If it were you lying in this casket instead of Lyle I could say the same thing. In fact, if it were me laying in that casket you could say the same thing. You see, I know Lyle was sinful because he was a human being. Human beings are born sinful. He didn’t live up to Jesus words about being childlike with our faith. You and I don’t live up to Jesus words about childlike faith either. Actually it is the sin that Lyle carried that brings us here today. God tells us the wages of sin is death, and Lyle has come to where sinners come. Some day, you and I will come to were sinners come, too (barring the coming of Our Lord Jesus first).

But, if that were all there was there really would be no purpose in our gathering here today, would there. If that’s all that we could say, we’d much rather just get this day over with and go back to our lives and forget about Lyle. Thanks be to God, we have a reason for hope, even on a day when we stare death right in the face. You see, Lyle was a Christian. He believed in Jesus Christ as his savior. He told me so that first day I sat on his bed and talked to him. He said it in very few words but I have no reason to believe that those few words were insincere. And there’s another thing. It’s what we began our service with today. We placed that cloth, called a pall, over his casket. We did that, not to cover up the box, but to proclaim something we believe. Through baptism, Lyle was connected to the death of Jesus Christ. Lyle’s sin was placed on Jesus as Jesus suffered and died on the cross. Lyle’s sin was placed on Jesus as Jesus suffered the punishment of eternal separation from God, the punishment of Hell. When Jesus said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He said those words for Lyle, so that Lyle wouldn’t have to suffer Hell’s punishment. You see, Lyle may have suffered death, but through faith in Jesus Christ, given to him in Holy Baptism, Lyle’s death isn’t eternal death, but death that leads to the waiting arms of Jesus. You see, that’s the picture in the text, too. Jesus gently holding Lyle like he would hold a child. That’s a picture of “childlike” faith. Jesus is not talking about simplemindedness. He’s talking about trust in Jesus, loving Jesus, holding on to Jesus as the only way of salvation. That’s the picture of a Christian; one hymn says it like this, “Nothing in my arms I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” It means believing that Jesus death on the cross covers up my sin, so that I can have eternal life, because I can’t have it any other way. That’s the faith the Lyle was baptized into and the faith confessed when he became a member of St. John’s, and the faith he confessed to me last year.

Now you may look at Lyle lying here and think that I’m giving him a pass for years and years of non-church-going. Well, I’m not. The truth is we don’t know if Lyle’s faith was a true faith in Jesus as his Savior from sin. And lots of things that Lyle did seem to stand in direct opposition to a childlike faith in Jesus. But, if you look at your own life you’d see things that do the same. If you looked carefully at my life you see things that seem very unchristian, too. The most wonderful thing about our faith is that our salvation isn’t bound to anything we do, just as children don’t do anything to earn our love for them. We can’t do enough good stuff to earn eternal life. Children need someone to love and care for them. God gives us eternal life as a gift, through faith in Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter if that faith is small or large, quiet or loud, faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins in faith enough. And the fact is that Lyle was given that gift in Holy Baptism. God nurtured it through His Word every chance He got, whenever Lyle did go to church and whenever he received Holy Communion (which he did do every month for at least the last two years).

In a little while we’re going to take Lyle’s body out to Graceland and place it in the ground for safe keeping. There is one more very wonderful thing to think about today. It’s the hope we all share as Christians. We believe “in the resurrection of the dead.” We said it in the creed. That means that someday when our Lord returns, Lyle’s body is going to rise from death. Lyle is going to be made whole again. And in that new whole body he’s not going to suffer the effects of diabetes anymore. And you and I and all those who have faith in Jesus Christ will join him. We’ll stand before Jesus shouting praises to Him for all that He has done. We’ll laugh together and sing together, just like children. We’ll enjoy each other’s company forever. Amen.

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

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