Saturday, May 17, 2008

Ephesians 2:8-10, Funeral Sermon for Ron VanPelt, May 17, 2008

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)

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

“Ron was a good man.” I’ve heard that a hundred times if I’ve heard it once. So today we are here, in part, to remember a “good man.” After all how much better does it get than to be called “smiley” by a bunch of kids? How much better does it get to always have a treat handy. It is certain that Ron loved kids. He’s the kind of guy, in fact that still opened the car door for his wife (at least when he was physically able to do it.) He’s the kind of guy that even grown up kids called “grandpa.” Mona complained to me that the kids, grandkids, great grandkids would all take more time saying good bye to Ron than her, even the ones that weren’t his grandkids but hers! That was Ron every loved him. He was a good friend, father, step-father, grandfather, golfing buddy, loving caring husband, and old army friend… and as I got to know him, faithful Christian man. Nobody has anything bad to say about Ron… ever.

Well, that’s nice. But in a way it’s a shame too, because Ron wasn’t perfect. One thing we human beings tend to do at funerals is over speak the truth. We are afraid to speak ill of the dead. It is ok to speak about the shortcomings of Ron, about his failures and mistakes. He had them. He was a good father, but not a perfect one. He was a good husband but he didn’t always put his wives first. He was a good grandfather but there were probably times when he was selfish. He suffered these last few years with little complaint, but he really did wonder why God would punish him so, and he was sometime in despair over it all. You see, Ron was, just like you and me, completely human. And all human beings are the same in that sense. Ron was a good man, he did lots of good things but he was also a sinful man who did and thought sinful things. But as good as Ron was it wasn’t good enough to avoid death. The proof of Ron’s sinfulness is right here in front of us as bold as death itself. And so, even more important than coming here to remember Ron the good man, we remember today also Ron the sinner.

Why is that so important, well, that’s what the text I read at the beginning of this message is all about. It is by grace you have been saved, it is the gift of God, not of works. You see, if anyone had a chance at earning his way to heaven, Ron did. He was a good guy. But he couldn’t earn his way to eternal life and the proof of that is right here. The wage of sin, on display, bold as well death! The reality of it all is that God demands for us not just to be a good man, but to be a perfect man. That’s what Jesus said, You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48 ESV) Perfect is all that counts. There’s no one good enough in God’s eyes. Now, this is exactly what Ron believed. He knew he couldn’t earn God’s favor by anything he did. He knew that all his good stuff fell short of perfect. He knew that as far as earning eternal life with God was concerned he couldn’t do it. That’s why he depended on Jesus.

Jesus was no just a good man, he was a perfect man. He didn’t just do good stuff he did perfect stuff. When God, the Father, saw what he did and was going to do he said,

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17b ESV)

Jesus didn’t fall short like Ron. He loved people perfectly. He loved God perfectly. He is the only person who has ever been good enough to earn eternal life with God. That’s something that Ron believed, too.

Why is all this important? That brings us right back to the passage, saved by grace. The word grace means undeserved love. God loves you. God loves me. God loves Ron, in spite of the fact that none of us deserves it. God isn’t willing for you and I to die in our sin and spend eternity separated from him in hell. So God provided a perfect life for us. He does what we can’t do. That’s exactly what he did for Ron. Jesus was born, just like Ron. He grew up, just like Ron. He had friends, just like Ron. He laughed and cried, just like Ron. But Jesus wasn’t a good man like Ron, he was a perfect man. You see Ron’s body here, dead. Well, because of sin Ron deserves to be here. Jesus lay dead in his tomb, but he didn’t deserve it. Ron died easily by just going to sleep. Not Jesus. Jesus died a sinner’s death. He was tortured and crucified. In fact Jesus suffered the death of all sinners. Even though God was pleased with all that Jesus did, in the end he turned away from him so that Jesus suffered the eternal punishment of hell on the cross.

The passage says it is not of our own doing; it is the gift of God. Jesus is that very gift. That’s exactly what we talked about when we put this white covering over Ron’s casket. We say it like this, “in baptism Ron’s sins were washed away.” What we really mean is this: In Holy Baptism Ron’s sins were placed on Jesus. Jesus died on the cross to pay the wages of sin, for Ron. Then Jesus’ perfect life was placed on Ron. So now when God looks at all that Ron did he says,

“This is my beloved Child, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17b ESV)

The gift of God, not a result of Ron’s good stuff, the result of Jesus’s good stuff. We can’t boast about any of the things that Ron did, but we can boast about the thing that Jesus did for Ron.

Ron knew all of this and believed it with his whole heart. We talked about Jesus quite a bit as he lay in hospital bed after hospital bed. We talked about it has his home, sitting in his favorite chair. We talked about it at Good Sam when he longed to be back in his chair. Ron is saved by God’s undeserved love through faith in Jesus Christ.

Oh, one more thing. That last sentence of the text. You and I saw that in Ron every day.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

That was Ron. He was a good man. Ron is God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, through Holy Baptism, for good works. He did them, not to earn something from God, but because of what God had done for him in Jesus Christ. Amen.

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

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