Saturday, December 22, 2012

Psalm 51:10-12; Funeral Sermon for James Allen Bird; December 22, 2012;

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

Jim was a lifelong member of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston Iowa. His father and mother were very active here. He was born, baptized, confirmed and married as a member of this congregation. Unfortunately in the last number of years he has not been very active. There may be many reasons for that but at top of the list is probably that his health was very difficult. I didn't get to know Jim very well he was only in church a few times since I've been here. I didn't visit him at the house and only once in the hospital. This was my failing as a pastor, and grieves me. And yet in all of this I have no doubt that Jim had faith. He was raised by faithful parents and taught the Scriptures and confirmed and also made sure his children were raised and confirmed in the faith. And while I would never condone making oneself absent from the hearing of God's Word on a regular basis, today we cling to God's promises made to Jim in his baptism, the promises he publicly acknowledged on his confirmation day. The promises that we heard just a few moments ago. The promise of our death and resurrection with Jesus that means that this death will also end in a resurrection.

Here's a few things I know about Jim, from the few times I met him, but mostly from interacting with his family. He was a strong and quiet man, even though he was never afraid to say what he thought. He joked with me even as I stood over his bed in the hospital when the doctors were telling him he was having rejection issues with his heart. And he must've missed the outdoors a great deal when he couldn't do it as much as he wanted. And Jessica told me he loved to cook. It's something I never would've guessed about him. And there's one more thing, at funerals we always want to speak the best about people. And there are lots of good things to say about Jim. But the truth is we are here today for only one reason. That reason is not unique to Jim, it's actually common to us all. We are here today because Jim was a sinner. Nobody knows that better than his family. We don't need to go into details about Jim's sin. We know it's true because we are here today at a funeral. Jim has paid the wages of sin. You and I will pay the wages of sin.

But we are here today for a purpose. We are here to hear about Jesus. We are here because the wages of sin need an answer. And the answer is Jesus, and here's what it looks like:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:10–12, ESV)

Actually, that sounds just like Jim. 10 years ago his heart was sick. The doctors replaced it with a new one. Jim was given a new life. Lana was just telling me how glad she was that they had those 10 years. Without the new heart this funeral would have been 10 years ago. So even then Jim went through sort of a death and resurrection. Look at all the things he was able to do. It was a new lease on life. And he enjoyed it, in his drives in the country, his coffee club, watching his children grow, and enjoying his grandchildren. It was a life full of joy. He got a new heart, clean heart, a new life. This is what Jesus promises. The words of Psalm 51 were written by King David. He too was a sinful man who knew of his great need to be saved from his sin. And this is what God does in Jesus. We receive a new heart, a clean heart, when we hear and believe the good news about Jesus. How he was born, lived his life perfectly for us, died on the cross to suffer the punishment of our sin, rose from the dead to assure us that all that he did was true and complete. And through faith in Jesus Christ and all that he has done, when those who have faith approach death, suffer death, they have God's promise they will not be cast away from his presence but spend eternity with him and all those who have faith in him.

We said it so strongly at the beginning of our service today. We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death. Jesus Christ, true God and true man, was crucified dead and buried. He suffered death for the sins of the whole world. The sin that drives you to the grave brought Jesus there for you. The death he died, the punishment he received, was yours. That is God’s promise for you. It is baptism that links us to Jesus death, through faith in Him. When you believe in Jesus you have already died to sin. Just as Christ was raised from the death through the glory of the Father we to may have new life. That’s the promise that we cling to with our whole hearts. Death comes, but it is not the end because life comes again. Jesus didn’t just die he rose again from death. He defeated the power of death to hold us forever. That’s God’s promise to us through baptism. That’s God’s promise to you about Jim, too. I don’t believe that because Jim has a long list of friends or accomplishments (he has!). But I believe it because I know it because of the promises of God.

That is our peace today. That's our comfort today. It’s not built on the good things that were done by Jim. It’s the peace and comfort that comes from depending on the promises of God. Amen.

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

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