Stan Valley funeral
I have to say, that I was completely wrong about Stan Valley. And I am by no means the only one. When Vivian died six years ago, I assumed that within a year, Stan would die too. After all, Stan and Vivian were married for sixty seven years. They shared life together for more than six decades. They lived as husband and wife longer than I have even been alive.
When an elderly couple has been married for a very long time, and one of them dies, it is very common for the other spouse to die within a year. I think this is even more common when the surviving spouse is the husband. Joined as one flesh for so many years and sharing life together, when the life of the one spouse ends, it is as if the life of the surviving spouse cannot continue without the other. Certainly that bond of life and love described Stan and Vivian. And so when Vivian died, I thought that Stan would die shortly thereafter.
As we gather for his funeral service six years after Vivian’s death, it is apparent that I and others were quite wrong. Stan lived far more than one year. And I will observe that those years allowed Stan to experience something that many others never did. A lifelong Cubs fan since his days growing up as boy in Iowa, Stan did get to see the Cubs win the World Series in 2016. He wasn’t even alive the last time the Cubs won it in 1908. But he was alive to see this one, and it was a pleasure to see his enjoyment as I visited that season and we talked about all the success the Cubs were having.
Stan lived longer than many of us expected. Yet our text today from Romans reminds us that even in death, nothing has really changed. The apostle Paul writes, “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's.”
Stan certainly lived to the Lord. He was born again of water and the Spirit in Holy Baptism. Faith in Jesus Christ guided his life. Stan and Vivian were founding members of this congregation. He received the Lord’s gifts of the Means of Grace in the Divine Service every Sunday until the day when he physically could no longer come to church. He studied God’s Word and had a love for the Scriptures.
Stan lived to the Lord in the different vocations where God had placed him. He was faithful, loving and caring husband and father. He was a trusted and valued co-worker at the Southern Illinois University Press. And in a time of war he served his nation in the U.S. Army Air Corps – even volunteering for service in China where was he was the armorer for P-51 Mustangs as he maintained and loaded their Browning .50 caliber machine guns.
And now Stan has died to the Lord. If you are a long time Good Shepherd member, that phrase may sound familiar to you. That’s because it was the one Pastor Schmidt used to describe Christians who died, and it came from this text.
Stan has died, and like every other person his death had one cause: sin. In this letter, Paul said, “The wages of sin is death.” Sinners die, and Stan was a sinner. In that way, he was like all of us, for Paul also says in Romans, “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Apart from the return of Jesus Christ, every one of us will die, because we are all sinners in thought, word and deed.
As a baptized child of God, Stan lived in Christ. Sustained in faith by the Holy Spirit, Stan died in Christ. When this service is done, we will go and bury his body. Yet Paul says in our text that in a most important way, nothing has changed. He writes, “For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”
The Son of God, Jesus Christ, died on the cross in order to free Stan from sin – in order to free you from sin. Paul said, “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” but then he went on to say, “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” Jesus Christ died on the cross to redeem Stan and you from sin. Through Adam sin entered into the world and we were trapped in it. But Paul tells us about Jesus, “For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.”
Jesus Christ died. But he did not remain dead. As Paul says in this letter, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” The Lord Jesus defeated death in his resurrection. Nothing – not even death - can separate Stan from Christ. And so Paul says in our text, “For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”
Jesus Christ is Lord of the dead. He continues to be Stan’s Lord, because Stan is with him. The apostle Paul told the Philippians, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” And then he added, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” Stan is with the Lord and that is far better because he no longer faces the challenges of this world. In particular he no longer faces the problems of mind and body that made his last years difficult.
Stan died to the Lord. Even in death he is with the Lord. And as we prepare to bury his body, we also have the assurance that God is not done with it. Jesus Christ’ resurrection is the beginning of the resurrection that Stan, and you and I will share in on the Last Day. Paul told the Corinthians, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.”
Jesus Christ will raise Stan’s body on the Last Day. He will transform it to be like his own – never to die again. The apostle told the Philippians that “we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
Stan will be raised on the Last Day, because he received the Holy Spirit. We know Stan received the Holy Spirit because he was baptized. Paul told the Romans, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” The Spirit who made Stan a new creation in Christ is the first fruits of Stan’s resurrection.
In baptism Stan received the Spirit, and so his baptism is the guarantee that he will be raised up on the Last Day. Through baptism he shared in Jesus’ saving death. And because of baptism we know that he will share in Jesus’ resurrection. Paul says of baptism in chapter six of this letter, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
There is sorrow in Stan’s death. We have lost a father, a friend, a fellow congregation member who was here from the beginning. But he has not been lost to Jesus. Instead, the apostle Paul says in our text, “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” Jesus Christ is still Stan’s Lord. Stan is with the Lord. And Jesus will raise Stan from the dead on the Last Day.