Saturday, November 16, 2019

Funeral sermon for Herb Rowold - 1 Cor 15:50-57

                                                                                    Herb Rowold funeral
                                                                                    1 Cor 15:50-57

            The last time I spoke to Herb Rowold was at the elders’ meeting on Tuesday last week.  He was seated at his usual place, at the end of the conference table – the same place he sat every time during the thirteen years that I have been pastor here at Good Shepherd. 
            The possibility that I would never speak to him again didn’t even cross my mind that night.  On Sunday last week at church he had just described to my wife Amy how thankful he was that he was not having any real side effects from the treatment he was receiving.  Given what he had been through, I thought he looked quite good, and all of the conversation was looking forward towards his ongoing treatment.
            As it turned out, in the last week of his life, Herb attended the Divine Service at Good Shepherd on Sunday and the elders’ meeting on Tuesday.  There could not have been a more appropriate way for Herb to spend his last week, because Jesus Christ and his saving work through the Means of Grace in the midst of this Lutheran congregation was the center his life.
            Herb became a child of God as he received Holy Baptism at St. John’s Lutheran in Red Bud.  Raised in the faith at St. John’s, he learned the teaching of the Evangelical Lutheran Church from the Small Catechism, and the confession that he made on the day of his Confirmation was the confession that he continued to live his entire life.
            His career with Kroger brought him to the Marion area in the early 1980’s, and he became involved with the effort to establish a Lutheran congregation here.  You won’t find Herb’s name on the plaque that lists the charter members of Good Shepherd, but that is only because his transfer from St. John’s did not arrive in time.  Herb was here from the beginning.
            And now we are here because for Herb, the end has arrived.  From our point of view, it makes no sense.  Herb was too young to die. There was still so much living to be done.  Having enjoyed sports in the lives of Matthew, Katheryn and Michelle, there were six grandchildren to watch as they grew up.  The dear friendship with Julia had set the stage for even more blessings. We ask why the Lord saw fit to take Herb to himself, when there was still so much living to be done.
            However, there is no doubt about why he died. And I’m not talking about multiple myeloma, or kidney or heart problems.  Herb died because he was a sinner. Paul told the Romans that “the wages of sin is death.” Like you and I, Herb was conceived and born as a fallen descendant of Adam. He sinned in thought, word and deed. He didn’t fear, love and trust in God above all things.  He did not love his neighbor as himself.
            I am not speaking out of turn when I say this. Herb himself confessed this publically every Sunday at the beginning of the Divine Service.  He confessed his sin, but he did so as he asked for forgiveness – the forgiveness won by Jesus Christ.
            In our text from 1 Corinthians chapter 15, Paul is addressing yet another problem that had arisen in the congregation at Corinth.  Some in their midst were denying the resurrection of body.  They seemed to think that they had it made spiritually – they had it all and certainly did not need a resurrection of the body.
            Paul’s response was to take them back to the Gospel he had delivered to them – the same one that had been delivered to him.  He wrote, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”
            Paul wants us to know that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.”  In saying that Christ “died for our sins,” Paul quotes the teaching of the apostolic Church.  The Church confessed that Jesus Christ was the Suffering Servant of Isaiah chapter 53. He was the One about whom Isaiah had written: But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned--every one--to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
            God the Father laid Herb’s sin upon Jesus as he hung on the cross.  He laid your sin upon him.  Jesus Christ bore the sin of all and received God’s judgment against sin as he suffered and died. Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.
            Jesus died and was buried.  But on the third day - on Easter - God raised him from the dead. As Paul says in this chapter, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”
            Through his sin, Adam brought sin and death. This is why Herb died.  Unless Jesus returns first, that is why you and I will die.  But Jesus Christ was the second Adam who came to undo all that Adam had done.  By his death on the cross he received the judgment against sin. And then in his resurrection he defeated death.
            This is the victory in which Herb and all the saints share.  However, notice that Paul adds, “But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”  Jesus Christ’s resurrection is the beginning of our resurrection.  It is a resurrection that Herb and all Christians will receive on the Last Day when Christ returns in glory.
            We know that Herb will share in Christ’s resurrection because he was baptized.  In Romans chapter 6 Paul says, Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 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.”
            Through baptism Herb shared in Jesus’ saving death.  His sins were forgiven.  His sins were washed away and he became a saint.  For this reason we know that he is with the Lord now.  He is with Christ and no longer faces the struggle against sin and illness. 
            After this service we will take Herb’s body back to Red Bud, IL and bury him there.  In our text Paul says, “I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”  Jesus Chris is the first fruits of the resurrection.  Flesh and blood – fallen, perishable bodies – cannot inherit the eternal kingdom of God.
            What Herb needs – what we need – is what Jesus Christ already possesses. Paul told the Philippians, “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.”
            We need the change that the Lord Jesus will bring about when he returns in glory.  Paul says, “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 
in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.”
            We will bury Herb’s body. But Christ is not done with it.  We know this because Jesus rose from the dead.  We know this because Herb was baptized into Jesus’ death. The Lord Jesus will change it to be imperishable and immortal.
            Paul goes on to say, “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
            The victory already is Herb’s now.  He is a saint with the Lord – a forgiven sinner because of Jesus’ death and resurrection – and nothing can change that.  But the final victory is also not yet his.  That is why we will make the trip to a cemetery.  However, because Herb was baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, there is no doubt about what will happen to Herb – about what will happen to us. The risen and exalted Lord will return in glory on the Last Day and raise up Herb’s body.  He will transform it to be like his own, and Herb and all the saints will live with Christ in the new creation. And so we say with Paul, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”


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