“Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life.”
February 27, 2009
A Service of Victory Sermon for George C. Howarth Sr.
Born of Flesh February 14, 1925.
He died in Christ Monday, February 23, 2009
Family and friends of George, especially Elena, Gordie, Ned, Jim, Bill, Rachel, Jane, Alice, Carol, & Grandchildren, grace to you and peace form God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Our text for today is Revelation 2:10: Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life.
George C. Howarth was born on Valentines Day, 1925. He died in Christ on Monday, February 23, 2009. Blessed are the dead who die in this Lord from this time forth and even forevermore.
There is something beautiful and appropriate about being born on Valentines Day. Eighty – Four years ago George was born on the day of love coming down. It is a connection that lasted a lifetime. Today we see another love which comes to us it is a love beyond Sister, Wife, Sons, Daughters, Grandchildren. It is the love that came down from Heaven for us. Our Lord who came of the Blessed Virgin Mary entered this world the same way George did so many years ago. But it was not coincidence that this happened. It is because of His deep love for us that Christ calls us by faith and enlightens us with the Gospel.
God put His name on George and on each of us and He tied George and us to Himself in a way that would never end. Jesus died for Him, and therefore the bond of death was broken forever. When Jesus died, He destroyed the power of death forever. And because of that, the bond between our Lord and His child, George, continues even now beyond the grave. George is in Heaven now, awaiting the resurrection of the dead, because of what Christ did for Him on the cross.
In the Shepherds Psalm which we heard Christ tells us that He is our Shepherd that takes away all my want. He reminds us that He is the One Who sent His Son into this world. He is the One Who was born in Bethlehem. He is the One Who works faith in our hearts through the Good News of His love. In particular, we like to think of Jesus Christ, the Shepherd and the Lamb, Who died for us and rose again. The Lord Jesus holds out His nail-pierced hands to receive us and to accept us and to keep us forever ... in those hands.
And so the Lord God says, “Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life,” pretty tall order, wasn’t it? I mean, could any of us truly be that faithful throughout his entire life? Would George enter into heaven at his death because he was faithful unto death?
The answer, of course, is no, as I am sure George would attest to as well. George like you and I couldn’t be that faithful. We are all sinners. He had a temper like everyone else. He got impatient, especially as his illnesses, old age, and memory loss seemed to get the best of him. I know George could get downright ornery, even with his own family members, over how he couldn’t go home like he wished. It doesn’t take too much imagination to recognize the sorrow of memory loss to the point of not being able to do anything for oneself. It’s hard to imagine anyone handling all of these adversities with perfect grace and love every moment of every day.
But George understood something. He understood that when God commanded be thou faithful unto death as He did to George and to all of us, that when God commanded this, He gave it as well. Faith, after all, is not our work at all. It is a gift. George would pray the Lord’s Prayer, Psalm 23 and even the creed with me up till the end.
The faith that God gave to George was pure gift. And God gave it to him abundantly. God in His mercy drew George into His holy kingdom through faith, and then kept Him in that holy kingdom by His Word. Faith always longs to be with the giver of the gifts, and George was ready to go home. Although I only knew him for a short time, I remember vividly the joy and calmness that George had when I read the Scriptures and prayed with him. That is faith. That is a pure gift.
George now belongs with the saints in heaven, and his suffering is at an end. St. Paul once said that we now see in a mirror, dimly, but then (at the end of all things) we will see face to face. George is now in the eternal presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, face to face. Think of all the singing he is doing now! I’m sure he must be excited with all the songs and whistling. No more memory loss. No more being in a wheelchair. No more having others waiting on him. He is whole and complete, awaiting the resurrection of all flesh, when we will be united with him in our Lord Jesus at the Last Day.
But until that time, we wait. And to be sure, we wait with not a little sorrow. Our Lord wept at the tomb of His friend, Lazarus, even knowing that He would raise Lazarus from the dead in a few short minutes. Death, no matter how you cut it, is wrong. It is not the way that God wants us to leave this earth. And so we weep, for we miss him, and long for things to be right that are wrong.
God hears your cries and knows your sorrows. He knows you long to be with George, and for things to be made right. And today He makes the same promise to you that He made to George: I will never leave you nor forsake you. Our Lord Jesus Christ promises that He will see you through your sorrow. He promises that you will see George again, and that your sorrow will come to an end. Even though it may seem bittersweet for a time, soon it will be replaced by joy at a happy reunion in Heaven.
But God does not leave you wishing and yearning to be with George. He is in Christ, just as you are in Christ. Furthermore, Christ died for you, just as he died for George. And every time you receive Christ’s body and blood in the Holy Sacrament, you are connected to George, because you are connected to Christ in the forgiveness of sins. Can you imagine the heavenly choirs? Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify your glorious name, ever more praising you and saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabbaoth. Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.
Heaven and earth, dear friends, Heaven and earth join together in praise of the One who died and rose again so that George and all the company of heaven might receive the crown of life. I for one find the picture of George in the heavenly mansions, singing and rejoicing in God’s mercy, I find that to be a wonderful and beautiful picture.
So rejoice this night with tears. For your tears will come to an end, you will see George again at the Last Day. And what a happy reunion it will be.
All blessing, honor, thanks and praise
To Father, Son, and Spirit,
The God who saved us by his grace;
All glory to his merit.
O triune God in heaven above,
You have revealed your saving love;
Your blessed name we hallow.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.