Saturday, January 8, 2011

Funeral for Orville T. Shipp

“Departing in Peace”
 Luke 2:25-32
January 8, 2011
The Funeral of Orville T. Shipp
Trinity Lutheran Church Girard, Illinois
Pastor Keith E. GeRue

Now that he now longer is here on this earth, we have only our memories of him. We close our eyes and can almost picture him, can't we? No flashy, fancy clothes, no big, expensive car, no excesses of luxury, no political aspirations. He was an ordinary man, devout in his faith and family, humble in his attitude. You didn't read about him in the newspapers, but his name was written in the Book of Life. He knew of his salvation -- that it was not something he could bring about. Like each one of us, he was one who had broken God's commandments. So, by God's grace, he had heard the good news of the coming Savior and again, by God's grace, he believed it. Therefore, he looked not to himself for his eternal salvation. Rather, the Lord was his hope; the Lord God was, and is, his future.

We know for certain that he was a righteous man, though we also know that his righteousness was not from himself. Rather, when he was brought into the church through the Word of God, then the Lord's righteousness was given to him as a gift. Forgiveness of all sins, eternal life now and forever, salvation from death, and deliverance from the Evil One are all part of the blessings that God had declared to him. He became an heir of heaven and to him are now all the riches of the LORD God Almighty. He has now come to that inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.

As he faced an uncertain death, he might well have agreed with the Apostle Paul as Paul thought about continuing to live in this world of hurt and pain and disappointment and suffering, or to die. He said, For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. ..... Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

How many times had he thought of the 23rd Psalm? How often did he recall and rely on the part where the writer speaks, Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me? How often had he awakened in the night thinking of his life and thinking of the Promise of God which had been given to him? We don't know, do we? For those thoughts and recollections of his are like yours and mine, very personal within our own minds; known only by oneself and by the LORD.

What we do know is that the LORD was with him during his travels through all of the valleys, at his bedside when he had bad dreams, with him when he received news that was less than comforting, and keeping him close.

Some may think him an old man, but we don't really know that to be true. There are men who were older and others younger. Age is such a relative thing as well. We recall the saying, “You are only as old as you feel.” Like you and me, I'm sure there were days when he felt very old, quite weary, and facing the rest of his life (however long or however short that might have been) only made him more tired. Days like today and times like last Christmas Eve and Christmas Day make us feel older, quite weary, and very tired.

Dear members of Trinity congregation, neighbors, and relatives of our departed brother in Christ, the members of the family, and especially you, Jean: the only thing that is able to keep us you going during these times is the promise of God given to us in His Son. That promise was given to that man I have been speaking of, the man from the Bible named Simeon, the man who is now with the Lord in heaven, and it sustained him during his entire life, however long or however short that life may have been.

Please join me as we consider God's Holy Word under the theme:

..... Depart in Peace.

In a special revelation given by the Holy Spirit, Simeon had been given the promise of God that he would not die until his eyes beheld the Messiah -- his Lord and Savior. That special day came for Simeon. Mary and Joseph enter the temple with the Christ Child. Simeon is given the wonderful privilege of actually holding Jesus. What the universe could not contain was held in the arms of one man. Here, Simeon, your arms are embracing your Savior, your Salvation, your Redeemer, your Lord. Simeon, in your hands is your eternity.

Dear people, is a baby able to be that and to do that? Well, this is not just any baby being held. This is the Baby -- the Son of God, begotten of the Father from eternity and the Son of Man, born of the virgin named Mary. This little One will grow up. He will tell you that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life ... that no one is able to come to the Father except by Him ... that He has come to lay down His Life for you.

This Babe of Bethlehem, held in your arms, O Simeon, will grow up for the specific purpose of taking your place and ours upon the cross. He did not look forward to His own death. Unlike you and me, Jesus knew exactly how He was going to die. Jesus knew He would be experiencing hell itself. Why, He even prayed, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt. He died our death and atoned for our sins. He suffered hell in order that we might not have to. Look, Simeon, He will rise up from His grave for He has defeated death. The tomb could not hold Him; nor will it hold those who fear, love, and trust in Him above all things. He promises to be with us, always, even to the end of the age. So even in going away, He is here with us. O you righteous and devout man, who holds Life in your arms, He will ascend into heaven to be re-enthroned to His rightful place as the King of kings and Lord of lords.

From there, in Paradise, He awaits you Simeon, He awaits you Orville, He awaits you. The Lord looks down from above and knows that you will not see death, Simeon, until your eyes have seen the Lord's Christ. Now that you have stood in the Temple and beheld Him, Simeon, you may depart in peace. And one day Simeon did depart in peace, according to the Word and will of the Lord.

The Lord looked down from above and knew that Orville would not die, until he had seen Him. And Orville did behold Him. Through the Word of God at his Baptism, Orville beheld the Crucified and Risen Jesus. Now that Orville had received the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit in his Baptism, Orville could have departed in peace as a tiny baby. But that was not the Lord's will. Through the Word of God, Orville peered into the manger bed and beheld the Good News of great joy, for the Savior of the world was born. Now that Orville had seen the Lord, he could have departed in peace after his confirmation day or his wedding day or after the birth of his children. But that was not the Lord's will. None of those times were the right time for Orville.

But when would it be? Not one of us knew until last Thursday. Of course, God from on high knew when it would be all along, and He knew that last Thursday was the day for Orville to depart in peace and spend eternity in Paradise.

For Orville, there are now, no hurts, no pain, no sorrow, no tears, no suffering for him. He has departed in peace according to the Word of God. The promise had been given and Orville believed and trusted in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Last Thursday all things were ready in heaven and on earth for Orville to depart in peace. We just celebrated with Jesus another birthday. Our Lord was having a party and Orville was invited. So, he departed in peace.

From there in Paradise, the Father awaits you, Jesus awaits you, the Holy Spirit awaits you, Simeon awaits you, and now Orville awaits you. The promise is good whether you believe it or not. The heavenly riches are there whether you believe it or not. Jesus died for you whether you believe it or not.

For those who do believe in Him, you will depart in peace because your eyes have beheld Him. Oh, it's not that Christians look forward to dying. Christians do not especially want to die anymore than anyone else. I know I don't. But a very wise Christian woman, one whom I admire very much, told me something like this: “It is not the dying that bothers me, it is the struggle to keep on living that is so hard.” So from God's point of view, the view that both Simeon and Orville now have, any day is a good day to die. The Christian may, indeed, depart in peace.

For those who never knew Him, or who no longer believe in Him, or who have wandered away from Him, well, there really is no good day to die. Because on that day Jesus will say to them, Depart ....depart from Me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. .... He who believes in Him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the Name of the only Son of God.

Isaiah the Prophet gives good counsel when he writes: Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. The Apostle Paul encourages the same when he writes: Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

According to God's Word, Orville believed and was baptized. With the Word, Orville lived his life of faith in the Church. Through the Word of God, Orville received Christ at Holy Communion. He received the very Body of Jesus born of Mary -- the very Blood of Jesus shed on the cross. And for a thousand times and more, after the Lord's Supper, he sang the ancient liturgy of the church. He sang the song of Simeon ... ... Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy Word. For mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a Light to lighten the Gentiles and the Glory of Thy people Israel. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sermon for January 8-9, 2011

The Baptism of Our Lord
Matthew 3:13-17
January 8-9, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

John the Baptist was called to baptize Jesus. That was it. That was his main purpose and duty in life. The other baptisms, the fiery sermons, the strange clothing and prophetic life were all passive to and even the consequences of this great duty: the anointing of the anointed one.

We see something of John’s fear, something of the curse of Eve that was upon him. For John’s desire was his falling. His desire was to be lord. All the sons of Eve fall under authority. It is the inheritance of sin, the ancient discontent that has cursed our race and marks us as fallen men. It drives us from the gifts of God to seek pleasure in evil and honor among liars. It is covetousness.

When John comes to the conclusion not only of his career but of time itself, he hesitates. “I need to be baptized by you.” He says. He means: “This isn’t quite right. I am only a man. How can I do such a thing? How can I, with my dirty thoughts, my secret laziness, my pride, how can I anoint the anointed One? Isaiah fell on his face and was afraid in the Temple. You have said no man can see the face of God and live. Yet, am I to place my hands on God and put Him in His place? Am I to mark the Lamb for slaughter, to ordain Him as the priestly victim when I know full well there will be no angel to stop the knife? This is too much for a mere man. He should just do it Himself.”

“Let it be so now,” says the Lord. “For it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” And by that Word from the Word made flesh John was given the strength to do what needed to be done. Jesus was plunged into the flowing sewage of our sins, was counted as guilty, stricken by God, driven from there into the wilderness to face the adversary with our sins strapped to His back, without angelic defenders, without food or water. The full force of God’s own just wrath will come upon Him that Barrabas the murderer would go free. And so is all righteousness fulfilled. And God keeps His Word and promise. He spares sinners, saves the world, by forsaking His own Son. He gives John a part of this. He says “it is fitting for US to fulfill all righteousness.”

It is easy to sympathize with John. For we are also the sons and daughters of Eve. We know what it is to buckle under our duties. We don’t want to do the hard work of parenting, of changing diapers and saying “no,” of enforcing order and discipline. We want to be popular, friends with our children, and wish they would learn to be a man or a woman from someone else. It takes too much time to talk to them. It is easier to buy them off, to give them candy or games, to amuse them enough to leave us alone. For it is more fun to talk to our friends or watch TV or likewise amuse ourselves. The same goes for husbands and wives. We just don’t want to do the work. If we want our children to be our friends, to entertain us and make us feel good about ourselves, we want our spouses to be our admirers and lovers, but we do not want to serve. We do not want to wash the dishes, rub the feet, listen to the stories about the hairdresser’s children, or whatever else it is that is needed of us. It is not merely the rich and powerful who use wives as trophies. Vocations are not defined by privilege, but by duty.

Now no one can knows John’s hesitation better than those who have been called into the Office of the Holy Ministry. The man who serves in this office without fear is the man who serves without faith. For to handle the holy things of God, not merely His Body and His Blood which so terrified our forefathers in the middle ages, but to dare to handle, to proclaim, to teach His Word, is to risk one’s very soul. The temptations are great, and great men of great character and learning have fallen prey to seductions of every kind. The road to Hell is paved with the skulls of priests. Those who aspire to such office: beware. Be on guard. Take care of your wife. Teach the Truth as though your life depended upon its purity, for it does. Such fear can easily paralyze mortal men. The only antidote is the Word of God. “Let it be so now; for it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

John did not make Jesus the Messiah. He was simply the instrument by which God in the Flesh was anointed for His work. Anyone could have done what John did. It wasn’t an mysterious or technical art, it didn’t require a lot training or experience, but God called John for it, to it, in order to fulfill all righteousness. It was John’s purpose. We’ll probably never know why Jesus didn’t just do it Himself. What we do know is that God gives us a share in His kingdom. It was fitting for Jesus and John to fulfill all righteousness. It is fitting for you, too, to cooperate with God in good works, in your vocations. God calls us to His kingdom, to rule alongside of Him, and He uses you for good in an evil world.

Children are a good example of this. The children that are born to us are not ours. They are His. He is their true Father. They are entrusted to us, and through us God provides for them. He could have given them to anyone, but He gave them to us. We are the perfect match, the exactly right mother for that child, and that child for us. We would be fools if we did feel inadequate for the task, but God provides. He says “Let it be so now. I know what I am doing.”

We can say the same of husbands and wives, of governments and citizens, of congregations and pastors. These vocations are all defined by duty. But fulfillment of them brings great joy and contentment. For nothing satisfies like being the person God has called you to be. It is what Paul spoke of when he said he had learned to be content. It is what the Stoics skated around and got so close to. It is wise enough to have become bad poetry in the form of clich├ęs: “Bloom where you are planted.” or “Let go and let God.” Those sayings, though trite, are wise and true. What God gives is the opposite of that ancient discontentment passed on by Mother Eve. And what mother amongst us has not felt true contentment as her child read aloud or she watched her child help a younger sibling? What father did not feel at peace with all the world simply because he let go of the bike and the child rode down the road on his own? These duties are too great for us. We are inadequate. But God has called us to them. God will bless us in them, and in them God gives our greatest and best joys.

And of all the vocations, all the things to which God has called you, the first is Baptism. Before you are anything else you are Baptized. You belong to God. His Name is upon you. He has taken you to the Jordan river and joined you to Himself. He has buried you in His death and raised you to life in His resurrection. You have been anointed. You will bear a cross, but you have also been cleansed. This vocation is also defined by duty. But as with all godly vocations, like unto being a mother or a husband or a pastor, its validity is not determined by obedience or faithfulness, but by the call. John was not worthy in himself to baptize Jesus. But Jesus fulfilled John’s righteousness. He made it full. Where John was lacking, Jesus provided. Where John was failing, Jesus forgave. He declared John worthy, fully righteous, and then gave him a good work to do. That is how you live in your vocations, even in Baptism. God provides what you need. He fills your righteousness. You are baptized. That is a historical, indisputable reality. You belong to God and He is well-pleased with you. He will speak in His Word. He will show you the way. He will make you content.

In + Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Daily Readings for January 9-15, 2011

Daily Lectionary

January 9 Ezekiel 18: 1 – 4, 19 – 32; Romans 2:17 – 29
January 10 Ezekiel 33:1–20; Romans 3:1–18
January 11 Ezekiel 34:1–24; Romans 3:19–31
January 12 Ezekiel 36:13–28; Romans 4:1–25
January 13 Ezekiel 36:33—37:14; Romans 5:1–21
January 14 Ezekiel 37:15–28; Romans 6:1–23
January 15 Exodus 33:12–23, Ephesians 5:22–33, John 2:1–11
The coming of the Messianic kingdom means the restoration of creation. The sign of this restoration is that “the mountains shall drip with sweet wine.” (Amos 9:11–15) When the elements of a fallen creation fail and run short at a wedding feast, our Lord Jesus steps in to restore creation and miraculously changes water into an abundance of the very best wine. (John 2:1–11) With this sign Christ manifests His glory. The “back” of God (Exodus 33:12–23) is revealed to those who believe. The hour will come when Jesus will again manifest His glory by taking creation’s curse into His own body to release us from its power. The Groom will give His life for the Bride (Ephesians 5:22–32), and from His side will flow water and blood, the holy sacraments by which she is cleansed and made one with Him. Through this sacrificial love of Christ we are enabled to “be kindly affectionate to one another, . . . in honor giving preference to one another.” (Romans 12:6–16)

Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, Governor of all things in heaven and earth, mercifully hear the supplications of Your people and grant us Your peace in our time; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament: Exodus 33:12–23 [Moses sees the “back” of God]
Epistle: Ephesians 5:22–33 [Christ and His Bride]
Holy Gospel: John 2:1–11 [Wedding Feast at Cana]

SUNDAY’S DIVINE SERVICE— The Baptism of Our Lord
John objects to baptizing Jesus, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” John is right! He and all sinners must be “washed,” or “baptized,” by Jesus or they cannot be saved; but the Sacrament of Holy Baptism only has power to save because Jesus was “baptized to fulfill all righteousness.” In His Baptism, the sinless Son of God, who had become man, aligned Himself with sinful man and took responsibility for the transgressions of the world. “He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us” in the waters of Holy Baptism, that He might fulfill all righteousness in His death for sinful man upon the cross. Now our Baptism has the power to save. As Jesus received the iniquity of us all in His Baptism, so we receive His righteousness in our Baptism. God the Father is delighted with this “happy exchange” and declares us His beloved for Jesus' sake.