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  • Writer's pictureRev. Chris Brademeyer

Funeral Sermon for John Stefanowicz

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The Funeral of John Stefanowicz

May 21st, 2024

Ezekiel 34:11-16

Rev. Christopher W. Brademeyer

 

That portion from God’s holy Word for consideration this afternoon is our Old Testament lesson from the book of the prophet Ezekiel in the thirty-fourth chapter with special emphasis on verse eleven through fifteen which read as follows:

 

For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God.”[1]

 

Thus far the Scriptures.

 

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

 

                There is a tendency to focus on the events and deeds of a person’s life at a time like this, that is, when someone we love is taken from us by that cruel monster death. This is not a bad thing. After all, the way we get to know someone, anyone really, is by what they say and do in our presence. For example, when we talk about our dear brother in Christ John we will recall significant events in his life. We can talk about his childhood in Oregon and Scranton, North Dakota. We could reminisce about his education at Scranton High School, Dickinson State College, and Wahpeton State School of Science. Or we could spend time recollecting his time in the Air Force, his work as a plumbing and HVAC contractor, or his time at Mertz Lumber. Certainly, there are a number of things that would come to mind if we started discussing his marriage to Diane and his marriage to Janice. We could talk about raising kids and working out the details in blending two families together. And, of course, we could meditate on his hobbies and interests, his abilities and handiness, and the ways he chose to relax RVing and riding motorcycle.

                And this is certainly a good thing to do. After all, these things are part of the life that John lived and were things you shared in with him. Recollecting is a fine thing and a fitting way to give thanks to God for the gift of a man like John.

                But there is something else that must be said about this. The recollecting does not remove the sting of death. The reminiscing does not change why we are gathered here today. Recalling the funny and poignant moments cannot pierce the vale of the grave. In other words, memories are not the real thing, they are a shadow, a reflection of the real thing, of the real John.

                Which is all to say that the problem before us still remains. John is not here in the mortal coil any longer. He has fallen asleep in Christ. And this is a hard thing. Because even when we share the stories we can do nothing to remove the loss. In fact, the act of reminiscing and sharing and remembering can only reinforce the reality of John’s absence.

                We should not be surprised by this. Death is a hard and final thing. It claims us all in the end and no matter what we might do, it is not something we can avoid. Scripture tells us that it was not meant to be this way. Death is a foreign intrusion into this world that God made, being given as a the punishment and result of sin in the world. And so, by the fault of our first parents Adam and Eve, and indeed our own fault as sinners, we live in this world of death, not the paradise that God had made for us.

                So then, what can we do? This dying and faithless world throws up its hands in frustration. The supposed wisdom of our age tells us to remember and recall, saying that this is all we have available to us now. Such is the rationale behind the sentiment that people often say at times like this, that a person will live in your hearts. This is frankly false. They do not. Death does not allow for such things. And the supposed wisdom of this age scoffs at hope in times like this and promotes nonsense that does nothing to alleviate the problem.

                Which is why I come with no platitudes this afternoon. I have no honeyed words meant to soothe the pain with sweet nothings. I have instead the only remedy for death and the source of our hope, Jesus Christ the Lord. He, being raised from the dead not only will never die again, but will bring those who believe in Him with Him to everlasting righteousness in eternal life, first in heaven and finally in the resurrection and the new creation.

                This is the source of our hope. Our God, our Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, has come to this world to gather to Himself the lost lambs of His fold. He has called men and women and children from every nation and ethnicity and tongue into His eternal Kingdom of blessedness. And He certainly has done this for John.

                How do I know this? Because our Lord has said so. He promises that those who believe and are baptized will be saved.[2] And John received this promised salvation this gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal life when he was baptized into Christ by water and the Spirit on May fourteenth in the Year of Our Lord 1944. On that day, John began a new life, one which cannot be stopped by death. The reason for this is simple: this new life is not of John’s origin, but Christ’s and because it belongs to the Deathless One, the Risen Savior, death has no power over it. Indeed, our hope in this dark hour lies not in those things done in the life of our brother John, but those things done for Him by Christ Jesus the Lord.

                It is a good thing to share and remember, after all, this is how we get to know someone. Remembering them is a great way to give thanks to God our Creator for a person that the Almighty has given us in this life. But, as we do this, we must not forget the greatest thing: our Lord Jesus suffered and died so that John would not die forever, but would have life in Jesus Christ, the Lord. So the Lord has done and there is no power in all creation that can overcome it.

 

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

 

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

 


[1] Ezekiel 34:11-15 English Standard Version

[2] Mark 16:16

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