Monday, January 12, 2009

Funeral Homily

Funeral of Gerald L. “Pete” Krohn
January 10, 2009
Text: Romans 8:31-39
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)

Dear Friends in Christ,
If someone would have told me a few weeks ago that Pete would take his own life, I would have said, no way. Not Pete. But here we are. There is no way to sugar coat it or to avoid it. Death is always like that. But sometimes the circumstances of a death make it more stark and undeniable.

What then must we say at this time? We must say that it is not God’s will that a person take their own life. It is a sin. It is a violation of the Fifth Commandment. No private person can ever take a human life, not even their own. This is because we are not the author of life. All life comes from God. And yes, God has given man the authority to take the life of animals for food and such. But human life is made in the image of God. It is different. Since we cannot give human life, we are not to take it. Only those acting properly in self defense, or according to certain offices, such as soldier or policeman, can take a life. In all other circumstances it is a sin to take a human life. And we can see the effects of this sin, in the shock and pain that we have experienced in these last few days.

What else must be said? We must say that God had something better in His mind for Pete. Yes, there were medical problems, and since the tests were not complete, we don’t know the full extent of those problems. But in God’s way of reckoning, there was something better here for Pete. What that better thing was, we don’t know. It might not have even looked better from a human perspective. But God who sees all ends, knew it was a better thing.

What else must we say? We must say that Jesus Christ died for all sins. As St. Paul says: “Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.” What St. Paul is saying is that because Jesus Christ died for our sins and paid the price of our sins in our place, no charge can be brought against the believer. We are not guilty before God. Nothing can separate us from Christ, our Savior. There is no power that can do that - not even death.

Some will say, don’t we need to repent of our sins? Certainly, we are to have an attitude of repentance. This why we include confession of sins in our regular services. But no one can know of all their sins. Nor can we make a final confession and go into heaven sinless. For everyone of us, there will be some sin at the last moment of our life or the last moment of consciousness. This is how completely sin has wrapped itself around us. So if we must confess every sin to be saved, not a single human being could ever be saved. This is not a license to sin, but rather an understanding that Christ’s forgiveness is greater than sin and also greater than our ability to recognize our own sin.

I am often told by people that Christians are not to judge anyone. Often people will quote from Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. But this is a misunderstanding. Christ is condemning those who judge falsely based upon things that cannot be known. Christ also says as you judge, so you shall be judged. In reality we cannot function in the world or in the Church without judging people. But we must judge by what we know. I do not know what was in Pete’s head on that last morning. I can make no judgements on this because it cannot be known. But I can make a right and proper judgement based upon what is known. Pete was baptized at that very font. In Holy Baptism, Pete died with Christ and rose to life with Him. So Christ’s resurrection to life was also Pete’s resurrection to life. Pete was in the Divine Service nearly every week. There he received Holy Absolution - that is forgiveness of sins. We know from the Small Catechism that we receive the word of Absolution from the pastor as if it were Christ Himself speaking it. In the common Absolution the pastor states: “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins...” So Pete’s sins were forgiven before the heavenly throne. Pete participated in Christ’s sacrifice for the sin of the world by taking the Lord’s Supper. By eating and drinking the very Body and Blood of Christ, Pete claimed Christ’s sacrifice as a credit to his own account. In the Divine Service, Pete heard God’s Word read and explained. So I can state with great confidence all the things that God did for Pete. I can state with certainty that these things were applied directly to him. They weren’t just floating around out there. This is the great comfort we can take from the fact that Pete was a regular church attender. If he were not a regular attender, I could not make this judgement. Much less would be known.

So what does this all mean? Yes, Pete was a sinner. Yes, Pete caused us all great shock and pain, in the manner of his death. We will all need to come to peace over this and learn to forgive Pete, as Christ has forgiven Pete. But I can also state that Pete is with Christ. Why? Because I know all that Christ did for Pete and I know that these things were applied to directly to him. Christ died for all sins. That’s my sins. Your sins. And Pete’s sins. I know that these gifts given by Christ were directly applied to Pete. Knowing what Christ has done, I can say that Pete is now with Christ, his Savior. Christ died for Pete. Nothing in this world can change that.

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