Monday, March 1, 2010

Funeral Homily for Sam Johnson

Funeral of Sam Johnson
February 23, 2010
Text: Romans 6:1-5

Dear Friends in Christ,
What is a pastor, and why is there a pastor here, tonight? Many people think that pastors are these milktoast guys who know how to speak and get up and say nice things. That’s not it. A pastor is a servant of the Word of God and steward of God’s mysteries. Any place he comes, if he is faithful, he is there to speak God’s Word. That word includes both God’s law and God’s Gospel. And since, as it has been said, the Gospel is like a passing summer shower, I encourage you to pay close attention. This may be the only time in your life that you hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is especially true since I know many of you are not part of the Church.

Sam Johnson was part of the church, though he had not been active in recent years. I had privilege of instructing Sam in the Christian faith and Baptizing him. Sam was a sinner, as are all men. St. Paul tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. Sam struggled with one particular sin - the abuse of alcohol. We must not whitewash this. Coving up sin does no one any good. Sam’s struggles with alcohol did not make him worse than any other sinners. It only perhaps makes his sin more obvious. And we should be clear that alcohol is a good gift of God. In Psalm 104, for example we read that God made alcohol to gladden the heart of man. But as with all good gifts of God, alcohol is subject to horrible abuse. And it is also likely true that alcohol abuse contributed the health problems he experienced in these last years.

Sin is a violation of God’s law. God’s law, often is rather like the instructions on a hair dryer. You know: Do not run while immersed or something really bad will happen. God does not give us laws simply hold us under His thumb. They are for our good. But when Adam, the first man, fell into sin, all his descendants became sinners. We are born enemies of God. Sin is what sinners do.

God came into our world in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, called the Christ, that is the chosen one of God. He came into our world to die for our sins. He came restore our place before God. He did that by dying on the cross as payment for our sins, and rising again to life on Easter morning - April 5, 33 A.D.

God does not just do this and let it hang out there. He attaches us to these events. In Baptism we are joined with Christ’s death and resurrection. We call it the second birth of water and the Word. It is God’s formal adoption of us as His sons. The Christian life flows out of the waters of Baptism, where Christ applies all His gifts to us. Sam was a sinner, yes, as am I, as is everyone here. But Sam was also adopted as a son of God in Holy Baptism. As His adopted Sons, we then participate in the one perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. We eat of that which was sacrificed - the body and blood of Christ in the forms of bread and wine. A week ago Friday night, I was summoned out to Sam’s house. I hadn’t heard, before that, how seriously ill he was. One of things Sam wanted that night was the Lord’s Supper. He wanted to again participate in Christ’s sacrifice for his sins. It was hard. Sam could hardly eat or drink. But that he managed.

Was Sam the ideal Christian? No. But then I’m not sure that there is such a thing. But Sam did understand that he had a Savior. And that Savior made Sam His child. Not every person will be in heaven. In fact the majority of those that ever lived or will live will end up in hell. But Sam I can say, though his faith appeared weak in earthly terms, is in heaven with his heavenly Father who adopted Him as His son through the blood of Jesus Christ. Death is both a warning and an invitation to the living. Sam is in heaven. Will you join him, or the legions of the lost. Those waters of baptism where Sam became God’s child are waiting for you as well.

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