The Rev. Paul J Cain
2 Timothy 4:1-8
Ever Walk With Jesus
Funeral Sermon for Henry Beffert
Saturday of Lent I, 12 July 2012
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
[Jesus said:] “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” A mere sixteen months ago, we gathered to hear those words of comfort as we mourned the loss of Clara and rejoiced that she has a place with Christ. Today, we heard them again—and we needed to—because we mourn the loss of Henry Beffert even as we rejoice that he still walks with God.
They married in wartime. Hank served in the U.S. Army during WWII, in the U.S. Signal Corp in Alaska and Europe. They moved to Sheridan and he worked at the VA Hospital as an electrician for 33 years. He always did his best and received awards for the work well done. Found in his work folder was a letter requesting that his boss select his most qualified employee for a job. It was no surprise that he was chosen.
Hank was Sunday School superintendent when the Immanuel Lutheran congregation moved into this new church in 1958. Over 200 children were enrolled in Sunday School in those days. One of his favorite events was singing in the choir on Easter morning. Hank sang in the choir for decades, was a youth group leader, usher and an elder for many years. I viewed him as an extra elder I could talk to about life in the congregation long after he officially retired from that role. His service fits with today’s Epistle reading, the first eight verses of 2 Timothy 4.
1I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
He and Clara raised their five children in the Christian faith. His was a godly example of a Christian father. This was always his ministry as an evangelist to his family, his vocation as husband and father, a Christian head of household, second only to receiving the Lord’s gifts regularly himself.
At church picnics he always helped organize the games. His two favorites were softball and horseshoes and he was very skilled at both games. He was active in the community coaching and umpiring little league baseball, served as an assistant scoutmaster, and spent many years as a 4-H club leader.
As his family reflected on Henry’s life as a father, they were amazed how he was able to manage with the challenges he came home to on a regular basis. They usually involved an old car, lost tools, challenging mountain driving, winter travel in Wyoming, or family friends coming over for the home cooking and car questions.
In their home on 5th street, when the kids came to visit, anyone who wanted to play cards, board games or word games met in the kitchen with Mom – anyone who wanted to visit or watch sports on TV sat in the living room with Dad. Whenever one of the kids came home to visit, Dad always filled the gas tank before they left. The family told me, “We don’t know if he did so because he appreciated our visit, or to make sure we eventually left!”
He made sure his children learned how to fish, that they learned to love the mountains and the outdoors, and that they could take care of their cars and homes. Family vacations were spent in North Dakota where Henry and Clara were both born and raised, visiting family and friends. The rest of his vacation time was spent working additional jobs to cover grocery bills. They included hauling sugar beets, doing various farm chores, and using his skills as an electrician to wire or repair many homes in Sheridan.
When he retired, Hank started a daily walking routine that he continued until the week of his death. Initially he walked downtown for coffee at Ritz Sporting Goods. One day Sam’s dishwasher broke so he offered to fix it and did. Sam then asked Hank to come and help out as needed. One day he even sold Prince Philip a fishing license when the Royal Family was visiting in Sheridan. He then spent several years working at the Ritz and started his extensive pocketknife collection. Later he walked in his neighborhood and when he moved to Sugarland Ridge he walked the hallways and parking lot.
This walking habit meshed well with a hymn Hank knew well, “Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus.” He learned to walk, suffer, die, and live with Jesus, even as Paul explains in 2 Timothy 4.
6For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
Henry Beffert loved the appearing of Christ. He was baptized in 1928. He was confirmed here at Immanuel in 1947. Just last week he welcomed me to his apartment after being released from the V.A. Hospital after his first stay. We had church there in the room where he watched so much ESPN and read so many westerns.
Hank was an avid reader. He read 3 to 5 books a week for over 30 years, many of them westerns. Because of the Bible, Christians are often called “people of the book.” That name sure applies to Hank. He probably read many of his favorite books 3 or 4 times! On that visit to Sugarland Ridge I asked him a question I’d asked countless times: “Read any good books lately?” This time the answer was, “No. Didn’t feel up to it.” We talked about football and the new college playoff system. It was like he knew that the time of his departure had come.
For a time, this world faded away as we heard the Lord’s Word read and preached, rejoiced in an old Lutheran hymn like the ones we sing today, and received the Lord’s Body and Blood in His Supper for the forgiveness of our sins. We prayed for him and his recovery. And then I saw him again at the V.A. on Friday and Monday, which would be his heavenly birthday.
When the doctor asked Hank if he would agree to surgery for his most recent illness Henry responded, “No, I have a strong faith. I’ll be OK.” Then, he told family, “Pray for me.” What a simple request. What a brief, yet confident statement of faith in the One to whom we address our prayers as Christians, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All he wanted was prayers for himself in Jesus’ Name. Those prayers were answered, even though some of us were not ready to say farewell so soon.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me,” Jesus said. The best worship of the Lord is to believe in Jesus, the one the Lord sent for us and for our salvation and to regularly receive His gifts. His is the only sound teaching about this life and the life to come. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, the only Savior.
That very title, Savior, confesses a profound Bible truth about us, God, heaven, the Resurrection of the Body, and Life Everlasting: not one of us is good enough to earn or deserve forgiveness, life, or eternal salvation. Jesus, the righteous judge of the living and the dead, is also the crucified and risen Lord who died as our substitute. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
His was the blood poured out as drink offering, His was the body offered as a once-for-all atoning sacrifice for our sin. He knew when the time of His departure had come and said, “It is finished!” from an old rugged cross. In your place and for your sake, Jesus fought the good fight, He finished the race, He walks with you in the victory lap, and He, by God the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, sanctifies, and keeps you in the true Christian faith unto life everlasting even as He preserved Henry and Clara in the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for them and us the undeserved gift of the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to all Christians on that Day of Resurrection, to all who have loved His appearing. That Judge who awards the crown of righteousness is the same Jesus who won that righteousness on the cross for us in the first place.
Ever walk with Jesus. That is Hank’s prayer for you, his dear family and friends. Ever walk with Jesus. That is how he loved his bride, raised his children, and served Immanuel as Elder and Sunday School Superintendent. Ever walk with Jesus. He is your refuge and strength, mighty fortress, abiding help in all trouble. Be still and know that He is God. Ever walk with Jesus.
LSB 685:4: Let us also live with Jesus. He has risen from the dead That to live we may awaken. Jesus, You are now our head. We are Your own living members; Where you live, there we shall be In Your presence constantly, Living there with You forever. Jesus, let me faithful be, Life eternal grant to me. Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.