Thursday, July 10, 2014

Funeral Sermon for Charles Barker

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Psalm 23; Ezekiel 36:25; Ephesians 2:8-10; Mark 10:14
Memorial Sermon for Charles Barker
Thursday of Trinity III, 10 July 2014
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Trespasses. Jesus Christ dealt with our trespasses. He dealt with Charles Barker’s trespasses by forgiving them. We pray, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Jesus taught us this prayer. And Charles prayed the Lord’s Prayer aloud with his family and his pastors over the years. When he did, he often repeated the word “trespasses.” His are forgiven in Christ.
Charles was baptized on February 10, 1952. It was Septuagesima Sunday, one of the Sundays of pre-lent before Lent and Easter. Charles had limitations in his life, but they did not define him. The family shared with me a letter about Charles from a medical professional. I quote part of it here:
“To describe such a likeable individual as Charles Barker by only [his] symptoms is a disservice, because he is delightful. [He] has never been a violent man, and typically resists potentially hurting anyone’s feelings. He is people-pleasing, kind, supportive, honest, and seeks relationships… He has a family support network that is unparalleled in their love and dedication to his care and treatment. He is a kind-hearted and generous person who desires to live with dignity and composure, cares about his appearance, and tries to make a good impression. His wishes and dreams regularly include having a girlfriend, visiting his sisters, and riding a horse. It has been my pleasure to work with him…” End quote.  I agree. Those of us who knew him for any significant length of time will resonate with that heart-felt assessment.
Charles was and is a wonderful example of the grace of God in Christ. If salvation were up to our thoughts, words, and deeds being enough to earn God’s favor or forgiveness, not one of us would be saved. Yet, our salvation is not based upon the trespasses we have committed and the good we have not done being outweighed by the good we have done added to the evil we have refrained from. It was accomplished by Christ alone. He said, “It is finished.” How could we argue with that? “Jesus loves me,” Charles could sing. And then he’d ask if you’d take him for a burger and a Diet Coke.
Charles is a dear child of our heavenly Father, and a co-heir with us of His heavenly kingdom because of our common baptism into Christ in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. That’s why the Paschal candle is lit today. The Lord keeps His promises to us in Christ Jesus: the forgiveness of sins, life, eternal salvation, and the gift to dwell in the Lord’s own shelter. Our Good Shepherd gently guides us as He guided Charles, knowing well our need and provides us all we need to support this body and life.
The work of salvation was accomplished by Jesus Christ. And the delivery of salvation to Charles and to us was also accomplished by God in Christ.
Ever wonder about how to better understand Scripture? Seek to understand all the words of a passage the way Scripture uses them. Find the law and the Gospel promises in the text. And then look at the verbs. Who is doing the action each verb? In the readings chosen for this memorial service, the good Lord is very active. We did not and could not accomplish our own salvation.
God says: I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. Ezekiel 36 gets us Christians thinking about Holy Baptism, and well we should. Charles Barker was washed in the blood of the Lamb, the Lamb of God who takes the trespasses of the world away.
St. Paul goes out of his way to convince his readers that salvation is not by works we have done: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. That’s Ephesians 2:8-9. Verse ten shows the proper place for good works: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Good works are necessary, because God asks us to do them. Yet Scripture never says they are necessary for our salvation. God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor in need does. And according to our vocations, our specific, God-given relationships with Charles, we served him. And we were blessed in our service. Charles was just such a neighbor in need, a baptized child of God, a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church, a dear son and brother, grandson and cousin, a resident of RENEW and Sheridan Manor, and much more.
It was a great privilege to visit him for the last five years, whether at the Manor or in the hospital. There were times before when we thought we would soon lose him, but he pulled through. He recovered just enough. He was comforted just enough by loving family, soothing hymns of Gospel promises, prayers for health, healing, and comfort, and God’s Word read to him.
Today’s service is filled with hymns that Charles knew or heard and hymns that have given comfort in Christ to his family since his passing, his heavenly birthday.
The Lord God, our shepherd, gathers the lambs of His flock into the arms of His mercy and brings them to Himself. There, with Him, we will await the Resurrection and the new heaven and new earth. Charles received the kingdom of God like a child. He was given the gift of faith by God the Holy Spirit. And in the Resurrection, we Christians shall see him again. Amen.

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