Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Funeral Sermon for Gunnar Warpness, +31 January 2018

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Psalm 139:16; Ezekiel 37; John 1; Ephesians 3
These Bones Live
Funeral Sermon for Gunnar Warpness + 31 January 2018
Tuesday of V after Epiphany,6 February 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY

Bulletin Cover Verse:
([My Savior’s] eyes saw me before I was formed; before a single one of my days took shape, they were all prepared and written in His scroll.)

In the Name of Jesus Amen.
To celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, the LCMS had a hymn competition. The winning hymn, “Though All Our Life is Like a Scroll,” by the Rev. Dr. Wilfred Karsten, echoes Psalm 139 verse sixteen
as found translated on your bulletin this morning:
Though all our life is like a scroll Unrolled with blemished pages; Though sin has shredded what was whole And death is now our wages; Yet here we stand in confidence, With Jesus as our sole defense, For He alone still saves us.
Sin blemishes the pages of our life. All we can earn in this life is eternal judgement. We Christians call Jesus the Savior because He saves us from sin and its consequences, guilt, death, and eternal condemnation. With Jesus Christ as our substitute, the Savior grants us forgiveness of sin, life, and eternal salvation.
This contrast between death and life, sin and forgiveness, condemnation and salvation is reminiscent of the contrast in Nathaniel before and after he meets Jesus. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip says, “Come and see.” Seeing Nathaniel coming, Jesus said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” “How do you know me?” Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, I saw you.” In faith Nathanael confessed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said those things to you do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”
Today’s Gospel lesson was the last I was able to share with Gunnar as one of his pastors. Ann and I went to visit by request. The Lord knew then what we only know now: that Sylvia’s time resting that day gave Gunnar a special time with God’s Word, prayer, a hymn, and the Sacrament of the Altar to prepare him for eternal life in Christ.
Born on Christmas Day 1924, Gunnar received the washing of water and the Word of God in Holy Baptism on January 7, 1925, the day after Epiphany. An Epistle lesson read on Epiphany is the one heard today from Ephesians 3. Like Gunnar, we “are fellow heirs, members of the (same) body [of Christ], and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” I’m told that it builds character to live with a Norwegian. Immanuel, Sheridan in northern Wyoming still had services in German when Gunnar was baptized in southern Wyoming. It’s a good thing we all switched to English! Can anything good come out of the little town of Laramie, WY in 1924? Yes, Gunnar Warpness, because he was forgiven in Christ in Baptism.

Though pompously we try to dress In costumes of our making; Though fig leaves of self-righteousness Are futile and heartbreaking; Yet filthy rags Christ gladly wore So we would perish nevermore. His grace alone still clothes us.
The white robes worn at baptisms and confirmations, the white garments of Christian clergy and brides (and even sometimes caskets) all reflect the white robes of the saints in heaven. Gunnar was confirmed in Christ and received his first Communion on April 15, 1953, the week after Easter that year. An Old Testament lesson often read that week is the one heard today, Ezekiel 37. Gunnar married his bride Sylvia in 1950. A wedding and a Confirmation are reminders that Christ clothes us Christians in His righteousness. That is His gift to us. We rejoice in the gift that Gunnar was to us in his 93 years of life and 67 years of holy matrimony. We are grateful for the gifts the Lord gave to him that He also still gives to us.

Though earth’s deep waters foam and roar As surging waves are rolling; Though all the nations rage with war While bells of doom are tolling; Yet God gives peaceful fortitude, He nurtures us with Heaven’s food. True faith alone still anchors.
Faith in Christ anchored Gunnar’s life even in the midst of war. Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Gunnar saved a man’s life by pulling him from a burning tank. As impressive as that is, Gunnar knew that Jesus’ rescue of us is the true fulfillment of Jesus’ words and the Greatest Love.
That Greatest Love, the Gospel, is the Lord’s plan of salvation from Genesis 3:15. Jesus is the One who crushes the serpent’s head underfoot. Sin brought death. Death is not a part of life. Death is anti-life. Death feels wrong because it is. The separation of loved ones from one another was not part of the Lord’s very good creation, nor was the separation of our bodies and souls at death. The Resurrection of Jesus means that because He rose from the dead we will rise from the dead. His Resurrection means that those who die in Christ will be reunited with all who have died in Christ. And the Resurrection means the reunion of our souls with glorified, perfected bodies. Such is the comfort Scripture gives us.

Though critics cut out Scripture’s claims And treat them with derision; Though they conduct their hostile aims With scalpels of suspicion; Yet how the living, two-edged sword Proclaims the dead and risen Lord! God’s Word alone: still truthful.
It was a great joy for us to see Gunnar’s smiling face here as he regularly received the gifts of God in Word and Sacrament. The Lord gave him the gift of faith. It was also a joy to bring church to him and Sylvia at home, sometimes with family gathered around. He was thankful for the care from his children in these last years. We knew that this day was coming, but not how quickly it would come.
In recent days Gunnar got new hearing aids from the VA. On the road home I’m told he marveled to hear his own voice and he whistled. He heard the sound of his wife’s voice. He got one last game of cribbage in. And then he heard his family read John 14, today’s psalm, psalm 23, and Revelation 21. And you prayed with him and for him and the Lord called Him home.
Earlier in today’s service we heard about the Lord’s promises to us about the connection between Holy Baptism and our bodily resurrection. Whatever the Lord does not heal in our bodies according to His good and gracious will in this life, He will in the life to come.
“Can these bones live?” the Lord asked Ezekiel in chapter 37. Later the Lord God answers His own question: “Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.” These bones live!
The great mystery that St. Paul reveals in Ephesians 3 is that we Gentiles are fellow heirs with Israel, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Therefore, goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives in Christ, and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Now sing a high doxology To God who gives salvation. Both here and in eternity Let this be our vocation. To Father, Son, and Spirit raise A symphony of grateful praise, For He alone is worthy.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.