Monday, August 19, 2019

The man he is by God's grace and promise. . .

The funeral sermon for Chaplain Major the Rev. Shawn David Hunze, preached at his memorial service on Saturday, August 17, 2019, at Faith Lutheran Church, Union City, TN.

What has brought us here today is shock and sorrow, a man whose life was stolen by death too soon.  And we are left with questions and fears, with sorrow and tears.  But as St. Paul reminds us, we do not come as the ignorant who grieve without hope.  Grieve, yes, we mourn our dead and are lonely in the wake of their passing but we have hope.  We expect a future.  We hear the promise of the resurrection.  We know that Christ is raised and we will rise with Him.

You all knew the man Shawn Hunze was.  Sherril knew him as son.  Tim, Tom, and Stephanie knew him as brother.  Rosanne as husband.  Benjamin, Paul, and Abigail knew him as dad.  The pastors here knew him as a brother.  The soldiers he served knew him as chaplain.  The people of Faith and Trinity Lutheran Churches knew him as pastor.  Like the various facets of a shiny diamond, each of us knew Shawn and saw part of him.  Our hearts are warmed by memories.  We cling to them especially when a man so young with so much of life ahead of him suddenly dies.  The past becomes our comfortable home where we retreat because the pain of the loss is so great and shock of its suddenness overwhelms us.

But I am not here to talk to you of the man Shawn was.  For Shawn is not merely a man with a past.  Shawn has a future.  Death has not triumphed over him.  He lives.  Shawn David Hunze belongs to the Lord.  God made a covenant and promise with Shawn in his baptism.  You are mine.  I have called you by name.  I the Lord your God have become your Savior.  I shall not die but live, said Job of old.  And to this living faith Shawn added his own voice when he was confirmed in that baptismal faith as a young man.

Shawn’s legacy to us cannot be summarized by a memory.  Shawn’s legacy to us is life – the life of Christ to which he was joined by baptism and in which he lived by faith.  The life of Christ which nourished him body and soul every time he communed upon the flesh and blood of Christ.  The life of Christ which was the core and center of his preaching and teaching.  The life of Christ which now has rescued him from death and the end and which even now keeps him with God unto that day when Christ shall come in His glory and deliver Shawn and all who have loved Christ’s appearing to everlasting life.

Shawn played a pastor as a young boy.  With his brothers and sister and among his friends, he opened the hymnal and practiced for the calling that would be his years later.  I suspect that many of us who are pastors had such practice.  But Shawn did not simply play act as a pastor, he was a pastor.  He served in parishes near and far and had soldiers as his congregation across the world.  He led the people of God to confess their faith in the words of the creed.  He held children and led adults to the healing waters of baptism.  His voice was used by Christ to call sinners to repentance and to speak absolution to the guilty.  He visited those whom the world forgot in hospitals and nursing homes.  He taught the young and old who had not heard the good news of the Savior who was born to die and who died that we might live.  He gathered people to hope when death came near, reminding them not to grieve as those who had no hope but to find consolation and peace in the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting.

These are not just words.  Shawn may have played church as a child but there was no play acting in his role as a pastor.  Shawn believed these words.  We believe these words.  These words are not just words but the Word of Life that rescue the dying from death and lead us with Christ to our own joyful resurrection and a great and grand reunion with those whom we love who depart this life in faith.  Friends, when you come to church on Sunday morning and confess your sins and hear the absolution, when you confess the creed and pray the Our Father, and when you receive the Body and Blood of Christ, you are not play acting.  This is the most real stuff of life because it is through this life giving Word and blessed Sacraments we meet the life stronger than death in the Savior who died for our sin and rose to give us everlasting life.

Isaiah contrasts the fear of those who wonder if anyone notices when the man of faith dies with the promise of perfect peace and the rest that remains for saints who trust in the Lord.  St. Paul insists that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ – not the trials and tribulations of this life, not the powers and persecutions of the enemy, and not guilt of the past or the unknown future.  God makes them work for His end and for His purpose.  Even death has become a pawn in the hands of God, the gate and door of eternal life through which we pass to be with Christ, our crucified and risen Savior.

In the Gospel for today we heard of the God who has compassion upon us.  We are harassed by doubts and fears, seemingly helpless before the world and our enemies, lost and alone, broken and wounded, marked for death.  But Jesus has come for us.  Sheep without a shepherd have found a Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep.  And for this cause there are men are willing to dedicate their lives to His Word, be set apart by Word and prayer for the office of Pastor, and serve as laborers of the Lord’s own harvest.  And some of them are willing to go in harms way with only the armor of God’s Word in order to bring this Gospel to those carry the weapons, who fight our enemies, and who defend our liberty.  God bless those soldiers and God bless the chaplains who support them.

I will not preach to you of uncertainty or doubt.  I will not leave you only to your memories.  I will not surrender Shawn to who he was and the brief days on earth he lived.  I will speak to you today with confidence that because Christ lives, Shawn lives and we shall live with him.  I will promise you a future – a future you must take by faith for now but will someday know with Shawn face to face.  I will not leave you to the tears for a life not long enough but address you with the promise of life that has no end in Christ our Savior.  We are not here because of an end but because Christ has made a new beginning for Shawn.  We confess our faith today so that we will be joined with Shawn and the saints again.   

Rosanne, I cannot even begin to know the pain of your loss or to the wounds you carry at the loss of your husband.  Ben, Paul, and Abby I will not pretend to know the ache in your hearts at the loss of your dad.  Tim, Tom, and Stephanie, I cannot say what it is like to lose your brother.  Sherril, I cannot imagine what it is like to lose your son so young. People of Faith and Trinity congregations, I cannot say how you should feel as you mourn the death of your pastor, the very man to whom you looked to speak hope, forgiveness, and life to you.

But this I can say.  You have not heard the last of Shawn David Hunze.  He belongs to the Lord and death cannot claim him.  He lives in Christ life stronger than the grave.  And when on the last day our Lord Jesus Christ stands upon this earth, He shall reach down His hand in the dust of the earth and bring forth Shawn and all who have died in the faith, and raise Shawn and all believers to everlasting life.  And in the twinkling of an eye, death shall be forgotten, pain shall be no more, and tears will turn to joy.  We shall be reunited with the saints who lived and died in Christ and we shall see our Savior face to face.  We shall wear the new and glorious flesh that Christ wore on Easter Sunday.  And our joy shall be full and our lives complete, without any lack or want or need evermore.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!


Pastor Harvey S. Mozolak said...

simply well juxtaposed line, clearly put: "But I am not here to talk to you of the man Shawn was. For Shawn is not merely a man with a past. Shawn has a future. Death has not triumphed over him. He lives. Shawn David Hunze belongs to the Lord."

John Joseph Flanagan said...

May I ask about the cause of death? Is there a reason this is being kept a secret? Most memorials and obituaries about people mention the cause of death, whether the result of natural causes, illness, injury, accident, or an act of violence.