Sunday, March 19, 2023

Now eight years ago. . .

After my Dad died, I was left with his request for his son to preach the sermon at his father's funeral.  Dad was not oblivious to how hard that would be but it was his wish.  He voiced it to me and I felt I had no other choice than to do what he asked.  So eight years ago today when he died, I put together some words to preach.  Hidden in them were these paragraphs.

Dad was a simple man.  Early in the morning, in the black recliner, he read the Scriptures, the catechism, the Lutheran Confessions, Portals of Prayer, and he prayed.  I used to sit up at the top of the steps every now and then and watch him.  Every day began this way.  Before any work could begin or even breakfast eaten, he spent time in prayer.

He loved Mom and pursued her when she was not so sure about him.  He and Mom were different and their weaknesses and strengths complemented each other’s weaknesses and strengths.  They lived under the forgiveness of Christ and practiced it freely each toward the other.  Theirs was a love that sustained nearly 65 years of marriage.  He loved his brother and sisters and their families and nothing was better than to spend a Sunday afternoon on a car ride to end up at one of their homes with some chips and dip and maybe a drink or two.  Family occasions were not duties but privileges – the precious privilege of family.

My Dad loved his home.  He loved to welcome people into his home.  Mom and Dad were great hosts who entertained rich and poor, old friends and strangers, famous and anonymous – all with the same affection and warmth.  My Dad loved a short power nap after lunch – sort of a sacred ritual in his whole life.  And, of course, he loved to work – as one who believed that labor was a privilege and the duty of the child of God toward God and neighbor.  Dad found it easier to deal with failure than to live with the regret of never having worked to make it happen.  As a teenager I found his work ethic foolish.  As a 60 year old son, I find it noble and wise and honorable.

Dad did not acquire these traits from rich experiences and they were not inborn into his character.  He had wonderful examples in my Grandpa and Grandma Peters but his life was shaped from the baptismal font, by the power of the Holy Spirit, toward the cross of Christ, and for the glory of God.  That is why I speak to you today.  There is nothing you can know of my Dad without first knowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  He was a man whose life was lived forever in the shadow of the cross where the saving will of the Father met the love of the Son and the Spirit marked this redemption for Albur George Peters, and for the sake of the whole world. 

Faith is not theory or philosophy.  It is the most practical thing of all.  It is where sinners hanging their heads in shame meet the grace of God in forgiveness.  It is where hopeless lives are reborn to everlasting life by the power of Christ’s resurrection.  It is where the limits of our smartness and our stubborn wills come face to face with the mind and heart of God, relentless to save.  It is where we meet the Lord who refused to surrender us to death, to tears, to fears, to pain, to grief, to sorrows, to disappointed hopes, to broken dreams, to tawdry pasts and to uncertain futures.  So great is the love God has for Albur, for you, and for me...  And just when we think we have given up everything, God points us to the cross where God gave up so much more – so that we might have all of it without cost to us though it cost Jesus everything.

I chose Isaiah 35 because it speaks of Dad – of feeble knees whom the Lord has made strong and its call to be strong, fear not, and trust in the Lord to save you.  And also because in the last hard days of his life, his prayer and ours was for the gladness and joy to begin and the sorrows, struggles, and sighs to flee away.  John 10 was one of those sections of worn pages from Dad’s Bible – a place where he fled for comfort and strength.  Jesus is the door to the sheep pen, the shepherd who calls His sheep by name, and the good shepherd who dies for His sheep.  We all pay attention to that part.  Dad focused also on the other part of Jesus’ words.

My sheep hear My voice and follow Me...   That was Dad and it should be you and me.  There are charlatans and strangers and thieves and robbers who have distorted Christianity and led too many Christians astray.  Where the Scripture’s vocabulary of sin and repentance, forgiveness and life through the cross, and the goal of eternal life have been replaced by selfish and foolish notions of your best life now, where God has become more motivational speaker for people looking for a better life, we have a big problem.  The sheep recognize only one voice – the voice of the crucified and risen Lord and this is the Savior whom they follow – and none other.

The lesson from Revelation is perhaps my favorite.  Those who read strange foreboding things into Revelation have got it all wrong.  John insists that he writes to comfort his people in their tribulations and to encourage their patience endurance in the Lord Jesus.  If you read Revelation and you get no comfort or encouragement out of it, you read it wrong.  Nowhere is this more true than in this passage from chapter 7.  If you have ever watched someone you love suffer, if you have ever waited at the bedside for the end none of us wants, then these words speak to you as they do to me.  In our moments of greatest test, we cling to the promise of sinners cleansed in the blood of the Lamb, serving the Lord joyfully in His eternal presence, where hunger, thirst, sorrow, and tears no longer haunt, hurt, or threaten.

The truth is my Dad is not dead.  Those who believe in Christ, who were washed in baptism, called by the voice of the Spirit in the Word, nourished and fed at Christ’s table. . . well, death cannot claim them and the grave cannot hold them.  Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord, St. Paul says.  When the trumpet will sound and Christ will come again to stand upon this earth and finish His new creation, He will reach down into the dust of the earth and He will raise up Albur George Peters.  Nothing can stop Him.  Nothing will stop Him.  Those who die in Christ live in Him and from death they wait with us for Christ to raise us to immortality and lead us to the place He has prepared for us, the great and blessed reunion with the saints – the bosom of Abraham, as Scripture calls it.  Dad was ready to see this promise fulfilled and in his last days he enjoyed the peace of Christ’s forgiveness and the comfort of Christ’s body and blood.  Would that each of us knew with the same confidence this promise from God and the peace in of His presence in our final hours.
Now Mom is gone -- gone to be with Dad and to wait with him that blessed day when barriers no more divide and God in His great power and mercy will raise up them and all the faithful to everlasting life.  Mom was lost without Dad and I think my brother and I have not yet come to terms with the death of our parents and the end of our lives as sons.  Certain vocations continue even after this vocation ends.  I see now what I did not know before.  Having a couple of grandchildren seems to remind you of the gift God gave you in your family and of the treasure you had when there was a man you could call Dad and a woman Mom.  

It was fitting to me that Dad died on St. Joseph's Day.  He was another man who believed and lived the faith and who became the guardian and protector of a child precious in the sight of the Lord.  On this day I remember and give thanks to God that He supplied me with such gifts in a faithful and pious Dad and Mom and pray that I may be as faithful.

1 comment:

Nancy said...
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