Funeral of John Wallman
IN NOMINE JESU
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, especially Leota, Darrell, and Janet,
The Christmas season began just a few days ago, and today, as we are reminded by a popular song at this time of the year, is the fourth day of Christmas. Normally we look back at the holy day that has come and gone, and we sometime compare our most recent Christmas observance with previous ones. Our most recent one stands out for reasons different from what we have come to expect. This one just gone by is not going to be remembered as much by the gifts we received, the food we ate, or the friends and relatives we saw, as it will be by the fact that Christmas Eve was the day that John died. We lost a husband, father, grandfather, fellow parishioner, and friend. But what we lost, heaven gained. In "churchspeak," John has been translated from the Church Militant (the Church here on earth) to the Church Triumphant (the Church in heaven). And, as Martin Luther would say, God has taken John from this vale of tears, this valley of sorrow, to Himself in heaven. What God has done is give John the best of all Christmas presents, granting him eternal life in heaven—what God first promised him at the baptismal font. The promise that God made John now sees in its total fulfillment. As St. Paul reminds us, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21). And what Paul would later gain and what John has just recently gained staggers the imagination; it is beyond our ability to comprehend, but it is cause for us, though we are in mourning, to celebrate, for we know that we will, by faith, one day be there as well. The day we get to be with Jesus in heaven will be a great day, one that we can look forward to without fear.
Fear. This was something that the Psalmist knew very well, chief of sinners that he was. We know fear very well, chiefs of sinners though we are. Our greatest fear now is how we will continue on here without John with us. We worry, we fret, and we fear because we do not always want God to be in control. We want Him to work on our terms. We wanted John here just a little bit longer. There was something more we wanted to do with him…one more thing to say to him. But now that opportunity is gone. We are sad. We are mad. We are hurting. We are fearful. We don't know what our lives will be like without John with us. We have a fear of the unknown. We forget the words of the Psalmist, words spoken as John made public confirmation of the faith into which he became baptized.
These were words that served John well as he entered the Air Force and as he began his dairy farm. Yes, there were times when he was uncertain about what lay ahead of him, but he knew that the Lord was with him—Christ, our Immanuel, our "God with us." He was with John here on earth. He is with John in heaven. He is with us here on earth. He will be with us in heaven. We will be with John in heaven. Through our God-given faith, the same faith He gave John, we will see John in heaven, even as we see our Lord face to face in all His glory. You see, this is not just a time for weeping; it is a time for celebrating. This is not a time for us to say goodbye; it is a time for us to say, "See you later," for by God's grace through our faith in Christ, we will see John again. We will see him in heaven, when we join him all the saints in heaven around our Lord's heavenly banquet table, forever singing praises to the Lamb of God.
You see, fellow redeemed, we need not fear, for we have Jesus! John had Jesus here on earth. He now has Jesus in heaven, as we one day will, too. God loves us to the end, and in heaven there is no end, only eternity. God loves us so much, and He loved John so much, that He sent Jesus, His only-begotten Son, to be born of the Virgin Mary, suffer under Pontius Pilate, and be crucified, dead, and buried, only on the third day to rise again from the dead. Jesus died on the cross to take away John's sins, to take away your sins, and to take away my sins. Jesus died on the cross to win our forgiveness, and that forgiveness He gave to John as an infant in Holy Baptism, that same forgiveness He gave to John in Holy Absolution, that same forgiveness He gave to John each time God's Word was read and proclaimed in his hearing, that same forgiveness He gave John in the Lord's Supper, the same forgiveness He gives us in His same Word and Sacraments, giving us the same gifts of the forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation, for the Lord is our Salvation, as the Psalmist tells us in our text.
In the Lord's Supper, we receive a foretaste of the Feast to come, the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which has no end. John received that foretaste each time he came to the Lord's Table, as do we when we come. But John is now at that Feast, where we by faith will one day be. In the Lord's Supper, our Lord comes down to us in His body and blood. Even as He comes down to us, He brings the angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven with Him. John is now among the company of heaven, and when we come to the Lord's Table for that foretaste, he is at that great Feast, dining with us. We will one day dine with John and with our Lord at the Feast, and we will do so into all eternity. The day that begins for us will be a joyous one for us indeed. We need not fear, for Christ is our Light, the Light of the world, which no darkness—not even the darkness of death—can overcome. We need not fear for Christ is our Salvation, "and there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). We need not be afraid, for the Lord is the Stronghold of our life, as the Psalmist reminds us in Psalm 46:
1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. 5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. 6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; He utters His voice, the earth melts. 7 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. 8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, how He has brought desolations on the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the chariots with fire. 10 "Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" 11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
St. John encourages us, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear" (1 Jn. 4:18a). And on that first Christmas, Perfect Love came to cast out our fears. Perfect Love came in the Person of Jesus Christ. Have no fear, for we have Jesus! Thanks be to God! Amen!
SOLI DEO GLORIA
Send Pastor Mark Schlamann an email.