I know that most of you were at Autumn Fields last December when we celebrated Bob’s birthday. That day doesn’t seem that long ago. In fact, it doesn’t seem that long ago that I began my regular visits to Bob over at his apartment on Third Avenue and Penn. A winter finally came along where walking on ice with a cane had become a challenge. Instead of going to church to be with Jesus and receive his gifts, it was time for his pastor to bring Jesus to Bob.
Bob wasn’t much of a conversationalist. Like many people of his generation, he pretty much took life as it came without a whole lot of commentary. I usually greeted him by asking, “Hey Bob how’re ya’ doin’.” His usual rely was, “’Bout the same.” What else was there to say?
The day that I knew things were changing was when I went to visit him at Knights’ Templar in Paxton. He had been through a couple trips to the hospital and his needs now exceeded the level of care that the people at Autumn Fields could provide. I greeted him the usual way by asking, “Hey Bob how’re ya’ doin’.” This time he very sadly replied, “I don’t know.”
Then last week Thursday, I received a series of texts from Dean. Bob’s oxygen levels were not good. It was time to gather the family. The time was short. This past Tuesday, I visited Bob one last time. Later that evening, Paige called and informed that Bob’s suffering in this life was over.
Once again a death forces us to remember the inspired words of the Apostle Paul: “Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12) This truth is especially hard in the case of someone like Bob because I only knew Bob as a gentle soul … someone who took life as it came … someone who had done what needed to be done … someone who people would say was a good, kind, decent, and gentle man. His death drives home the point that we all must die someday. His death is a reminder of other words from Paul: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) If someone like Bob is a sinner who dies, then what chance do I have? What chance do any of us have?
Bob wanted you to know about … not just the chance … but the absolute certainty of salvation that we have in our savior Jesus Christ. That is why Bob, as he discussed his funeral plans with his family, chose the Bible passages that you heard earlier in the service. Bob wanted you to hear about the faith he had through the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2) Bob wanted you to hear these words so that you will know that there is hope beyond death … that God has provided a way of salvation.
Later on in this service, you will hear the promise that Jesus gave to Martha when He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25–26) With these words, Jesus promised eternal life to Martha, and by using words like whoever and everyone, He extended that promise to all who believe in Him.
Jesus blazed a new trail through death. The writer to the Hebrews informs us that we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh. (Hebrews 10:19–20) For Jesus offered up His flesh on the cross that by His death, our death no longer leads to eternal destruction, but to resurrection on the Last Day … a resurrection that leads to eternal life. Even as Jesus Himself did not remain in the tomb, so also those who believe in Him shall also rise to new life.
Bob already participated in that new life. The reading that He chose from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans lets you know how he participated in the salvation that God provides. He wanted you to hear that through his baptism, he is forever joined to Christ. Christ’s death on the cross is his death on the cross. Although we shall bury Bob’s mortal remains later today, his sin was already buried long ago when Christ was buried. At God’s chosen time Bob will participate in the resurrection of the body just as Jesus rose from the dead. Through baptism, the Holy Spirit transported the forgiveness of sins from Jesus on the cross to Bob. In the great exchange, Bob’s sins were laid on Jesus and the righteousness of Jesus’ sinless life was laid on Bob.
As his pastor, I can assure you that Bob regularly received the forgiveness of sins through the gifts that Jesus gave to His church. I regularly heard Bob confess his sins and then confess his savior, Jesus Christ. I had the extreme privilege of then absolving his sins in the name of Jesus whom he confessed. Then I had the extreme privilege of giving him the very body and blood of his savior for the forgiveness of sins. Even the last complete sentence he shared with me before he died was a confession of faith. He said, “Everything depends on Jesus.”
I share these experiences with you because I want you to know that Bob made the good confession of faith. On the Last Day, Jesus will raise him in body and soul to life everlasting. In the meantime, he is waiting for that last day with Jesus, and all those who have died in the Lord including Ellen. The Gospel that Bob chose for today begins with the words of Jesus: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Bob is now enjoying that rest as he waits for the Last Day when God will raise all the dead and give eternal life to him and all believers in Christ.
Bob confessed that everything depends on Jesus. That same faith is there for you. The same Holy Spirit who planted and nurtured Bob’s faith wants to nurture that faith in you as well. He wants you to have the faith that endures through death into eternal life … the faith in Christ crucified for you. The Holy Spirit wants you to have the absolute certainty that when God raises all the dead, you will join Bob and all the saints who have died in the Lord. He wants you to join Bob in the eternal presence of the Lamb of God Who was slain and now lives forever.
The comfort for us on this day lies in the fact that Bob’s death is not forever. Floral Hills Cemetery is just a temporary resting place. Those of us who also have the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith will see him again. We shall see him and all our loved ones who died in Christ.
In the meantime, we wait. We mourn honest tears. We do not mourn for Bob, but we do mourn for ourselves. Bob’s sweet soul is no longer with us. We will always miss him. It is healthy to mourn in this way.
On the other hand, our mourning is not the same as those who have no hope of seeing their loved ones again. Instead, we mourn as those who will only be parted from our loved ones for a time. We shall not see Bob again in this world, but we will see him in the world to come even as we gather around our risen savior. We shall join Bob at our savior’s side and never leave one another again. Amen.
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