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Funeral for Richard Christenson

Matthew 11:25-30

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Thurs. after Transfiguration
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Thu, Feb 9, 2017 

Grace, mercy and peace to you, especially to you, the family of Dick Christenson.

Our Lord Jesus tells us, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, that I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

These words are words of comfort.  They are not to be understood as Christ giving instructions how to live our lives.  He is not saying, “If you live your life the right way, doing the right things and thinking the right thoughts, then your life will be easy.”

Instead, Jesus is saying this: “I give you a light burden because I have taken the heaviest part.  I have carried the yoke that would have pinned you helplessly to the ground.  Instead of putting a burden on you, I am taking the burden.”

This is comforting because the burden is not on us.  The weight is lifted.  The responsibility is all up to Christ Jesus, and He has fulfilled that responsibility faithfully for us.

More importantly today, we should realize that Christ our Lord took the heavy burden for Dick.  Christ did it all for him.  Now Dick has rest for his soul.

Was his earthly life always easy?  No.  Pain, struggles, and illness troubled Dick from time to time.  Like the rest of us, he did not have a completely carefree life, gliding effortlessly without any sorrow at all.

How then can we say that Christ gave Dick an easy yoke?  Because the main burden of life was lifted.  The heavy, threatening perils of sin and death and hell were removed from him.  Christ accomplished that removal, not Dick.  Dick did not lift a finger to save himself.  Christ did it all.

As a sinner, Dick deserved the same punishment that all we sinners deserve.  We can see the severity of God’s judgment against sin on the Cross, where Christ suffered terribly.  But that is exactly the point.  Christ felt the condemnation of sin so that Dick did not have to.  The Father laid the agony of all guilt upon the shoulders of His Son Jesus so that the same agony would not come near Dick.

Dick still suffered from time to time.  But he did not suffer the full wages his sins deserved.  Because of Christ, God no longer saw Dick as a rebellious, disobedient son.  Instead, God the Father saw Dick just as if he was as holy as the righteous Son of God, Jesus Christ.  God clothed Dick with the holiness of Christ at Dick’s Baptism.  God covered up all of Dick’s sins with the Blood of the Lamb of God.  So God saw none of Dick’s sins, and looked upon him as a perfect son.

Now Dick has passed through the final, earthly trouble.  He set aside his earthly body and now rests with all the saints in glory.  Although in that place there is no sorrow or pain for Dick, it is not his final state.  That is not enough for God.  Christ worked to earn Dick even more reward.

So there will be a Day of resurrection for Dick.  His body that now rests will be raised up.  The same body that felt sickness will be blessed with perfect health.  The same body that died will be transformed and clothed with immortality.  We will not see the weak and flawed flesh that he wore in this life.  No, he will be strong and full of life as we cannot even imagine.

Like Christ our Lord, Dick will be raised, never to die again.  Death will have no way of touching him.  Without the curse of sin, death will have no authority over Dick.

In the same way, Christ will raise all believers in Christ on the Last Day to everlasting life. 

Did we earn this privilege?  No.  Dick could not, and we cannot.  It is too fantastic and amazing a reward.  But Christ has earned it for us.

Was Dick wise enough to see or find or choose this eternal life?  No.  The knowledge of Christ is hidden from the wise and understanding.  The Father only reveals it to little children.  It is not that little children have more innocent thoughts, or they have certain qualities of imagination or something else that makes them more worthy of eternal life.  No, children are weak and lack knowledge.  Dick became like a little child because He was not strong and not wise and not holy in himself.  But he received God’s gifts, as a little, helpless child receives everything he needs from his parents. 

Dick received everything from Christ Jesus.  He was given God’s ultimate treasures without earning a single one.  He got immortality and the promise of resurrection.

This is the only true comfort in the face of death.  Christ has conquered death by dying.  He has made life out of death.  He has freely given this life to the lowly and weak who do not trust in themselves, but trust only in Him.  If we had to wonder whether Dick was wise enough to go to heaven, we might delude ourselves into thinking he was, or we might realistically know that he wasn’t.  If we had to wonder whether Dick was good enough to go to heaven, we would run into the same problem.

But Christ carried the burden for everything Dick has received.  Christ’s wisdom and goodness are without limit, and He shares all that He has earned with those who trust in Him.  Even the faith Dick had to trust in Christ was not from his own wisdom or goodness, but it was a gift of God.  So we need not doubt that Dick is now resting in the perfect bliss of Paradise, and will be raised to immortality.  Christ did it all.

May we take comfort in this wonderful knowledge, and fix our eyes upon Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.  Amen.

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