Video of the memorial service is here. The sermon (“Going Home”) begins around the 23:00 mark.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Family and friends of Marty, especially Betty, Paulette, Monica, Jack, Chuck, Tom, Tim, and Michelle: the first word that Jesus said to His disciples when He appeared in their midst that first Easter evening was, “Peace.” So also, peace to you from our risen Lord, and the comfort of God in Jesus be yours today and in all the days to come. In his final days in his flesh of sin and death, in this world of sin and death, Marty’s peace and consolation was Jesus. Marty knew without a doubt the promises that Jesus had spoken and given to him: first in his baptism, when Jesus joined Marty to Himself and made a promise in the holy Name of God that He, the Good Shepherd, was claiming Marty as one of His dear sheep. The Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep took up that life again in His resurrection in order to give it to Marty and to all those who believe. And He did, in His word, His absolution, and the Supper of His body and blood. Marty heard, received, believed, and lived in that confidence.
I visited him a number of times in the hospital over the years, for various things, and I never heard him complain, except to say that his body wasn’t doing what he wanted it to. For example, he was having some trouble with his eyes, so he couldn’t dial the phone the way he was used to. And that definitely annoyed him, but he never complained about pain, or unfairness, or suffering. And when I would see him coming into this building on Sunday mornings, it certainly looked like he was in pain, but he never said so out loud, at least not to me. He was very often more concerned about Betty or his children, and gave me more than one prayer request for them, but not for himself.
Even in the last few days before he died, what he wanted to know was when he was going home. He was not able to leave the hospital, but he surely did go home. Jesus says of Himself, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief [, the devil,] comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:9-10). Jesus brought Marty in as one of His own dear sheep, brought Him in through the door of Himself, by His blood and His baptism, and Marty went in and out and found good pasture in the word of God, in the promises he had known since childhood.
Because we all sin, we all die, but even in the midst of that physical death, Jesus was giving Marty, and He is giving us, His abundant life. It is life that lasts beyond our physical deaths, because Jesus rose from the grave of His physical death. For us, death is the great separator. We cannot think of anything worse than death; it seems final. But not if you are in Jesus, who was dead, but is alive. If you are in Jesus, as Marty was—and is—then death is only the way to resurrection. And since that life is in Jesus, then our true home is not here, where we are burdened by pain and suffering, sin and death. Our true home is with Jesus, who is our life. So Jesus granted Marty’s prayer, and brought him home to be with Himself. And that is good. No more pain, no more trouble breathing, no more surgeries or procedures or medicine or hospitals or doctors.
It is good, but it is not the best. The best is not when Jesus brings us home when we die, but when He brings home to us in His resurrection. It is good to be free of the body of sin and death and pain, but the best is to have that body back without sin and death and pain. Thanks be to God, He is going to bring that home here, when the holy city, the New Jerusalem descends from heaven, and the new heavens and earth are made, and the Good Shepherd gathers all His sheep together for the eternal feast of good food and good wine, when death is swallowed up forever. Jesus has prepared this feast now in the presence of death, our great and final enemy. But it will be in life that has no end that we will enjoy it forever with Marty and with all God’s saints.
It was an unbreakable promise that God made to Marty in Jesus when He said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14-15). I know Marty, Jesus said. I know all those on whom I have put my Name. For them and for every person in this world, I laid down My life. Every time I find one of My lambs, I put it on My shoulders and carry it home, and the angels rejoice. I brought Marty through this life, and I brought Him to Myself, and I will bring him with you home in the resurrection.
Then, finally, Isaiah’s prophecy will be fulfilled, that God “will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation’” (Isaiah 25:8-9). Come quickly, Lord Jesus, and bring us all home!
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
— Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 4/27/22