Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sermon—The Funeral of Frank Svanda

“Know it for your good.”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, children and family and friends of our beloved brother Frank: Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted . . .” Solomon wrote those words as an expression of the hopeless and aimless view of man without God. Yet, faith in Jesus Christ gives those same words a wholly different and altogether more comforting meaning. There is “a time to be born, and a time to die.” But without knowledge of Jesus, we would have to ask, Is there a right time to die? When is it? What makes it right? God answers in the words of our text. The time is right when you are ready for heaven, and when God is ready to take you there. For both of these reasons the time was right for Frank to die. Let us learn this truth so that, when we die, the time may also be right for us.

“You shall come to your grave in ripe old age, as a shock of rain comes up to the threshing floor in its season.” This is true only for those who know and trust in the true and living God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Unless you know Him and believe firmly in Him, there can be no right time for you to die, because unless you know and trust in Him, you are not ready. In the Psalms, David told us the truth about who we are by nature. “Behold, I was shaped in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” The results of this are only too evident as we look at our lives in the clear light of God’s Law. “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness is as filthy rags.” This we must recognize and admit. And Frank did. Although I only was able to minister to Frank for a short time, I have seen his faithful confession of sins and his thirst for the body and blood of Jesus. With the rest of us he said, “O almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto Thee all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended Thee, and justly deserved Thy temporal and eternal punishment.” And through this, God reminds us that however right our lives may seem in our own eyes, when we come before God we take credit for nothing. We need His grace and forgiveness, or we will perish forever.

When we know this, then we can grasp the greatness and the goodness of God in forgiving all out sins through His dear Son. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God sent His only Son into this world of sin and death, to suffer and die as the sacrifice for our sin. He pleads our case, then, before God; and He has won God’s approval and love and forgiveness for us. In giving Frank the forgiveness of sins, God prepared him for heaven. And when death came, it was not only in “ripe old age,” but “like a shock of grain comes up to the threshing floor in its season;” at just the right time, at the proper stage of maturity, ready for the harvest! And when God’s Word has come through to our hearts with the certainty of the forgiveness of sins and the eternal life it brings with it, then we are also ready to be harvested like a shock of grain. When this is true, any time can be the right time to die, because our hope is not in doubt.

Still, the grain does not decide when it will be picked; the harvester makes that decision. Nor do we decide to stay longer on this earth or leave this world sooner than God decides we should. The right time to die is only when we are ready for heaven, and when God is ready to take us there. This, too, we have to learn that we might accept the fact of death. We may be ready to go with our Lord to our eternal home, and yet God may leave us here a while longer, until He is ready to take us from this world. We have all known people who were taken from us far sooner than might have seemed right to us. We have all known others who suffered much longer than we thought they should have to suffer. At times we question God’s wisdom. Only God knows why He does what He does, and He does not choose to tell us why. We take it on faith that He knows what He is doing, and that He knows far better than we the right time to die.

And when God decides it is time for us to leave this world, then we can be sure the time is truly right. We cannot doubt it. There can be no doubt that God dealt with Frank in just this way, the way he promises in this text: “in ripe old age, as a shock of grain comes up to the threshing floor in its season.” And when our confidence is put in Christ our Savior, when our hope is set on the heaven He has promised and won for us, then we can be sure that, when God takes us from this world, the time will be right for us, because after death we rise again to life unending, forever secure with Him.

This is the promise of God for those who fear, love, and trust in Him. “You shall come to your grave in ripe old age, as a shock of grain comes up to the threshing floor in its season.” God is as good as His Word. The time was just right for Frank, for his harvest season has now come. And as surely as God sustains your heart with confidence in Christ, the time will be right for you as well. This we confess, confidently, with Job: “Lo, this we have searched out; it is true. Hear, and know it for your good.” In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

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