Funeral Sermon, Arnold Wagner / Friday December 29th 2017
Text: John 14 :1-7
Theme: A special place
Intr - Dear Members of the Wagner family, relatives and friends: Earlier this year I had the opportunity to visit with Dorothy and Arnold at their home. It was a moment to have a cup of coffee and get to know them a little better, as much as you can learn about 8 decades of life in 60 minutes. On that occasion I learned also a small but not unimportant detail of their house routine about Arnold. He had his special spot - his recliner. There he was during our whole visit. There he sat, numerous times in the last many years. There he was even on the night of December 21th, a few hours before the Lord called him home. If you are close enough to the Wagners you know that Arnold had his captive special place….at home. That spot in the Wagner’s house was a unique place in the father’s, in the grandfather’s home. During the years, many times children and grandchildren were able to come and see him, talk to him. Sometimes they would also be the target for his sense of humor. The family knew that every time they would come over, they’d see him in that special spot, special place in the house, and have good, rewarding times with him.
In the Gospel of John 14, a text chosen by the family for this moment, our Lord Jesus, while talking to his disciples, lets them know that “in my Father’s house there are many rooms. If it was not so would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” As we hear this we come to learn that Arnold also had another special place which was prepared for him. A place prepared by our Saviuor, a special place in the Father’s house.
How do we know this place was prepared also for Arnold? Because we know he was brought to the waters of Holy Baptism early in his life. Actually, he was Baptized in the very same day he was born, as you can see in the bulletin. We know also that he confirmed his faith in July of 1950. That place was prepared for him too because we know he lived his 8 decades of life sustained by the Holy Spirit in His Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ; he confessed in his life what Jesus tells us in St. John 14:4: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. Today is the day for the Wagner family, a day for us all, to be reminded that there is a special spot, a special place also for us, where we will be able to come together as family and have good, rewarding times. Actually, we will have perfect and eternal times there.
Christ is the Way to this special place. He is the Truth about the special place prepared for us in Heaven, that place where we will have Life eternal, as Jesus Himself states in John 14. He has prepared this special place through his death on the Cross and His resurrection on the third day. A place that He prepared with the shedding of his own blood so that we may rest assured in His promise of taking us home when our last hour comes.
The words that Jesus spoke to His disciples were spoken to Arnold too. And they are meant for you and for me as well. There is a special place prepared for us to be and to live…Forever. We all have our special places in daily living where we like to be. They may be our home, our time with friends, vacation time. Maybe even our work. We may cherish some very special places, or wish to travel to special places on this side of heaven of which we might also say: “I wish I could stay here forever!” But the most special, decisive place we have in our life is inside us. Our heart is the special spot where Jesus comes to make his dwelling by faith. There He keeps us connected to Him, strengthened in faith, bonded in love. It is in our hearts that He pours out his comfort and consolation, in hours like these when we are mourning and sobbing over the loss of a loved one. Our heart is the special place where Jesus resides so that we may live in the assurance of the special place he prepared for us in heaven.
During our funeral planning meeting on Tuesday, I learned that back in 80’s there was once a special dinner happening at the Wagner house where, at the end of it, mixing jitters with a bit of anxiety, and joy, Arnold looks to his daughters and says: “I have something to share with you today”. As they looked up at him attentively, he states: “I have proposed to Dorothy. She will come to live with us”. A brief moment of silence followed, Arnold’s tense expression awaited some reaction from his daughters. And it came double when both stamped their hands on the table saying: “Finally!” Since then, 33 years of a blessed marriage and family life followed until last week. My guess about the daughters’ reaction is: they were delighted about their father’s happiness. They knew that this new place in his life, that is, having Dorothy as his wife, would be important, happy, extra special for him.
Dear family, this is a time for mourning. It is hard to smile when all you want is to cry. It is hard to look ahead and carry on when all you want is to have your loved one back again. But amidst these hard and lonely times there is one thing we can quietly and thankfully say inside your hearts: finally. By faith in Christ Arnold has finally arrived at the place that was promised to him back in the day of His Baptism; the special place that was confirmed in him the many times when he came to the Divine Service, to the Holy Supper; and during his entire life sustained by God’s Holy Spirit. He is finally in the new, better, happier, perfect special place that Jesus has prepared for Him.
Cc - And I pray and hope that one day, when our time comes, one can hear people who mourn our passing away say of us: “Finally!”. We finally arrived at the special place that Christ Jesus has prepared for us. We can sit on the recliner, if there is one there, and enjoy our Lord’s presence. After all, we will be in our Father’s House which is ours too. And that will be not only for 8 decades. It will be forever. Amen.