Funeral Sermon / Ed Johnson / June 9th, 2014 / Psalm 116
My sermon text this morning is taken from the 116th Psalm. I'm reading verses 12 to 14. The Psalm-writer says:
How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. I will fulfil my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. (N.I.V.)
This morning, we turn our attention to the 116th Psalm. My goal is to relate the words found in this Psalm to the life of Ed Johnson. This Psalm offers hope at a time like this. It remind us of the importance of faith. It tells us how faith enriches this life and gives us hope for the life to come. Biblical faith enriches this life in many special ways. It’s something we share with others. God wants our faith to change our lives. Faith was an important part of the life of Ed Johnson. May God bless our consideration of His word this day!
At the beginning of Psalm 116, the author says simply,
"I love the LORD."
And he tells us why. He says that he loves the LORD because
"...he heard my voice – he heard my cry for mercy."
The Psalm-writer, and all of God's people, love the LORD because he answers their prayers. God turns his ear to his people. He listens to their requests. And he acts on their behalf. God's people call on him in prayer. They call on him when things are going well. And they also call on him when things are not going well.
In life's good times, God's people call on him with words of thanksgiving and praise. I'm told that Ed Johnson loved fishing. He enjoyed spending time with his friends and his family – spending time at the mall. Ed had a positive attitude about life and a good sense of humor. You can be sure that Ed, quietly – and in his own way – often thanked the LORD for the good things in his life. You can also be sure that Ed called on the LORD when things were not going well.
God's people call on him for many things. But the most important thing they ask him for is the forgiveness of their sins. God's people confess their sins and shortcomings to the LORD, and he intercedes for them. Jesus' death on the cross paid the price for sin. And now, our God-given faith takes hold of Jesus' work on the cross and makes it our personal possession. Through faith – and that faith is God's gracious gift to us – Christ's death on the cross frees us from our chains, as the Psalm-writer says.
Ed Johnson personally knew God's forgiveness. His Sunday morning routine included listening to the Lutheran Hour broadcast before he carried on with the rest of his day. Ed lived out his life strengthened by the hope that God's forgiveness brings. In Psalm 116, God's people call on him to save them. And they call on him to protect them from life's dangers. God protects his people in many ways. Like a mother bird, he takes his people under his wing, and protects them.
God is described in Psalm 116 in four different ways. He’s gracious. He’s righteous. He’s full of compassion. And He’s good to his people. God loves people who don't deserve his love. That means people like you and me. Ed Johnson didn't deserve God's love. God's grace was evident in Ed's life in many ways. Secondly, God is righteous. He always does what it right and good. He seeks to build up and strengthen people. He shares his righteousness with the human race. When faith dwells in our hearts, as it did with Ed, God declares us righteous, for Jesus' sake.
So God is gracious. He's righteous. And thirdly, he’s full of compassion. He cares for people. He sacrifices for them. He gives us his very best. And then we seek to do the same for Him. No matter how you look at it, God is "good" to us. As a wonderful Father would do, He loves us even when we don't deserve it. He cares for us and has compassion for us. Our relationship with Him enriches our lives in many ways.
God carries his people through difficult times. The song "Amazing Grace" says,
"through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come."
The Psalm we’re looking at this morning speaks of the "cords of death.” It says that God delivers his people from destruction. He rescues us from that which is beyond our control. Psalm 116 speaks of "the anguish of the grave." And it reassures us that, even in death, God is there. Even in death, he brings deliverance. When death draws near, we are overcome by trouble and sorrow. But when we are weak, God is strong. His strength carries us through. He will never to leave us or forsake us. Despite life's troubles, God brings us rest and peace – in this life, and in the next.
God wipes the tears from our eyes. He keeps us from stumbling. He shows us the way. His Son, Jesus, is the way. And then, when this life comes to an end, our Lord takes us home to be with him, as he has now done with Ed. When death comes near, God provides a bridge over life's troubled waters, and that bridge is His own Son, Jesus Christ.
God's people know that they could never repay him for what he has done for them. All that he has done for us, he has done entirely by His amazing grace. God’s gifts are free – but as someone once said, they certainly aren't cheap. A wise Christian once said that we owed God a debt we couldn't pay. And Jesus Christ paid a debt he didn't owe. Jesus Christ paid the price for our sins – all of them. And, when we trust him, we enjoy all the benefits. Jesus Christ paid the price for our sins when he died on the cross. He wants us to trust him. He wants us to do our best to live for him.
God’s people worship the LORD in God's house, as Ed Johnson did countless times. They praise God. They lift up the cup of salvation – as they attend the Lord's Supper, and God connects them to the body and blood of Jesus Christ – and gives His people forgiveness and strength. We can never hope to repay the LORD for all that he has done for us. In response to his love, and with his help, we do our best to fulfil the vows that we have made to him over the years. Ed Johnson was baptized at Kronau on July 9th, in 1944. He was confirmed the same day. He and Betty became members of Mount Olive Lutheran Church in May of 2001. Ed did his best to serve the LORD all his life.
Psalm 116, verse 15 says:
"Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints."
God promises to be with his people in this life. And he promises to be with his people in death as well. In the Bible, a saint is a forgiven person – set aside for service to the LORD. In the Bible, every true believer is called a saint. Ed Johnson was a saint in the truest sense of the word. Psalm 116 says that the death of a believer – of a saint – is precious in the eyes of the LORD.
God's people are forgiven people. They are 100% saint, because God declares them righteous. And they are 100% sinner, because their human nature continues to influence them. Christians aren't perfect. Ed Johnson wasn't perfect. Not one of us is perfect, but we are forgiven – through our faith in Christ. Psalm 116 promises that those who trust the LORD will live in the courts of the Lord’s house forever.
The Ed Johnson I knew was a gentle man. He was a man of integrity. He was a man whose faith was important to him. He will be missed. His faith is a legacy he leaves with his family and friends. You know, when everything else in life is taken away – our faith remains. It's true that we brought nothing into this world and we will take nothing out of it – nothing, except our faith in the LORD Jesus Christ. Ed Johnson was a man with the right priorities. His faith was one of them. His wife Betty, whom he loved with all his heart was another. So was his family. And his work. And his fishing trips, too!
Verse 7 of Psalm 116 says:
"Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you."
These words relate to Ed Johnson. He is at rest today. The LORD has been good to him. But these words aren't just for Ed. They are for each and every one of us here today. That’s because Christ died for all of us. He paid for our sins – sins past, present, and future sins – at the cross. And He wants all of us to trust him – as Ed did. And then, when this life draws to a close – and everything else is taken from us – that one crucial thing remains – and that is our faith.
My prayer this morning is that Ed's faith would live on – in his children and his granddchildren, in his relatives and in his friends. With faith in our hearts, we can look forward to a great reunion in heaven someday. May God grant it. In Jesus’ name. Amen