Funeral Sermon For Fred (Ted) Burke / Friday November 6th 2015
Funeral Sermon for Fred (Ted) Burke, November 6th 2015 - Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / (Matthew 20:1-16 ESV)
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the labourers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. My first and last visit with Fred, who many of you also know as Ted, was by his bedside in a hospital room. I remember Tim asking me to go up and see his dad, I'd known Tim for years but I'd never met his father. Tim warned me, that Ted might not want to see me. I walked in and Ted was Ted: He was gruff and ornery and like Tim said he wasn't too happy to see me. Later I would hear more about his life and how he'd lived it but that day, some 6 or so years ago, the meeting ended with me offering to pray for him, I said something like, "Would you mind if I said a little prayer for you," to which he said something like, "If you think it'll do any good." I said, "I think so." After praying for him, and his health, and for the Hospital staff, I ended things off with the Lord's Prayer (which we will pray today) and as I prayed I heard another voice chime in, not all at once, not strongly but it was there - It was his voice, certain phrases popping up to met mine as we prayed. Then I shook his hand and left. Not long after I was told by Tim that Fred said, "that man who prayed the school prayer - he can come again," so I did, and so did pastor Terry and Ted's health improved and he was able to go back home to Joyce and low and behold to the shock of his family Ted came to church. Joyce and him started to attend and soon they'd received some instruction and Fred was baptised on May 3rd 2009. I was honoured to be the one Jesus used to baptize Frederick John Patrick Burke at the ripe old age of 73.
Fred knew the Lord's Prayer because he'd learned it in school, and that day in the General Hospital when we prayed, he prayed that prayer not as a part of his school routine but as a genuine prayer. In Psalm 50 God says, "call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” The Lord's Prayer was given to us by Jesus, it is Jesus' prayer and in the praying of that prayer that day I firmly believe that Fred heard the voice of Jesus calling. Fred was brought to faith in Christ Jesus in the 11th hour. Like the labourers in the parable told by Jesus, which we heard this morning in our Gospel reading.
Some will look at this and say it doesn't add up. 'I knew Fred and he was a drinking, cussing, cantankerous man and Joyce was a saint to deal with him.' There's no use in sugar coating anything. He'd want us to be honest. In the parable the ones who'd been working in the field, in the vineyard, the longest were put out that the ones who'd started their work in the 11th hour were receiving the same wage as they were. It didn't seem fair. Thank God that Jesus isn't fair the way the world is "fair." In the parable the master of the vineyard said to one of the ones who had complaint, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me [about what you'd receive]? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’
When Jesus starts His parable by saying, "the kingdom of heaven is like," what Jesus is saying to you is, "this is what I am like." Jesus is the kingdom of heaven. He is generous, and He is forgiving. When Jesus was dying on the cross, on the day we call "Good" Friday, with enemies on every side, Jesus says “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” In his baptism Fred was forgiven all his sins, all of them, rest assured the Holy Spirit that day gave Jesus to Fred, and Ted from that day forward clung to the old rugged cross and to Jesus, and he had what is yours to have, what you who are baptized have, he had the inheritance promised in Scripture, Ted became an heir of the kingdom of God. This is not just for him it is for you too.
Saint Paul said, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing." At his baptism the promise of this crown of righteousness was made to Ted, how long Fred would have to run the race didn't matter. And now that his race is over he, in Christ Jesus, has the very thing that was promised - the crown of righteousness. By grace Fred has been saved through faith. By grace he receives this. And this is not his own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one, including him, may boast. The fact that Ted at 73 years of age was baptised was a surprises: Let it be a reminder to you that it's never too late to hear the voice of Jesus calling; it is never too late to receive the gift of His salvation. If you have this gift now cherish it, don't set it aside, don't throw it behind you, don't cast it off, or let go of it. Be faithful - trusting always in the one who was perfectly faithful, Jesus, "who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
My last visit with Fred was again, like I said, by his hospital bed (this time at the Pasqua Hospital) but six years into his baptismal life the visit was very different. He was happy to see me, yes he was still cantankerous, he even cussed a little, and he'd even asked me if I'd ever been drunk. Now Josh and Tim and the rest of the family know that I do like a beer or two, but I said to Ted that day that I'd not really ever been "drunk," but not for the reason he'd had expected. I told him it had more to do with a time when I was young and having drank a great deal I was not getting drunk like everyone else, something about that scared me and I thought, "maybe there's something wrong with me, maybe I don't have the thing that makes your body react to the alcohol, maybe I could end up with alcohol poisoning." In his baptism he'd had all his sins washed away, yet the past was on his mind, he seemed to know that his end was near. I assured him that in Christ it was all forgiven, and Fred said he was ready to die. He said he was looking forward to seeing God face to face, and that he had some questions for Him, he also said he wouldn't want God's job it was too hard, to which I said, "you're right it is a hard job but Jesus has big shoulders." This made Fred smile.
The visit was between two brothers in Christ, it was warm and frank and honest and even though it was at the Hospital it was a great joy to see him. He felt bad for having missed church recently, because of his health, and I said not to worry about it because I had brought church to him: I then gave him Holy Communion - where he and I received Jesus' very body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins, I said to him, as I say here at the communion rail, "Now this the true body and blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ strengthen you and preserve you in the one true faith unto to life everlasting, go in God's peace and joy, sins forgiven. Amen." I anointed him with oil and said the words of benediction which you will hear at the end of the service today, and in the midst of all that when we prayed the Lord's Prayer Fred prayed it with confidence, that day his voice was not hesitant, there was no timidity in his voice, it was confident and strong.
In, "the Seventh Petition of the Lord's prayer we pray, 'deliver us from evil.' What does this mean? We pray in this petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven." On Monday God the Father heard Fred's prayer, and Jesus took Ted to Himself so that Ted would be with Him. I pray now that the Holy Spirit will give you comfort as you and I wait the day we will see Frederick John Patrick Burke again in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Psalm 50:15
 Luke 23:34
 2 Timothy 4:7-8
 Ephesians 2:8-9
 Hebrews 12:2
 Luther's Small Catechism, Concordia Publishing House 2005, pg 22.