Blog / Book of the Month / Alex Emil Stenzel Funeral Sermon - John 11:17–27 July 23rd 2021 / Christ Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

Alex Emil Stenzel Funeral Sermon - John 11:17–27 July 23rd 2021 / Christ Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

Alex Emil Stenzel Funeral Sermon - John 11:17–27 July 23rd 2021 / Christ Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

Alex Stenzel Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Friday July 23rd 2021: Season of Pentecost / John 11:17–27 "Christ Jesus the Resurrection and the Life"

Now when Jesus came, He found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met Him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on The Last Day.” Jesus said to her, “I Am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

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. Family of Alex Stenzel one day some men came to Jesus hoping to entangle Him in His words, they started out by saying to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and You do not care about anyone’s opinion, for You are not swayed by appearances.”[1] They may have been attempting to butter Jesus up, even if they didn’t believe it to be true, what they said was in fact true, this truly was Jesus’ reputation. Jesus was not swayable when called to be firm in the work laid out in front of Him by His heavenly Father, Jesus was a man whose yes was a yes and whose no was a no.[2] Not everyone liked Him for that. This came to mind when we were planning for today and we ended up talking a little bit about Alex’s work life especially his time as a manager on large construction projects. Things had to be done the right way, the plans had to be followed, a yes had to be a yes and a no had to be a no and if the plans were good the building built faithfully without compromise would also be good. This requires discipline and steadfastness. 

Now there is no Christian who is entirely like Christ in all respects, we each fall short in more ways than we can count, yet in each Christian there are certain gifts and qualities that reflect the nature of Christ Jesus to the world, to our fellow workers, to our friends and family. The steadfastness of Christ Jesus is often discounted today in favour of His compassion. It is false to pit the one against the other or to pit other qualities of Jesus against themselves. Truly people have expectations of Jesus and from our human worldly expectations sometimes Jesus seems to fail when in reality Jesus is steadfastly following a blueprint.

We see this in our gospel reading today. You heard how news of Lazarus’ illness and impending death was quickly approaching; you hear how Jesus did not immediately go to Lazarus’ death bead. How Jesus waited on purpose until He knew Lazarus would be dead. As the events unfolded Mary and Martha Lazarus’ sisters expected Jesus to come as soon as they called Him, and that Jesus would instantly intervene. Mary and Martha had expectations this is why the first thing Martha says is, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died,” and Mary even more distraught than Martha weeping falls at His feet saying, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”[3] St. John tells us in the gospel that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,”[4] He didn’t wait to go to Lazarus’ tomb out of callousness He did it for a purpose, remember what Jesus said to the disciples just before they travel to the grave of Lazarus? Jesus says, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.”[5]

Faith from our side of things is a funny and sometimes strange thing. Born and baptised in Lodz Poland before World War II the Holy Spirit had began His work on Alex; and yet a war the likes of which he experienced especially at the hands of the Russians can have an impact on a person’s expectations. How many times like Mary and Martha might Alex have felt his prayers were not being answered … “Lord had you been here …” From God’s side of things the blueprint of faith is more certain. The LORD sees the whole project before Him from the first three nails to the last three nails and everything in between. He can see the finished product of a man’s life before he lives it, while he lives it and when it is complete with every twist and turn and trouble. Scripture teaches us that “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,”[6] and to press the example of building a building a bit further when you pour concrete it is pliable, workable until it is set. The good worker of concrete knows how long they have based on the conditions of the weather. Hot dry weather the concrete will set more quickly. Cool humid weather the concrete will set more slowly. You can add chemicals to slow it down or speed it up but eventually it will set and when it does, then you will have what you have. The family that pours a driveway may have the imprints of the hands and feet of their children set for time and memorial in the concrete, perhaps a date is scrawled into the setting concrete. And so it is in our lives. In Baptism the concrete of faith is poured and God the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit tend to that faith throughout a person’s life.   

From our side of things we might, at times, think we know how the concrete of faith has set, but we are not Jesus and just like Mary and Martha we can experience the unexpected.  

In choosing this gospel reading during the planning it was commented that Alex’s faith was like a faith resurrected from the dead. In these last years Alex enjoyed coming to the German Service at the church, he even sang along with the hymns, gladly received the Lord’s Supper out at Avonlea when we brought it to him. And when Pr. Albrecht last saw him before Alex died and gave him the benediction in German, “The Lord Bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face shine upon you, the Lord look upon you with favour and give you peace,” Alex took off his hat and put it over his heart. But even before these last years a bright spot of faith could be seen in Alex’s life if you were watching, if you had eyes to see … Alex had a love of Christmas Eve. Deeply rooted in his faith was the marking of the day set aside to celebrate the birth of Christ Jesus. Christmas Eve is the dawn of hope in a seemingly endless night of darkness. A night made holy by the birth of Jesus. Alex shared his love of that day with you over the years. And even there, in something that at times appeared so ordinary, a dear and precious thing was at work: Alex’s faith has being sustained. No birth of Christ no Christmas Eve, no Christ Jesus no hope for mankind, no hope for me.

In our gospel Martha confessed that she believed in the resurrection of the dead on The Last Day, this was taught from the earliest times of faith, and yet Jesus had a greater hope for her. Standing before her, beyond her expectations was the very one through whom the resurrection would happen, the hope of the living and the dead. She said to Jesus “I know that [my brother Lazurus] will rise again in the resurrection on The Last Day.” Jesus said to her, “I Am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. [And then Jesus adds,] Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” Alex believed this too. This good news is for you and for your family. Scripture teaches us that this same Jesus in his crucifixion, His death on the cross of Good Friday, “having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.”[7] All those who have their faith and hope in Jesus likewise have their life in Him and believing this they shall never die. 

You say yes but Alex is dead. On The Last Day Alex will be like one who wakes from a sleep. All who die with the faith in Christ are alive in Him and are now hidden away until Jesus’ second coming. Our bodies will be called out of our graves and we will stand as ones made new, body, mind and soul with all our strength made prefect as Christ is perfect. All relationships impacted by sin reconciled, all memories and thoughts washed clean of evil and pain and sorrow presented pure and holy before God. Today Alex’s body sleeps in heavenly peace awaiting that Glorious Day, The Day when “the host of heaven will dissolve, and the skies roll up like a scroll,”[8] and in the calm of That Day after the great calamity of the final hours of time the bright face of Christ Jesus will shine upon us all. The blueprint of God’s plan for you, the plan of your faith will be made clear as day rolled out for all to see in glorious majesty. The story of God’s unwavering love for you in Christ Jesus His Son, the love that came forth in Christ at Lazarus’ tomb, His compassion for Mary and Martha and His compassion and love for Alex and for each of you made clear for all to see on That Day. When it comes to your faith this day remember that Jesus’ yes is a yes and His no is a no, He will not turn to the right or to the left, His patience for you and love for you is eternal and where we are poor at keeping our promises of faith He is not, where we lose our way at time in this life He does not, where we need His help He stands ready to give it not necessarily the way we expect be in the way which is truly best. 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.

[1] Matthew 22:16
[2] Matthew 5:33–37 Jesus said, “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”
[3] John 11:32
[4] John 11:5
[5] John 11:14–15
[6] Hebrews 9:27
[7] Hebrews 9:28
[8] Isaiah 34:4

Photo Credits: Pasqua Hopsital Gareth Dillistone/CTV News; Blueprint pexels; Pouring Concrete from pexels; Troweling Concrete from pexels; Alex's Hat by Pr. Ted Giese; Baby Jesus from pexels; Hand with Cross from pexels