Blog / Book of the Month / Funeral Sermon, Leonard Wagner / Friday April 6th 2018

Funeral Sermon, Leonard Wagner / Friday April 6th 2018

Funeral Sermon, Leonard Wagner / Friday April 6th 2018

Funeral Sermon for Leonard Wagner - Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Friday April 6th 2018: Season of Easter / Mark 9:2-9 "Made Clean by Jesus"

And after six days Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them, and His clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is My beloved Son; listen to Him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

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 and family of Leonard Wagner. Did you know you can remove a blood stain with vinegar, or ammonia, or hydrogen peroxide or even coca-cola if you do it fast enough? Blood stains are relatively easy to remove before they set but can be nearly impossible to wash out after 24 hours. Now Leonard and Daphne likely didn’t ordinarily have to deal with blood in their work, as they owned and operated their janitorial company, but I’m sure from time to time they did. Getting things clean is the name of the game in janitorial work. Clean so you’re satisfied with your work as the one who cleans and clean so that the one you have the contract with - whether it’s a bank, or an office, or a store, or a home - is also satisfied with your work.

Cleaning is also hard work, dirt and grime and stains whatever they may be are often stubborn and hard to get out and sometimes no matter how hard you clean or what you use to try and get the spot out it won’t come out. Len’s kids know how hard the work was, sometimes to avoid it they would even hide from mom and dad to try and skip out on cleaning. In our Gospel reading today we hear how it was that when “Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. [That on that high mountain] He was transfigured before them, and His clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.”

Leonard was familiar with bleach, how many bottles of bleach must he have poured in his work? To think of something so clean that no one on earth could bleach it to be cleaner, how clean that must have been? This is what Peter, James and John saw when they looked at Jesus and of course there is something more going on with this passage than just the cleanness of Jesus’ clothing. Yes the brilliant cleanness of Jesus’ clothing spoke loudly that this Jesus was more than just a teacher, preacher and miracle worker and to make sure that they knew this with utter and complete certainty “a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is My beloved Son; listen to Him.”” As Leonard and Daphne mopped and scrubbed and wiped clean countless floors and surfaces they also took time to listen to the voice of Jesus. This Jesus who stood with the Old Testament Prophets Moses and Elijah on that high mountain dressed in radiant, intensely white clothing as no one on earth could bleach them. They listened to Him as you do today, hearing His Word read to them out of Scripture here in this place, hearing His Word preached to them from this pulpit. This was an important part of their life because they knew that it wasn’t just that Jesus at the mount of transfiguration was clothed in cloths as white as fresh fallen snow[1] but that He was in fact, as the very Son of God, the one who makes us clean.

This washing clean for Len started in his baptism when he was baptized Siegfried Leonard Wagner on November 15th 1931. And as Len would latter learn from Luther’s Small Catechism, “Baptism is not just plain water [used for outward cleaning], but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word,” “a Baptism, that is [in truth], a lifegiving water, rich in grace,” a washing that seals us with Jesus in Jesus’ life, His death on the cross in crucifixion and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead which we celebrated this past Sunday. The Pall over the casket today, is as we heard earlier, a representation a reminder of the Baptismal washing that covered Len in his baptism into Jesus.

One of the men who was with Jesus that day on the high mountain was His disciple John and John later in his life wrote the Gospel of John and the letter that we call 1st, 2nd and 3rd John as well as the Book of Revelation which comes at the end of the Bible. In the Book of Revelation we hear John speak of a vision of heaven when he says, “I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”[2] As we began I mentioned how hard it is to get a blood stain out once it has set. This blood of Jesus shed at the cross is the kind of blood that Leonard would never want to wash out, never want to clean away. It is the blood that makes him clean. That gave him a white robe like the one Jesus was shown to wear at the mount of transfiguration. Another one of the men there that day, Peter talks of this blood of Jesus when he writes, “that you [dear Christian] were ransomed … not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”[3]

There is a hymn that we aren’t singing today but is a great hymn that illustrates this work of Jesus to clean us from our sin it’s called “Just as I am,” some of you may know it, in it we sing, “Just as I am without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me, And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come! I come! Just as I am, and waiting not To rid my soul of one dark blot; To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come, I come!”

Leonard knew that Jesus was the only one who could truly and completely clean him of his sins and that Jesus did it with his precious blood as Peter had written; that Jesus was the one who in the end would give Len that visible white robe that John saw worn by the multitude of faithful believers in heaven, the robe that Len had first received in his baptism and in a kind of invisible way had carried with him through his earthly life, although it wasn't invisible if you knew where to look for it.

In our Old Testament reading from Psalm 23 we hear of the Lord as a Shepherd, in the Gospel of John Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd[4] … but today we can call Jesus the Good Cleaner. And this Good Cleaner had the contract to clean Leonard, a contact made at Leonard’s baptism, and all through Len’s life Jesus fulfilled this contact, always there to clean each and every day, even on the day of Leonard’s death. And this same Jesus, the Good Cleaner, promises to take us to Himself when our life here has come to its end, to take us to Himself so that we will be where He is.[5] This promise is fulfilled and in that place there will be no need for cleaning as nothing will become unclean physically or spiritually ever again.

When Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,”[6] He meant it. Leonard now has his rest. How about you? Are you tired of trying to rid yourself of one dark blot? Are you worn out from trying to clean your soul? Turn to the one who can truly clean your heart, even the tight corners of your soul that are so hard to get clean. In His hand is a robe of His own righteousness which He has for you as an eternal and everlasting gift, a robe as white as snow; clothing for you that is radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. If you have yet to be baptised come and be baptized, if you have been baptized remember your baptism and the promises you received there of forgiveness and life everlasting. Peter says, “Baptism … now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to Him.”[7] There is no spot this Jesus can’t get out; nothing He can’t forgive and make clean, trust in Him as Leonard did. 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 28:3, “[Jesus’] appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.”
[2] Revelation 7:9-14
[3] 1 Peter 1:18–19
[4] John 10:11, 14
[5] John 14:3
[6] Matthew 11:28
[7] 1 Peter 3:21–22