Gordon Wills Funeral Sermon - Romans 8:18–39 November 23rd 2020 / Together in Christ Jesus
Gordon Wills Funeral Sermon Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Monday November 23rd 2020: Season of Pentecost / Romans 8:18–39 "Together in Christ Jesus"
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called he also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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. Gordon helped choose the Scripture readings we have heard today; they were all used by him to comfort the family at another family funeral. And the interesting thing about the Word of God is how it brings comfort to the Christian in varied and disparate situations. How the challenges of life help reveal greater insights into the love of God for us particularly as we lean on His promises. Another one of those readings previously used by Gordon which you haven’t heard yet today, which now will be used as the text for our sermon, a passage of Scripture that Gord held in high regard, is from Saint Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome, where Paul wrote “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We live in a time of separation: Darren, Gord’s son, is not with us in person this day and there are others who would be here in person who are not able to be here because of the pandemic and the dangers it presents, the threats that loom around us, the tribulation and distress it has caused, yet we have this promise that such things will not be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Saint Paul wrote his letters to his fellow Christians from a distance and a number of times he wrote his letters to them even from a prison cell, Saint Paul understood what it meant to be physically separated from the people he loved, and from his fellow Christians. In his letter to the Christians in Philippi he also talked about the benefits of living in the World in the here and now, the fruitful labours a Christian can partake in today verses departing to be with Christ Jesus in a state of rest until the End of Time comes and Jesus makes all things new. Ultimately Paul leaves that in the hands of the LORD. For the Christian it is best to trust in God in these things even when, in the things that matter most to our hearts, it is hard for us to see the end from the beginning.
Whether we are here together or there with the faithfully departed we are together in the hands of the Lord as Jesus says “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me,” Jesus says, “is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” Which is to say that while we look for all the World to be separated by death, in Christ Jesus even death cannot separate us from the Love of God.
In the Book of Revelation from the Bible, a book of special interest to Gord and a book that he and I had a number of long conversations about and which I lent him books about, we hear Jesus say, “Fear not, I Am The First and The Last, and The Living One. I died, and behold I Am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” Over and over again Scripture teaches what we hear in Saint Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians, that all authority over death following Jesus’ crucifixion, death, resurrection and ascension has been put into the hands of Jesus, that death cannot separate us from the Love of God, and we can add an important detail to this: Jesus teaches that His heavenly Father “is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to Him.”
In many ways we may be apart from each other in these days, and Gord is apart from us in that he is now at rest in Christ yet in Christ we are not separated, in Christ we are together. The faithfully departed are hidden away in Christ Jesus awaiting The Last Day when they will be revealed again and we have the promise from Jesus that He “will be with [us always,” which means wherever Jesus is all those who are at rest with Him are with Him, think on that, if Jesus is with you as He promises to be and what I said is likewise true then they who have gone on before in the faith are also with you and you with them hidden away in Christ Jesus: again see how it is that we are together in Christ Jesus and not separated.
Gordon knew this just as he likewise knew that “We [as Christians] love because [God] first loved us.” When I think of Gordon’s life of faith lived out day to day I saw his trust in the fact that the troubles of this Word, the things that plague our bodies, souls and minds can’t keep us separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, played out in his deep love for his wife Ruth. As Ruth’s heath began to fail her Gord, in these last years, displayed his faithfulness to her. Even when her mind began to get foggy and she didn’t always recognize him, it made no matter, that was not going to separate him from her, it never separated his love for Ruth, neither would hospitalizations or care homes. We all experience tremendous pressures at times in our lives and we may not be able to be as faithful as we desire to be in a great many things and when we see something like Gordon’s faithfulness to his wife Ruth take it as an encouragement and remember the very core of it, the very heart of it, is God’s love for us expressed in the life death and resurrection of His Son Jesus, the love which truly “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
You might ask how is it that Gord knew all these things? Why would he trust these things to be true? In his working life as a technician he knew that it was important to refer to the manual for whatever it was you were working on. And in His life of faith Gordon continued to study God’s Word in Holy Scripture, he and Ruth would read their Portals of Prayer devotions each night and bit by bit they grew in knowledge, he studied the Word of God on his own and in Bible studies here at Mount Olive and bit by bit his faith was made stronger and stronger by the working of the Holy Spirit who “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies [that is makes holy] the whole Christian Church on Earth,” and as he was able he attended Services at the Church to hear God’s Word read to him, to hear the preaching and in all of these ways Gord’s faith was built up. Yet we as Christians also know that while we sleep and we can’t rely on knowing anything for ourselves, when we are otherwise incapacitated even then we have our faith, the faith given to us in our baptism, it is a gift, we likewise then are invited to rest our hope in Christ trusting that even if we should fail in perfectly loving others Jesus has not and will not fail in loving us, He is faithful; where we sin and need forgiveness Jesus has lived a prefect life and gives forgiveness to all who seek it from Him as He has won forgiveness for all people and lived a perfect life not just for Gordon but also for you and all people. Gordon’s study of Scripture brought him a peace that the World does not give. Take notice of this, it did not mean that challenges and struggles did not come to him but it did transform how he faced those challenges and struggles when they did come to him. How much more manageable hardships become when you know and trust that no matter what they are they will not “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 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.
 Romans 8:35, 37–39
 Even now we read his letters in the Bible and we read them separated by time from him and his first readers but we are not as separated from each other as you might think.
 Philippians 1:21–24
 John 10:27–30
 Revelation 1:17–18
 Luke 20:38
 Colossians 3:2–4 “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
 Matthew 28:20
 1 John 4:19
 1 Corinthians 13:7
 Luther’s Small Catechism, the Creed, Third Article, Sanctification.
 Hebrews 10:23–25