Blog / Book of the Month / Herbert Albert Martin Biesenthal Funeral Sermon – Psalm 119:33–40 May 3rd 2024 / What is Lasting?

Herbert Albert Martin Biesenthal Funeral Sermon – Psalm 119:33–40 May 3rd 2024 / What is Lasting?

Herbert Albert Martin Biesenthal Funeral Sermon – Psalm 119:33–40 May 3rd 2024 / What is Lasting?

Herbert Albert Martin Biesenthal Funeral Sermon Peace Lutheran Church Grenfell SK / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Friday May 3rd 2024: Season of Easter / Psalm 119:33–40 “What is Lasting?”

Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes;

               and I will keep it to the end.

        Give me understanding, that I may keep Your law

               and observe it with my whole heart.

        Lead me in the path of Your commandments,

               for I delight in it.

        Incline my heart to Your testimonies,

               and not to selfish gain!

        Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;

               and give me life in Your ways.

        Confirm to Your servant Your promise,

               that You may be feared.

        Turn away the reproach that I dread,

               for Your rules are good.

        Behold, I long for Your precepts;

               in Your righteousness give me life!

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 Herb Biesenthal. The portion of Psalm 119 that we have in our Service this morning is full of longing for the good gifts of the Lord, and the highest and best of the gifts that the Lord can give is His Son Jesus as Saviour and Eternal Friend and a heart trained up in the fear of the Lord. 

First, a heart trained up in the fear of the Lord: In practically each line of this part of Psalm 119 the important thing isn’t what you’re doing it’s what the Lord is doing in you. The Psalms are prayers and in this prayer the call goes out to the Lord, “Teach me,” “Give me,” “Lead me,” “Incline my heart,” “Turn my eyes,” “Confirm to Your servant Your promise, that You may be feared. Turn away the reproach that I dread, for Your rules are good.” The Psalmist is saying the rules of the Lord are good and right even when I break them because they are holy and true without my keeping them, my keeping them does not make them good but rather keeping them pleases the Lord and is good for me and for my neighbour. So the heart needs to be trained to keep them and to daily receive instruction from the Lord.

As a Lutheran when you study the 10 Commandments you find in the explanations of each of them this little phrase, ‘We should fear and love God so that …” Luther didn’t make this phrase up himself, clearly he was drawing it from passages like these found in this portion of Psalm 119, and Herb as a lifelong Lutheran learned this and kept it to heart. The idea of fear is complex for us in these days because for a long time people lived with little to be afraid of. The idea here is that whatever you are afraid of we are to remember that God is bigger than that thing, and more powerful than your fears. Do you fear a little kitten or a full grown lion at the height of its strength? Your deepest fear when measured against the Almighty power of the lord is but a kitten and the Lord is the Lion.[1] The farmer fears drought but he knows that the Lord is bigger than the seed in the field, or the rain in the cloud, or the heat of the sun so because the Lord is above it all and it is all in the hand of the Lord the farmer prays to the Lord for a good crop. Of course the farmer wouldn’t know to turn to the Lord if the farmer was not first instructed and they would not be instructed if the Lord had not stepped in to provide the instruction utilising mother and father, brother and sister, pastor and Christian friends along the way.

A hand full of freshly plowed dirt can slip through the farmer’s fingers back to the earth in the Saskatchewan breeze of spring, a hand full of grain can slip through the farmer’s fingers back into the bin in the dwindling Saskatchewan day of autumn but the thing that lasts long after the farm land has changed hands is the instruction that a man has received in the Lord. And so the portion of Psalm 119 that we have before us ends,“Behold, I long for Your precepts; in Your righteousness give me life!” This prayer of the Psalmist is answered in the person of Jesus Christ the Son of God who came in the flesh to save Herb and you and me, the very same Jesus who says of Himself “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”[2] Christ Jesus is the answer to this prayer for life. And He is the ultimate and best of the good gifts of the Lord that we find longed for in this Psalm and in our lives.

So even after we like Herb have been taught up in the right way of living as a Christian we will find that we at times fail to keep true to what we have been taught to the end, Jesus however lived out His whole life holding firmly to what He was taught in the Lord: Read the Gospels in the Bible and you will find this to be true. Where we have failed to keep and observe the Law of God with our whole heart, Jesus has succeeded: Meditate on this in prayer and you will find this to be true. When we have not always delighted in the Commandments of the Lord, our dear Saviour and Friend Jesus has: Listen to the sermon preached to you from God’s word on Sunday and you will find this to be true. Where we have sought after selfish gain over and above the Word of God and His testimonies, our Lord Jesus set aside selfishness and “being found in human form,” Saint Paul teaches, “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross:”[3] Confess your sins and receive forgiveness in the words of the Absolution and you will find this to be true. In all of these things the Lord gives you the good gift of His instruction and His righteous Son who gives you life.  

The wonderful news for us is that the selflessness of our Lord Jesus has not run out; His righteousness has not faded away over time; His faithfulness to His heavenly Father has endured death and the grave and the harsh ravages of time and in His glorious Easter resurrection from the dead these wonderful gifts of the Lord are promised to continue in their endurance straight through to The End unto eternal life.[4] Confident in this Herb knew that there would never be a time when he could not turn to Jesus for forgiveness; Herb knew that he could always trust in Jesus. Because the friendship of Jesus is everlasting, the friendship of Jesus and His salvation is what lasts.

A little after our passage from the Gospel of Saint John chapter 14, which we heard today, in the very next chapter of that Gospel Jesus says to His disciples “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” He continues saying, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” And then Jesus says to them —and if you have ears to hear it, as Herb did, then Jesus today says this to you as well—“You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me,” Jesus said, “but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”[5]

The portion of Psalm 119 that we’ve been mediating on this morning is full of the longing for life lived in the light of God and not in the darkness of sin and trouble that plagues and haunts our days this side of heaven. So consider these words from Saint Paul when he reflects on this life and the life to come, Paul says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So,” Saint Paul says, “now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”[6] All the strife and trouble of body and soul and spirit endured in this life have passed away for Herb and the thing that lasts is the love of Christ Jesus and the fruit of the instruction Herb received in the Lord these many long years. The heat of the day, the unexpected inclement weather of life, the broken part in need of repair have all passed away and Herb is now harvested into the grain bins of heaven, the chaff is blown away and all that remains is love.  Dear ones with an eye on what is to come have that love for each other today as fellow Christians, as brothers and sisters in Christ, because that is what is lasting.

I leave you with this moment that I shared with Herb on a visit to his suit at Mutchmor Lodge in Regina. I sang him this hymn that was new to me at the time and he recognized it, and with his heart trained up in the fear of the Lord and with no words or notes in front of him Herb joined me singing along, it was one he remembered singing at Zion, the Windthorst Lutheran Church, congregation. The third verse of the hymn paints a picture of what The Last Day and the resurrection will be like for Herb and for you and for me, for all those who depart this life with their faith in Christ Jesus, it goes like this: “All trials shall be like a dream that is past, forgotten all trouble and mourning. All questions and doubts have be answered at last, When rises the light of that morning. Have mercy upon us, O Jesus!”[7] This sounds a lot like these words from the revelation of Saint John, where John says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,”[8] John says that in that place the Lord “will wipe away every tear from [the eyes of His children], and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”[9] These are the things that will not last: death, crying, pain, troubles, feuds, fears, sins, hurt feelings all that will remain is love, and in Christ Jesus Herb is one of those things that remain, a blessed child from a big family who is part of an even bigger family in Christ Jesus, a boy who’s heart was trained up in the fear of the Lord who became a man who longed for the peace that comes only 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.

[1] Revelation 5:5
[2] John 14:6
[3] Philippians 2:8
[4] Philippians 1:6
[5] John 15:12-17
[6] 1 Corinthians 13:12–13
[7] A Multitude Comes from the East and the West, Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House 2006, hymn 510 stanza 3.
[8] Revelation 21:1
[9] Revelation 21:4

Photo Credit: Main photo provided by family and Mount Olive Lutheran Church.