Leonard McAvena Funeral Sermon - Ecclesiastes 3:12–14 Sept 15th 2018 / God Given Work & God’s Work
Leonard McAvena Funeral Sermon - Pr. Ted A. Giese / Saturday September 15th 2018: Season of Pentecost / Ecclesiastes 3:12–14
I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his [work]—this is God's gift to man.
I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before Him.
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. In the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes we read, “I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his [work]—this is God's gift to man. I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before Him.” These are words from the very wise King Solomon. Some of his wisdom was from his father King David and some was from his personal experiences in life but all of it was inspired by God; the wisdom that is. Here we see that work, hard work, often translations even as toil, is a gift from God to man. If you shovel coal all day into the engine of a steam locomotive, or labour away in a shipyard, or if you enlist to defend your country going off to war, or if you spend your days installing culverts operating the crane with precision to help manage and redirect water whatever it is that you do by the end of the day when you have worked hard you can be satisfied in the work you have done. You can take pleasure in it. Leonard knew the feeling of having worked hard, and then after having worked hard, to have rested from his labours; sometimes even quietly fishing at the lake.
Della also knew what it was like to work; in fact Leonard and Della fell in love walking to work: him to Amco Steel and her to the Chrysler dealership. And then for just over 70 years they worked at many things, raising a family, providing for their needs, loving each other, keeping and maintaining a home and they took a lot of pleasure in this work even when it was challenging.
Now for all of us, in whatever task we have, Saint Paul in the New Testament, in Colossians 3:23, gives a little advise when he says, “Whatever you do, work heartily [that is put your whole heart into it], as for the Lord and not for men.” When we keep this in mind it’s a lot easier to work for someone when you know that it’s ultimately God who gives the work and that God simply gives it to us though some earthy company, through some flawed earthly supervisor or boss and that the real one you work for, in your work, is actually God. That He stands behind it all. Saint Paul also says, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, [that would include whatever work you’ve been given to do] do all to the glory of God.” Therefore when you don’t work hard, you’re not robbing yourself so much as you are robbing the people who need the work done and done well. In his 93 years Leonard is an example of someone who worked hard for a long time and in his work he improved the lives of many people even if they never knew it was him who did it. But he knew, and God knew, and you know.
King Solomon in his wisdom talks about the work that we do and the work that God does. This passage from Ecclesiastes chapter 3 really contrasts the nature of the work. The lasting effects of our work may fade: steam locomotives fueled by coal give way to diesel engine trains, ships come and go from the harbour day in and day out, the peace achieved by means of war is broken and new wars emerging in different lands with different soldiers, and steel culverts eventual wear out over time and some new crew of men will need to replace them. Such is the nature of our work it is for a season. But the work of God, King Solomon says, “endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it.”
The work that God did on Leonard started with Leonard hearing God’s Word read from the Bible and continued with his baptism where God gave Leonard the gift of eternal life in His Son Jesus, pouring onto Leonard the forgiveness won for him at the cross of Good Friday where Jesus spilt His life blood and sacrificed His innocent body in His fight against sin, death, the devil, the world and our own worst selves. That work sealed the deal and made Leonard an heir of the kingdom of God. It also enlisted Leonard in the good fight of faith. He even spent some time at Mount Olive as an usher, and as a member of the Board of Church Properties, and as one of our elders caring for the spiritual needs of people in the Congregation. That was just part of the work he was given to do in life.
Think about it, it really is an amazing thing, Scripture promises that there is nothing that we can add to this precious work, this precious gift, of Jesus’ blood and righteousness shed at the cross and given to us in Baptism, nor can we take anything from it by means of subtraction. It can be neglected, I guess, and disregarded but it doesn’t change what it is and that it is yours given to you by God. In all of this it’s best to remember that God is the worker of the work, priests and pastors and ministers like soldiers only do as they have been commanded, in the way that they have been commanded, with the words they have been commanded to say, “I baptise you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” they have their marching orders yet it is God who does the work of keeping us in the faith and who works the work of forgiveness every day.
Three weeks before Leonard died God was at work on him yet again as Len received Holy Communion one last time at the kitchen table with Della. It truly is a blessing and comfort to know, “that whatever God does endures forever,” and the promises of God given by Jesus His Son are trustworthy and true, like we heard in John 14 when Jesus says, “In My Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.” So where is Leonard? He is in the arms of Jesus at rest.
Knowing that it is God who works the work of faith and gives it as a gift, who won the war against every evil means that the Christian, Leonard being one of them, can say in Christ Jesus with Saint Paul, “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.”
In preparation for today, while visiting with the family I heard a story about when Leonard was in the Army during WWII and while in Paris France Len had an impromptu happy reunion with a brother of his who also was in the Army. Not seeing his face at first and only seeing his feet and legs, Leonard remarked, “That guy walks like my brother.” And sure enough it was his brother Roy who also happened to be in Paris. That was a brief and unexpected happy reunion, as Christians we can expect a happy reunion with all those who have gone on ahead of us with their faith in Christ Jesus, we Christians can expect to be reunited with all those who have been enlisted in the good fight; all those who march in behind us in Christ Jesus and all those who have marched in ahead of us in Christ Jesus.
This Happy Reunion in Christ Jesus will not be brief it will be forever. Remember, “Whatever God does endures forever.” The “new heaven and a new earth,” that Jesus promises in the Book of Revelation shall, unlike our present world, endure forever. This coming new heaven and a new earth comprise the very place that Jesus went to prepare for you, for Leonard, and all who have faith in Him, when Jesus went to His cross, and passion, His Resurrection and Ascension, and of that place Jesus says, “Behold, I am making all things new.” In that place to which Leonard goes, he too will be made new: no hernias, or heart conditions, no cancers, or troubles of any kind. It will be a place full of rest and whatever useful work Leonard might like to be engaged in will be pure joy and pleasure and no toil at all.
On That Day, in the great crowd and the hustle and bustle of heaven you will find Leonard maybe by his laugh, or maybe you’ll see the flash of his smile, or perhaps there’ll be a knock at your door and you’ll hear his voice say, “just here to get some milk,” however you recognize him it will be a joy. You were blessed to know him many years here on this side of eternity, with faith in Christ Jesus you will have an eternity to spend with him there. 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 Corinthians 10:31
 John 14:2-3
 2 Timothy 4:7–8
 Revelation 21:1
 Revelation 21:5