Leslie Edward Kraft Funeral Sermon - 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 July 24th 2020 / At Rest in Christ
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Friday July 24th 2020: Season of Pentecost / 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 "At Rest in Christ"
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
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. For most of Les’ life, whether at work or at play, Les was an early riser, up and at 'em before most people have had their first cup of coffee. On May 19th Les entered into his blessed rest in Christ Jesus and today we lay both Les and his beloved wife Linda to rest here in this place until the general resurrection on The Last Day. Saint Paul in 1 Thessalonians comforts us with this reminder when Paul says, “we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep.”
When someone is asleep the anticipation is that they will wake up. We also heard Saint Paul speak of The Last Trumpet the moment Christ returns on The Last Day when those who rest in Christ will awake to eternal life in Him, resurrected from the grave immortal, imperishable forever. Saint Paul says it all happens in the twinkling of an eye, and in 1st Thessalonians the picture is brought into more focus when Paul explains, “we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” So perhaps if Christ should return in our lifetime it would not be so hard to imagine Les already awake and ready for the New Day in Christ standing there next to Jesus before the rest of us with a sly knowing grin that says to you, “what took you so long.”
While we planned for today I mentioned to Daryl, Gary and Tammy that the first time I’d met Les was at Clarence Lutz’s funeral at Zion Lutheran Church in Melville, Les was one of Clarence’s Pallbearers. That was back on Saturday, November 7, 2009. Pastor Murray Keith, the pastor there at the time, had already been complaining to me that Les and Linda where moving into Regina and that they were going to be transferring to Mount Olive, he was sad to see them go from Zion. So when I arrived for the funeral I was looking for Les but I really didn’t know what to expect. When I shook his hand I was greeted with that amazing vise grip handshake and a smile. I instantly liked Les: Funny, warm, straight forward, good natured, always ready for a little joke or two.
On a day like this it’s natural to think back on how we knew Les in life, and when we do we also end up naturally missing him all over again. What perhaps is not as natural in our world these days is looking forward to what Les will be like when, God willing, we meet Les again in the great hereafter in Christ Jesus. In His crucifixion Jesus threaded the needle of death straight through to Eternal Life and men like Les who have had their faith in this same Jesus are pulled through the eye of that needle by Christ Jesus as ones woven into the thread of Jesus through baptism, so that what Christ promises in John 14 comes true, “where I am you may be also.” When Les awakes from his rest in Christ in the general resurrection of all people on The Last Day he will be made new. As Jesus says in the Book of Revelation, “Behold, I am making all things new.” The way we said goodbye to Les in these last number of years won’t be how we say hello to him when we see him again in Christ. He will be made new, this promise is for Les and for Linda and for you, for all who believe in Jesus.
For the Christian then death simply interrupts things, death is not the final word on Life. While the non-believer is as dead as a door-nail when they take their last breath they have nothing, we Christians rather have our rest in Christ, because Jesus does as He says, He comes to us at the hour of our death and takes us to Himself where we wait in peace for the revelation of The Last Day. Also for the Christian the End of this World is not The End. The End of this World is the time when God wipes away every tear from our eyes; it is the time when death shall be no more; the time when mourning and crying and pain will fade away in a flash for as Christ say on That Day the former things will have passed away. So for the Christian The End of the World is the true and lasting beginning of Eternal Life where life resumes in its fullness made new in Christ only without sin, without blemish or spot, or ailments of any kind.
The Bible teaches us that heaven will be filled with a multitude too great to number so it may take a long time to bump into everyone who is there. As Christians we call heaven a happy reunion so it stands to reason that family will find each other more quickly we trust in this because the Bible gives examples of faithful believers who are gathered together to their people when they leave this life. So whether it happens quickly or not, this is why I expect one day to bump into a young guy with a familiar twinkle and grin, perhaps sitting at a card table in the kitchen of a farm house surrounded by friends and family and when I reach out my hand I will instantly know that it is Les from the grip of his handshake. It will be like meeting him for the first time all over again but of course not at a funeral, who knows maybe Clarence Lutz will be at the card table too.
Keep in mind that while we are physically burying Les and Linda today and we are thinking of their souls resting at peace with Christ Jesus at one and the same time we also confess that Jesus redeems every part of a person: their heart, their mind, their body, their soul, such is the love of God, such is the mercy of God. We are not now, and will not be on That Day, left without our physical bodies, no on That Day everything will be drawn together, made new, made perfect in Christ. This is the nature of resurrection. As Job in our Old Testament reading said, “after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” This is the confidence of the Christian in Christ Jesus. We will not be unrecognizable: you will be you only without fault, or blemish, without anything that troubles you now or could trouble you in this world. As Saint Paul teaches us, “For if we have been united with [Jesus] in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with [Jesus] in a resurrection like His.” And Jesus on that First Easter Sunday while seeing His faithful disciples said to them, “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Touch Me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.
The Good News then for you today is this: Because Jesus lives and He fulfils His promises you with Faith in Him will not just see with your eyes Les and Linda you will reach out and touch them. They will be there to hug you and to kiss you on the cheek. You will hear their lovely voices made somehow more lovely.
I’ll leave you with this Old Testament Promise from God given to us through the prophet Isaiah. It points to Jesus at the cross of Good Friday, but it also points past the cross to The Last Day and the beginning of Eternity with Christ in the new heavens and the new earth:
“On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And He will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;”
Both Linda and Les loved a good party and there is a wonderful party coming, one unlike any that have been had in this life: when Jesus descends from on High there will be no Christian, no believer who will sleep through the Trumpet calling That Party to order. On That Day we with faith will always be with the Lord. By the power of the Holy Spirit working in them Les and Linda knew they were with the Lord throughout their life here, and they trusted that Jesus kept His promises, take them as an example for yourself and imitate their faith. Charish the gift of faith in Christ given to you by the working of the Holy Spirit through them in your life and be encouraged, Saint Paul says, “God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep” when That Day dawns. He will bring Les and Linda and all the faithful. 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 Thessalonians 4:13
 1 Corinthians 15:53-54
 1 Thessalonians 4:15
 John 14:3
 Revelation 21:5
 John 14:2–3 “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.”
 Revelation 21:4
 Revelation 7:9
 Genesis 35:29
 Job 19:26–27
 Romans 6:5
 Luke 24:39–40
 Isaiah 25:6–8
 Hebrews 13:7