Blog / Book of the Month / Verden Valentine Yahnke Funeral Sermon – John 3:16–18 July 5th 2024 / Love in Action

Verden Valentine Yahnke Funeral Sermon – John 3:16–18 July 5th 2024 / Love in Action

Verden Valentine Yahnke Funeral Sermon – John 3:16–18 July 5th 2024 / Love in Action

Verden Valentine Yahnke funeral Sermon / Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Friday July 5th 2024: Season of Pentecost / John 3:16–18 “Love in Action”

 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because He has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

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 Verden Yahnke, Corrina, Tamra and to all you. Today, we heard these words in our Gospel, “For God loved the world in this way, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” When you believe this, when you believe that Jesus was sent by His heavenly Father to save, not just the whole world but, you in particular how do you live your life? You don’t live it to earn the gift—that’s not how a true gift works—or to win salvation for yourself by your own actions; No, you live your life in the forgiveness you have received in Christ. Yes, you live your life to please the Lord who gives the gift but that is not all, you’re likewise called to live your life for your neighbour seeking to be of service to them in everything you think, say and do. And who is your neighbour, well that’s everyone who isn’t you. And when you stumble and fall, failing to do this perfectly, you do not try to fix it on your own; you return to the giver of the gift and rest in the forgiveness won by Jesus at the cross. In Him there is redemption and because there is redemption in Christ Jesus there is freedom to live life well and be of service not to yourself but to all those around you, your family and friends your fellow Christians and even those who for whatever reason don’t appreciate you.

Those of us gathered here today all appreciated Verden, we very much appreciated the way he lived out his Christian life towards us and others in his congregation and community; and while these last couple years have been hard, for his part Verden in his time of need provided opportunity for people to look after him just as he had diligently looked after the needs of others throughout his life. His dependable nature, his willingness to serve is memorable and admirable: without men like Verden it would be hard to have a congregation like Mount Olive Lutheran Church, without men like Verden as a family member think how much harder life in your family would be? Without friends like Verden think how much more empty life would have been. Verden himself has been a gift to you provided by the Holy Spirit. Each of us as Christians, when we don’t fight against it, can be a treasure in the life of others just as Verden has been a gem in our lives.          

“For God loved the world in this way, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Love, what is love? You may have known or noticed that Verden’s middle name is Valentine, apparently that’s not because of Saint Valentine’s Day but rather because Verden had an Uncle Valentine. Verden and Carol shared a great love for each other as husband and wife and while the World today is fixated on romantic love, we know that love is more than romance even inside a marriage. Saint John, one of Jesus’ handpicked disciples, the writer inspired by the Holy Spirit to write our Gospel reading today also wrote these words further explaining the meaning and place of love in the life of the Christian, “We love because [God] first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”[1] The way Verden loved you and those around him is a hint to how Verden loved God. From a young age Verden was the recipient of great love, of gracious love poured out upon him in his earliest times of need. And having been a recipient of love—love fueled by the love of God in action—Verden then loved in return. He would probable find this attention embarrassing, but those of you who knew him and lived lives on the receiving end of that love have hopefully observed it. Dear ones if you stand next to a river with strong rushing waters remember that river has a source, and if the rushing water of that river is an analogy for love then in the life of the Christian that love likewise has a source and that source is the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, that source is your heavenly Father’s love for you, the love that sent His Son Jesus to suffer all upon the cross of His crucifixion in your place, to wash away your sin, faults and failures in the rushing flow of His innocent blood, the very shed Blood which makes you His.

Love is not simply an idea; it’s not exclusively something that dwells in the realm of feelings: love is also active. God the Father displayed His love for you by sending His Son, Jesus His Son displayed His love for you by living a life without sin in your place, experiencing a death He didn’t deserve, it was love in action that drove Jesus through the valley of the shadow of death ahead of you; Verden displayed his love for you in his dedicated hard work, and in his kindness. Verden was often most satisfied with rolling up his sleeves and doing the stuff people didn’t necessarily notice unless it wasn’t done. That’s the unsung work of maintenance. Of course with no maintenance everything eventually falls apart; and when people pour love into maintenance people might not at first be able to put their finger on it but the thing that they’re trying to notice is the love that motivated that maintenance in the first place. When we hear the word maintenance we often think of buildings and physical things like cars and things needing minor repairs but maintenance is more than that: in our lives we need to pour our love into maintaining relationships between family and friends, we are called to pour our love into maintaining communities and congregations, to even pour our love into maintaining our relationships with coworkers and customers. To roll up our sleeves and get in there and do the hard work even when the only person who seems to be looking is God. The source of the love Verden poured into all of these things in his life was the love of Jesus for Him and the love of God the Father that sent His Son Jesus so “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  

If you didn’t love Verden the way you do, if you didn’t appreciate him the way you do, it wouldn’t hurt so much that his life among us has changed in death. As a member of the Body of Christ Verden is still part of our life, as your family he is still part of your life, as a friend he is still part of your life but now the gears have shifted, in Christ Verden is now part of the faithfully departed and we look with longing to see him again in Christ Jesus when our time comes, when we are all together in that eternal life promised for those who believe in Jesus. Verden’s life is now hidden away in Christ Jesus until His reappearing. With Easter joy Saint Paul teaches us about this in his letter to the Colossians when he writes, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 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.”[2] We live in this promise today and as Christians we rest in this promise when we die. In the days, and weeks and years to come turn to Jesus, He knows the taste of death; turn to God the Father He knows the pain of grief; turn to the Holy Spirit He has mercy and comfort for you as you press onward remembering the love of God for you made manifest in Christ Jesus.

In death Verden is now hidden from your eyes, yet in Christ Verden still has his life, and that life in Christ Jesus is promised not only to him but to you as well. In the mean time the word of God has an encouragement for you. In the Book of Hebrews we are taught to “Remember [our] leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. [Dear ones keep this in mind when you reflect on Verden and his life of love in action, and remember] Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. [Lastly, the Book of Hebrews teaches,] do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by [the things of this world which are devoid of the love of God].”[3] Verden was not the source of the love you received from him, the source of that love is Christ Jesus who in Verden’s last hours when Verden was tired and week and worn took Verden’s hand and lead him to the light of eternal life. And now while you have strength in you, as ones made free in Christ Jesus, consider how you may “stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”[4] 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] 1 John 4:19–21
[2] Colossians 3:1–4
[3] Hebrews 13:7–9
[4] Hebrews 10:24–25

Photo Credits: Main Photo supplied by family and Mount Olive Lutheran Church; detail of the name of Jesus on wall from Pixabay; detail of photo from Verden's Confirmation of Baptism June 6th 1954 provided by family; detail of wedding photo from Verden and Carol's wedding June 22nd 1962 and a more recent picture of them together provided by family; photo of floor waxing at the church provided by Mount Olive Lutheran Church; detail of photo of Tamra and Corinna with their father propvided by family.