Message for Graveside Service of Nick Knebel,
based on Mk 4:3-9 & Phil 3:20-21
by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson,
Chaplain, South Ridge Village, The Good Samaritan Society,
Medicine Hat, Alberta
As I thought about Nick, two Bible passages came to mind. In my visits with Nick, he would reminisce about his past life as a Saskatchewan farmer. Jesus who was familiar with the farming life in ancient Palestine taught one day by telling a parable of a sower who went out to sow his crop. As he spread the seeds onto the field he had no control over what happened to them once they fell on the ground. The parable tells us that the seed fell on the pathway where birds ate it up; on rocky ground where seeds had no place to lay down roots, so they were scorched by the Middle East sun; other seed fell among thorns, which choked the grain to death; yet other seed fell on good soil and produced a healthy crop of thirty, sixty and a hundredfold.
I’m sure Nick could relate to this parable of the sower and seed, since as a farmer, he did the same thing year-after-year. He, like the sower, had to wait on God in faith for the crop to grow and eventually be harvested. And like the seed falling in different places—not all of Nick’s crops were likely as successful as he would wish every year because of weeds, insects, and weather conditions beyond Nick’s control. Yet Nick kept planting the seed, trusting that God would provide a harvest. In this way Nick was doing what God had called him to do. He was, as a farmer, contributing to society, by providing crops, which would be harvested and then produced into food products to feed human beings. That was Nick’s calling in life, and he did it faithfully year-after-year.
Explaining the parable, Jesus said God’s people, particularly preachers, sow the seed of God’s word. The seed represents God’s word in the parable. And the amazing thing is that the word works in peoples’ lives to give them faith in God and all other kinds of gifts and resources to live meaningful lives. So God’s word is spread and meant to be shared with others, just as Nick’s crops were meant to be harvested and then shipped away to produce products for people to eat. By feeding on God’s word we grow deeper in our faith in Christ and that faith too is meant to be shared with others so that they can grow into a deeper faith in Christ too.
In my visits with Nick, he would also speak occasionally of his homeland in Romania and the long journey he made from there to immigrate here in Canada and settle on his uncle and aunt’s farm in Saskatchewan. The apostle Paul, in Philippians 3:20-21 speaks of citizenship. He says we are citizens of heaven. Nick left his citizenship of his homeland behind in Romania for a new citizenship here in Canada. Once he became a citizen here, he was entitled to all of the privileges and responsibilities of Canadian citizenship.
The same is true, says Paul, of our citizenship in heaven. One day, we shall “immigrate” to our new homeland, leave Canada behind, and become full-fledged citizens in heaven, our true, eternal home. That’s the promise in our Philippians passage that now, by the LORD’s grace, Nick shall be a beneficiary of; and that too is a promise we look forward to one day.
According to Paul, our citizenship entitlement and inheritance shall involve a huge change. Christ, our Lord and Saviour “will change our weak mortal bodies and make them like his own glorious body, using that power by which he is able to bring all things under his rule.” In other words, it will be Easter for us all, as our powerful LORD will resurrect our bodies to be with him eternally in heaven. Nick’s old, tired, worn out body will now be changed into a new, spiritual body as a citizen of heaven. By God’s grace, so will ours! That is my hope—I hope it is yours too! Amen.