Funeral sermon for John Tetz; based on Rev 14:13; Rom 5:1-8 & Jn 14:1-6; by Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson; at St Peter Lutheran Church; Medicine Hat; one o’clock; April 13, 2011.
We are gathered here today to celebrate the life of your loved one, John Tetz. John has been a very important person to each of you as members of his family; as a friend and neighbour; as an active member of this congregation and in the wider community. There is no question, you will miss him.
John was a faithful Christian man. His faithfulness shone through his many acts of kindness towards others. He attended Worship Services here regularly and served on Church Council. While living in our GSS facility, South Ridge Village, John participated in our Hymn Sings, and Sunday Worship Services.
John’s family members knew him as a giving and hard-working person. He had a very strong work ethic; and even while on his holidays he would help other people out with various jobs such as painting and fixing things and volunteering over at the Stampede grounds. John was also a quiet man of few words and a lot of inner strength. These qualities in John influenced and inspired his family members.
John was also committed to the wider community. He was president of CUPE for the custodians and housekeepers and an active contributor to negotiations. He was very involved over at the Veiner Centre; participating in the Thursday Night Club; 50 Plus Club; and Meals on Wheels. He also volunteered for the Salvation Army Christmas Kettles program.
John also enjoyed curling, dancing, playing ball in the old-timer’s league, making wooden bowls, travelling to places like the British Isles and the southern United States, and reading-especially westerns.
John’s children described him as a good man who stood by his word. He did the best he could; the family knew that; and God knows that. He was not a man who needed a lot of recognition.
In our passages of Scripture, we learn of what God has done for John; and we celebrate what God was able to do through him.
Our passage from Rev 14:13 emphasises at least two things concerning the death of faithful Christians. The writer tells us that those who die in the Lord are blessed. In other words, those who are people of faith; who place their whole life into God’s hands; those who trust in the Lord above everyone and everything else are blessed. Such people of faith are blessed because of their relationship with Jesus their Lord and Saviour. The deaths of faithful people like John remind us then of the need to be in a loving and trusting relationship with Jesus.
The other important thing we learn from this passage is that faithful people like John now rest from their labours—their time to work is now over. The passage also points out that their deeds follow them; their labours were not in vain; they bore fruit and live on in the hearts, minds and lives of others. Just as the labours and deeds gave John meaning and purpose in his life; so now others find meaning and purpose from such labours and deeds. For that we give the Lord our thanks. Eugene Peterson, in The Message, puts it like this: “None of what they’ve done is wasted; God blesses them for it all in the end.” May that be true of John and of all of us here today!
In our passage from Romans, the apostle Paul tells us of what God through Jesus Christ has done for John and for you and me. In Christ he has given us so much: we are justified by faith; through Jesus we have peace with God; we have access to God’s grace; we are given the hope of sharing the glory of God. The verse that stands out for me though is the last one, verse eight: “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Or, as Eugene Peterson puts it: “But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.”
For me, this is one of the most important verses in the Bible. We are all sinners in rebellion against God. We are enemies of God in our sinful state of being. Yet, it was at precisely that time when we were farthest away from God that God sent Jesus into the world to die for us all; to show his love for us; and to forgive us. Our sin and rebellion hurt God and his Son Jesus deeply. Yet, that hurt and pain of God was crucified as an act of sacrificial love for you, for me, for John, and for the whole human race.
We may be grieving today, and it is appropriate to grieve the loss of our loved ones. Yet, in our grief, we are in the presence of a faithful, loving God. On one occasion, I heard someone say: “To forgive, you have to first of all be hurt.” The point that person was making is this: forgiveness is not easy. Until you’re hurt and hurt deeply, you don’t have anything to forgive. The pain of Christ’s death is the greatest act of love and forgiveness. As you hurt and may be suffering pain over the death of John; I hope and pray that you will be given the love and grace of Jesus to forgive those who may have hurt you and caused you pain. I hope and pray that Christ’s example of reaching out to us in love and forgiveness will influence you and strengthen you to do the same towards one another. For the greatest power in this world is Christ’s love and forgiveness; and that too is what we celebrate today and during this season of Lent as we move closer to Holy Week and remember what Jesus did for us on the cross on Good Friday.
In our passage from the Gospel of John, the theme of Christ’s love for us continues and moves us beyond death into a new, joyous state of being of resurrection and eternal life. Jesus, speaking of our eternal, heavenly home has this to say: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” That is Good News for John and for everyone who believes in Jesus. Then, Jesus makes this wonderful promise: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” What a message of comfort and hope that is! We can take Jesus at his word on this wonderful promise. In love he has prepared an eternal dwelling place for us. One day, Jesus shall come and take us to our eternal home where everything is ready for us when we arrive—where John is now.
In my last few visits with John, he told me that he was ready to go to his eternal home. He was prepared; he was longing to go; John had the sense that his life here was complete; he had lived his life. How fitting it is to know that; and to know that Jesus has prepared a place for him. He is in his perfect home with Jesus now. My hope and prayer for all of you here today is that when your time comes to leave this world; you too shall be prepared like John was; you too shall place all of your trust and your life into the loving hands of Jesus who comes to give us resurrection life; eternal life; and one day take us to our eternal home.
The story is told of an old man who everyday took long walks with the LORD. While walking, the LORD God and the elderly man talked about all kinds of things—about the important times in the old man’s life: when he met his wife, the birth of his children, special Christmases, and so on. One day while they were out walking for a very long time, the LORD looked at the old man and said: “We are closer to my house than we are to yours. Why don’t you just come home with me.” And that is what he did! That too is what John did. The LORD has come to him to take him to the Father’s house, where he shall live forever with Jesus and his loved ones who have gone before him. One day you too can be in the Father’s house, in a room which Jesus has prepared for you if you trust in him and believe in him with your whole life. That is worth celebrating and to that we say: thanks be to God! Amen.