Thursday, February 17, 2011

Funeral for Norman Varenhorst

Back in April of 1947 the country roads around Brunsville weren’t in the best of shape.  Now these days the roads are nice and smooth, except for those spots that warn you a stop sign is coming.  But back in those days, in the springtime, the roads were all mud and potholes.  If you got stuck in the wrong pothole, there wasn’t any guarantee that you were getting out any time soon.  Even if you avoided the worst of the holes, you were still in for a bumpy ride.  It was roads such as these that put Norman and Lois in a dilemma almost sixty-four years ago.  You see, they were getting married.  And a good wedding deserves a good cake.  But in between that cake and the church....... were those roads.  Were they going to be able to get the cake to the wedding in once piece?  On the cusp of something new and unknown, there was uncertainty.  What was going to happen?

Now, you might say that the survival of that wedding cake wasn’t the most important thing in the world.  And that’s probably true.  But for all of you who have been married, you know that the basic point remains the same.  What will married life be like?  Will there be children?  How many?  Will we scrape by or live comfortably?  Will we be happy?  On the cusp of something new and unknown, there is uncertainty. 

In our reading from the Gospel of John, the disciples are caught in uncertainty.  For three years they have gone around with Jesus.  They have listened to him preach; they have seen him heal the sick; they have even witnessed him raising Lazarus from the dead.  And now, he has brought them together for one last meal together, the Last Supper.  And he has told them that the time has come for him to leave.  He will be killed the next day.   They did not expect this.  They were not prepared for it.  They did not know what to do.  Thomas cries out to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going.  How can we know the way?”  He may as well have said, “Lord, what are we going to do without you?  What’s going to happen to us?”  On the cusp of something new and unknown, there is uncertainty. 

On a day like today, many of us who are gathered here might be feeling some of that uncertainty.  We have questions.  What will life be like without my husband, my father, my grandpa, my friend?  What happens when someone I love dies?  What happens when I die? 

Some of these questions will just have to be lived into.  In sorrow and pain you will discover what life is like without Norman.  It seems so very cruel, but there is no other way.  But some of those questions have definite answers and especially on a day like today, they need to be boldly declared. 

When Thomas cries out, “Lord, we do not know where you are going.  How can we know the way?”  Jesus answers him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”  Thomas cries out in uncertainty.  Jesus Christ responds with certainty.  Jesus Christ, when he died on the cross and descended into hell, and when he rose again on the third day, Jesus Christ did what no one else could do, he conquered death.  He put death to death.  He killed death.  In baptism, Norman was joined to the death of Christ.  Norman died many, many years ago in the waters of baptism.  In baptism, Norman was joined to the resurrection of Christ.  And he was raised up from death to new life that very same day.  That was the promise he was given.  That old promise remains the same today.  And that old promise is certain.

And what of us?  Here there is certainty too.  Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the father but by him.  In the water of baptism we die.  And we are raised up to new life by his promise.  He forgives us in Holy Communion.  He creates faith in us by the hearing of his preached word.  And so I declare unto you, in baptism God has joined you to his son Jesus Christ.  You have died.  By the word of his promise he has raised you to new life.  Amen.

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