Saturday, October 8, 2011

Funeral of Earl Lubben

We gather together to mourn the death of Earl William Lubben.  And we gather together to hear the good news of Jesus Christ for sinners.

When reading the Bible, it is helpful to know something about the context.  This is particularly true when it comes to the prophets.  What is happening as they give their prophecy?  Into what situation do they deliver God’s word?  In our lesson from Isaiah, there has been war in the land.  Instead of doing the work of sowing and reaping, the farmers have been involved in fighting off their enemies to the North.  Instead of working in their fields to bring forth a harvest, they have seen their fields become a place of battle and death.  Instead of life, there has been dying.  What they dearly loved, their way of life, farming and providing for their families, this has been swallowed up by circumstance.  The joyful anticipation of sowing seeds in the Spring has been overshadowed by worry, worry that the tramping feet of soldiers would bring their work to ruin.  The joy of taking in the harvest has been darkened by the painful knowledge that the crops have been destroyed; there is no harvest to gather.  The people have been walking in darkness.  A darkness where what they love has been taken from them by death.

Into this darkness, the prophet Isaiah shines a bright light of promise.  The farmers in the land of Zebulun and in the land of Naphtali will not always be burdened by this darkness, but light will shine again.  Light will shine again on their fields and on their crops and there will be peace and there will be a future.  This is the message that the prophet Isaiah is proclaiming, “There is hope!  And you will rejoice again ‘as with joy at the harvest.’”  

Isaiah proclaims, “For you will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders. You will break the oppressor's rod,...... The boots of the warrior and the uniforms bloodstained by war will all be burned.”  The war will be over, Isaiah proclaims, and peace will come.  The yoke of slavery will be lifted off.  The oppressor’s rod will be broken.  The boots and uniforms, they will be burned up.  No more war.  No more fighting.  Back to the fields to plant seed and to bring forth a harvest.

How is this going to happen?  What will bring this about?  Here Isaiah says the strangest thing.  Who is it that is going to overcome all this darkness, this fighting, this death?  “For unto us a child is born, a son is given.”  It is a child.  It is a child who will do this.  This is the promise that Isaiah gives to the farmers of the land of Zebulun and Naphtali.

Earl Lubben was a lifelong farmer just like those ancient men of Zebulun and Naphtali, which we call Galilee.  He farmed the fields just south of here his whole life long.  It was his life’s work and it was a joy to him.  He farmed next to his brother Ray.  He farmed with his wife and kids.  He farmed and he raised cattle and hogs.  Now Earl’s situation was different of course.  There were no bloody battles on his fields.  There was no time when hope grew so dim that he was walking in darkness.  Certainly there were some tough years, but nothing like what those ancient farmers of Galilee faced.  Not until these last days.  Because in these last days, Earl began to battle with death.  Complications from surgery arose and he found himself battling against death.  And he fought.  And he fought hard.  But death overcame him.  Darkness overcame him. 

But we must remember today, that like those ancient farmers of Galilee, Earl had been given a promise from God.  Through the prophet Isaiah, God delivered words of promise to Earl.  Let us hear these words again, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.”  Yes, death has taken Earl, but it cannot have him.  Yes, darkness has cast its shadow on Earl’s life, but it cannot have him.  For he has been given the promise just as the farmers of Zebulun and Naphtali were given the promise, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a child is given.”  

This child is Jesus.  And he came, just as Isaiah promised.  He came from the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, called Galilee.  He came into the darkness; and he was the light.  He was the light shining in the darkness.  Jesus came and he did battle with the forces of darkness.  Jesus Christ broke the cruel oppressor’s rod and he removed the yoke of slavery.  He came and won the victory over them.  This is what it means when the women came to the tomb on that Easter morning and found it empty.  Death could not contain him.  Jesus had conquered death itself. .......And so the death that has claimed Earl cannot keep him.  Jesus Christ is Lord over death and Jesus Christ has claimed Earl for his own.  And he has increased his joy, so that Earl, with all of the saints in light, will rejoice before God as with joy at the harvest.

And what of us?  What of us who sit in the darkness of grief?  What of us who feel the yoke of sorrow?  Hear again the promise; it is for all who believe:  “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”

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