Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Eve of the First Sunday After Christmas
December 29, 2012
Memorial Sermon for Phil Myer
TITLE: “In Christ, We May Depart in Peace” (Luke 2: 25-32)
Family and friends of Phil, especially Bob and Gary. Grace and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Our text for today is from the song of Simeon just read, from Luke chapter two.
Philip Wilferd Myer, Jr., was born into time on July 25, 1931, in Salinas, California. He lived his life in various places, serving in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, and for much of his life worked in real estate development. After many struggles with illnesses, diabetes, possibly Parkinson’s Disease, and finally chronic leukemia. He lived in the Loomis area in recent years, and then in Roseville for the past year or so. He confessed his faith in the Risen Christ to Pastor Meyer and to me at different times over the years. He died in Christ on Monday, December 17, 2012, and was laid to rest at the Sacramento Valley National V.A. Cemetery in Dixon on Friday, December 21st. “‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’” (Rev. 14:13)
Simeon was an old man when the infant Jesus came into the Temple. Simeon had waited his whole life for this little baby, this child from a backwater town in Nazareth, to come to the Temple. The Old Temple build with human hands met the New Temple of flesh and blood in Jesus Christ. So it is no surprise that Simeon took this little baby into his arms and prayed:
Now, set free your servant, Master,
according to your word in peace;
because my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared before the face of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and glory for your people Israel. (Translation by A. A. Just)
Set free. Most of our translations have depart, but really set free catches the meaning. The creator Lord sets Simeon free according to His Word in peace. God’s gracious presence in Jesus is the only things that can truly set us free.
The infant Lord comes to His Temple to set His people free from the bondage of sin, death and the devil. We, like Simeon, are all in bondage. We are held in bondage by this sinful nature that clings to us and grips us with cords of death. Our world is held in this bondage. Saint Paul says that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs to be delivered from this bondage of sin. This bondage traps us, and sickness, sin, disease and death are all the tools of this ghastly enemy.
That is the beauty of the Song of Simeon, or the Nunc Dimittis, as it is often called. According to the Word of the Lord, Simeon was set free in peace. There is salvation. There is life. There is new creation and hope for all mankind. When Simeon saw Jesus, he was set free. When he saw Jesus, he saw God’s salvation for all people. There is no wondering about where God is. He is there, in the flesh of Jesus, just as was promised in His Word. Where God’s Word promises that He will be, that is where He is, not as some abstraction or warm feeling that comes and goes, but in the flesh, in our flesh.
Phil longed to be set free. Free from the sickness that had plagued him off and on for so many years. Free from worry and fear for his future. He longed for that freedom which only Christ can give. The last time I visited Phil was just the day before he died. Gary and I saw him. He was, as they say in the medical field, non-responsive. Now I have heard from several people that non-responsive is a rather odd way for Phil to be. He would often have a response to a need or a question. And he was going to tell you whether you wanted to hear it or not. But illness had, it seems, finally gotten the best of Phil.
Like Simeon almost 2000 years ago, Phil has been set free. For you see, death for the Christian is not the end, but the beginning. Phil finished his life in the loving arms of Jesus Christ. If there is one thing that we can be sure of, it is the eternal mercy of a loving God. As the Psalmist cried out so many years ago, My heart and my flesh fail me, but you are the rock of my heart and my portion forever. (Ps. 73)
Yes, God in His great mercy has set Phil free. And we who remain grieve at our loss, but we have confidence in this: Jesus Christ, who died and rose again from the dead, will raise up Phil and all believers at the last day. He has been set free, and we will see Him again in the Last Day.
Jesus said, My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10: 27-29) Phil heard the voice of his Savior, and our Lord in His great mercy has given him eternal life.
For those who do believe in Jesus, trust Him, and follow Him, well you may depart in peace, because your eyes have beheld Him. Oh, it’s not that Christians look forward to dying. Christians do not especially want to die anymore than anyone else. For some though, the hard part is not the dying, it is the struggle to go on living. So from God’s point of view, the view that both Simeon and Phil now have, any day is a good day to die, because the Christian may, indeed, depart in peace.
What’s more, our hope does not lie in Phil being a good person. I’m sure he was a good person, in his own way. But he was also a sinner, and, like all of us, deserved nothing but eternal separation from God. But God is merciful, not vengeful. And at the Last Day, He will raise Phil and all the dead and give eternal life to him and all believers in Christ. We call that the resurrection of the body. Phil’s body, now laid to rest in that cemetery in Dixon, Phil’s body will rise again on the Last Day. That is God’s promise to Phil, and that is God’s promise to you this day.
According to God’s Word, Phil believed and was baptized. With the Word, Phil lived his life of faith. He is now singing that ancient Song of Simeon with the angels and the whole Church in heaven and on earth:
… Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy Word.
For mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation which Thou hast prepared before the face
of all people; a Light to lighten the Gentiles and the Glory of Thy people
Israel. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was
in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Be at peace, Phil. Be at rest, and we look forward to the day where we are reunited with you again in heaven. In the name of Jesus. Amen.