Tag Archives: Funeral

Funeral Sermon for Ray Berkenbile (April 12, 2015)

Nancy and Susan, Carol, and all of Ray’s dear family, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our text for today is Psalm twenty-three. “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: 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 ESV)

Ray Berkenbile is one of those people whom you don’t forget after meeting him. I’m sure that most of you know him far better than I did. I’ve only known him for about four years. I’m pretty sure that the first time I met him, he cracked a joke about not being able to get up to greet me. He always seemed to have a smile on his face, or a comment about whatever was happening in the news, or really whatever came to his mind. It was almost as if he didn’t know how difficult his life was! Now don’t get me wrong. There was a darker side to him, as there is to all of us. But he kept it pretty well hidden most of the time.

The reality is that his life was hard, both for him and for his dear wife, Carol. How many years have you been married? It’s a lot, I know. For most of his life, Ray struggled with the effects of polio, which he contracted as a fairly young man in his twenties. His life was a continual reminder of the effects of sickness and disease upon our bodies, and how sin just seems to, well, to mess everything up in our lives.

So it is in that context that we look at Psalm twenty-three, a Psalm taught to Ray by his mother when Ray was but a boy. You know the Psalm. Chances are you’ve heard it or prayed it your entire life, as did Ray. But I want you to look at this Psalm from the perspective of a man who spent most of his life in need of everything, even help breathing, at yet at the same time managed to always give to those who surrounded him.

Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

This Psalm is really about Jesus Christ, and it is about Ray, and you, and me, and all of God’s sheep scattered throughout the world. it is about the fact that we are broken and in need, that our lives are ones of receiving mercy and help from those around us, and maybe in some small way, helping others along the path. At the end of the day, though, it is about Jesus Christ, who went the way of death and the grave so that He could lead Ray through the valley of the shadow of death to life on the other side.

That’s really what the Easter season is all about, isn’t it? It’ about the God who sent His Son to die on the cross for Ray’s sins and yours, and mine. But Jesus Christ did not stay dead. He lay in death’s strong bands for three days, and then rose up from the dead. And He is alive even now, body and soul together.

And you know what? Ray will rise again, too. Now I don’t mean his spirit will rise, or that he is now free from his body, or such. Now, the promise of the Christian faith is that at the Last Day, Jesus will raise us up from the dead and give us eternal life. Hear again those great words from the book of Job.

Job 19:25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God,27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

At the Last Day there will be no polio or post-polio syndrome. There will be no more breathing tubes or bed sores. There will be no more sleepless nights, trying to get comfortable in a body that just does not want to behave. Ray will rise again, and his body will be like new, perfected and purified of every sin and evil. And things will be as they should have been all along.

But until then we wait, and we weep, and we hope. We wait for the resurrection, where we will be reunited with Ray and with all the saints who have gone before us in the faith. We weep, because we miss him, and because, well, because things are just not the same without his infectious smile and laugh. But we weep with hope, because in Christ, all things will be made new in their own time.

So until that day, Ray, rest well in Jesus Christ. Rest well, knowing that you are missed, and much loved, and that we will meet again at the Last Day. Rest well in the arms of Jesus the Good Shepherd, and we will meet again, very soon.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

2015-04-12 Ray Berkenbile Funeral Sermon.mp3

The Way, The Truth, and The Life (Funeral Sermon for George L. Wirts, February 20, 2015)

Friday after Ash Wednesday, (February 20, 2015)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
Funeral Service for George L. Wirts
(John 14:1–6) 


TITLE: “The Way, the Truth, and the Life”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. John chapter fourteen.

George Lee Wirts was born on, March 8, 1923. He was Baptized into Christ in 1936. He married his dear bride, Ruby, on March 19, 1944. They have four children. He was confirmed in the Lutheran faith in 1956, and he died in Christ on February 14, in the year of our Lord, 2015. “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: 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 ESV)

Jesus’ disciples in our Gospel for today were confused. That’s not too surprising; they were often confused. But this time, their confusion stemmed from the fact that Jesus said He was going away. He was going away and they didn’t know where He was going.

Our friend, George, was a man on the move. Oh, I know, he didn’t go very far physically for the last dozen years or more. His health, and the loss of his wife, both led to his being pretty much homebound for many years. I know that my predecessor, Pastor Jordan, would take out George for lunch just about every month. And reading his obituary in the bulletin here will give you a picture of how much George had been on the move his whole life long. He served in the Pacific Theater in World War Two, and was even General Douglas MacArthur’s pilot for a time. And this does not even include all of his reading. He may not had been able to leave his room physically, but his imagination took him to far away places every single day. He always had something to tell about what he was reading.

There was one destination that was certain for George, in the midst of all of the chances and changes of his life. George is a Christian. He was baptized many, many years ago, heard the Word of God faithful, and received Christ’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sins for many, many years. That was and is George’s identity. He is in Christ. And because of that, there is no doubt about the journey for him, just as there was no doubt for his dear bride, Ruby.

When Jesus’ disciples expressed their fear and dismay that he was leaving, Jesus comforted them with the simple words, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 ESV) The only way to go to God is through faith in Jesus Christ, His Son. And God gives that faith freely for the sake of His Son. It is a gift, not a work. It isn’t a matter of feeling right or even thinking right. It is a matter of trusting that God forgives you for Jesus’ sake.

And because Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, George’s life does not end in the grave. He is at rest and at peace, but at the last day, Jesus Christ will raise up George and all the dead, and give etrenal life to him and all believers in Christ. So today is not a final journey or a last resting place. It is a stop on the way, but only a temporary stop. For Jesus Christ alone will raise him from the dead.

And on that Last Day George will stand up in his flesh and cry out with Job and all the saints of old,

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25–27 ESV)

Until that day, George, rest well. Rest well in Christ, and we will see you in the resurrection.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.

Hearing the Voice of the Good Shepherd (Sermon for Brenda Grinager, January 23, 2015)

Memorial Service for Brenda Grinager, (January 23, 2015)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
(John 10:27–30)

TITLE: “Hearing the Voice of the Good Shepherd”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. John chapter ten as follows: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

Brenda Alice (neé Southam) Grinager was born in England on March 19, 1939 and was baptized on April 23rd of that same year. She was confirmed in the Lutheran faith in 1964, the year after marrying her husband, Bruce. She died in Christ on January 17, in the year of our Lord, 2015. “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: 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 ESV)

The image of a sheep with its shepherd is one of the most common pictures in the Bible. Certainly it is one of the most familiar. It evokes a picture of someone who will go after the lost, no matter what. It is a picture of love and attention, even to the most wounded among us.

Now I can’t tell you a lot about Brenda, because I didn’t know her very well. I think I met her perhaps once or twice. But I can tell you this. She, like all of us, is a wounded sinner in need of redemption. Her various sicknesses left her isolated sometimes, unable to interact with the outside would quite like we would like or expect her to. In the midst of such hardships and sorrow, it is difficult, even impossible for those of us on the outside to really understand what was going on. I’m sure the closest to understanding her was her dear husband, Bruce, who stood by her side for over fifty years of marriage.

So I can’t tell you a lot about Brenda, but I will tell you about Brenda’s God, the Good Shepherd. Brenda’s body and mind sometimes made it hard to get out, but God is merciful and compassion, full of gracious love toward all His wounded sheep. And that includes Brenda. And that includes you and me. That is who God is, He is the God of hope, who will not let his lost ones stay lost.

Things were not always right with Brenda, nor with you or me. But there will come a time when everything will be made right. Job reminds us of this, as he is in the midst of profound suffering and death. Hear again those words from Job:

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” (John 19:25–27 ESV)

There will come a time, beloved, when God will call Brenda from the grave. She is a baptized child of God, and God does not back out of His promises. He will call to her, and just as on that day in 1939 when she was baptized at Holy Trinity Church, Southall, Middlesex, England, even so there will be a time when God will call upon her and, by His grace, she will answer with the Amen of faith.

In the meantime, we grieve and wait. We grieve at the loss of a wife and mother and friend. And we wait until the day we are reunited in Christ, who draws all things to Himself.

So rest well, Brenda. Be at peace, for Christ is at peace with you.

Believe it or Jesus’ ake. Amen.

And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.

Looking to Jesus (Funeral Sermon for Bob Browner, August 19, 2014)

Tuesday of Pentecost 10, (August 19, 2014)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
John 11:20–27

TITLE: “Looking to Jesus”

Friends and family of Bob, especially Gloria: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. John chapter eleven. We focus on the words from St. Paul, “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51–52 ESV)

Robert Gene (a.k.a. “Bob”) Browner was born the son of Cecil and Nannie Mae Browner in San Jacinto, California, on February 20, 1933. He was baptized the same year. He was confirmed in the Lutheran faith at First Lutheran Church in Concord, California, in 1965. Bob died in Christ, surrounded by his daughters and especially his wife, Gloria, on August 12 in the year of our Lord, two-thousand fourteen. “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: 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 ESV)

IMG 7163In a twinkle of an eye. There was something about Bob that always made you feel like there was more going on than meets the eye. In these latter years of his life, as I came to know him, he moved slowly. He didn’t always speak, and when he did, they were usually short bursts or quips about something or another. But you could tell, you could see it in his eyes. There was more going on. And frankly, you kind of wanted to know what was going on in there.

That is a pretty good picture of the Christian life under the cross, if you think about it. Bob spent his life working, taking care of his wife and family, especially his grandchildren. We could talk about trains, or building, or golf, or one of the manner of things that made Bob tick. I’m sure I don’t know the half of them. And He was not one for big speeches, at least not in these latter years. But there was and is one thing that makes Bob who he is. Bob is baptized.

Notice what I said there. I didn’t say that Bob was baptized, like this was something that happened long ago and doesn’t matter anymore. No, Bob is baptized. For there is the key, beloved. Bob’s identity was shaped as a child of God when he was baptized. That identity means he is a child of God, an heir of the kingdom of heaven, and that a time is coming, a twinkling of an eye, a time is coming when he will be raised again from the dead.

This is what we call the Gospel, dear friends. The Gospel is that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for Bob’s sins, and yours. Bob was not perfect. Far from it. Neither are you, or me. Bob was a sinner who needed God’s forgiveness. Bob was a sinner, but he is baptized, a child of God and an heir of eternal life. For when Jesus died on the cross, He died for you, and me, and Bob, and indeed, for the whole world. But three days later He rose again from the dead.

Job, even in the midst of all his suffering, Job recognized what God promises in the Messiah. Here again those great words from the prophet:

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” (Job 19:25–27 ESV)

On the Last Day, Bob will rise again from the dead. And there will be no more stoop in his back. No more Parkinson’s disease. No more sin or sorrow. No more fear. There will only be joy in the presence of God Himself.

Today, though, we grieve. We miss Bob, and so there is sorrow and pain at our loss. Jesus Himself wept at the death of His friend, Lazarus, and so it is okay for you to weep as well. But remember again those words Jesus spoke to His friend, Martha, who also grieved the death of her brother. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25).

That is God’s promise to Bob and to all of you. Death is but a sleep, and at the sound of the trumpet on the Last Day, you, and me, and Bob, and all the saints of God will rise again, whole and undefiled. And that, beloved, is really, really good news indeed.

So until then, Bob, rest well in Jesus. Rest well, until we are reunited with saints and angels and all the company of heaven. I look forward to seeing the twinkle in your eye on that day, for it will be a sight to behold. God is faithful. He will do it.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.

Under The Protection Of God (Ron Freeman Funeral Sermon 03-25-14)

Funeral for Ron Freeman, (March 25, 2014)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
(Psalm 91)

TITLE: “Under the Protection of God”

Kevin, Melinda, family, colleagues and friends of Ron: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is from Psalm 91 as follows: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”” (Psalm 91:1–2 ESV)

Ronald Lee Freeman was born on December 24, 1946 in Ohio. He was baptized on April 10, 1947. He was confirmed in the Christian faith in 1961. While his life was long and varied, particular notice should be made of his 23 years of service in the United States Army, his service as a police officer, and the protective care he has provided to many throughout his life. He is proceeded in death by his mother, Patricia, and his son, Brian. Ron died in Christ on March 20 in the year of our Lord, 2014. “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: 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 ESV)

That Psalm we prayed a moment before, Psalm 91, is one that Ron and I prayed with his family several times over the past months. It is a hard thing when a man has spent his life protecting and caring for others, like Ron did, and then to be in a position of vulnerability. Alright, it isn’t hard. It really stinks. Ron did not belong in a hospital bed. He should not have been making decisions about dialysis and cancer treatments and chemotherapy and the wondering of what would happen next! As I watched Kevin keep vigil, and Melinda standing by his side, I couldn’t help but think that Ron had spent the better portion of his life watching over them, and others like them. Not the other way around.

But that is the grip which death has upon us, and upon this fallen world. The wages of sin is death, as St. Paul reminds us. And we are all dying, some sooner, some later. For Ron, it seemed like he was dying out of time. It wasn’t his turn yet. He still had things to do, places to see, people to meet. That’s the great evil of death. It is an interruption to life, it messes up the normal order of things. How is it that someone who survived two tours in Vietnam, decades in the army and police force, how is it that someone like that could die from a sick disease like cancer? It just isn’t right.

It is because death isn’t right that Jesus Christ came into the world. In the Christian Church, today is called the Annunciation of our Lord. It is nine months until Christmas, and so today is the day we remember when the angel Gabriel came to a girl named Mary, and told her that she would have a son, and would call His name Jesus, because He would save His people from their sins. Given that Ron was born on Christmas Eve, it seems appropriate that we remember this today.

If we could say anything about God, it is that He is the great protector. He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide in the shadow of the almighty. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take the punishment of sin and death for Ron, for you and for me. He did this so that when we die, and we will all die, when we die, it will not be the end of our story, but merely the end of a chapter.

Ron was not perfect. He was broken and a sinner in need of redemption. You know this. So did He. I’m sure there are a few stories that could be told here today, but perhaps we should save those for the reception…

But that’s why God’s Word meant so much to Ron. That’s why Ron was at peace every time He received Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. He was covered with the mercy and love of God. The waters of Baptism means that even though we bury him today, that this is not the end of our brother, Ron.

You see, when Jesus rose from the dead, He didn’t just do it for Himself. Jesus rose from the dead for Ron, for me and for you. So now, Ron’s resting place is just that, a resting place. A stop in the journey. For on the last day Jesus Christ will raise Ron and all the dead, and give eternal life to Him and all believers in Christ.

Today we mourn and weep, for we miss Ron. His smile and his golf swing, his love of life and his love for his family and friends. We may weep today, but we weep knowing that God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and that Ron and all believers in Christ will rise again from the dead on the last. As Job put it so well,

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God,” (Job 19:25–26 ESV)

So rest in peace, Ron. Rest in the comfort of Jesus’ death and resurrection, knowing that you are under the sheltering presence of God Himself. Rest in peace and don’t be afraid. You are under the protecting arms of God Himself, and we will be with you soon.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.