Tag Archives: Funeral

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.

Esther Mueller Funeral Sermon 02-22-14

Funeral of Esther Mueller, (February 22, 2014)

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn

(Isaiah 25:6–9)

TITLE: “Death is Swallowed Up”

Arden, Sherree, Linda, Dennis, grandchildren, family and friends of Esther: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Old Testament lesson just read from Isaiah chapter 25. We focus on the words, “He will swallow up death forever” (Isaiah 25:8 ESV).

Esther Jane Mueller nèe Womack was born on June 19, 1930 in Memphis, Tennessee. She was baptized into Christ on October 23, 1949. She was confirmed in the Lutheran faith in April of 1953. She met her dear husband, Arden, while serving as a switchboard operator in the Air Force. They were married on September 11, 1952. They have three children, Sheree, Linda, and Dennis, with many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She died in Christ in on February 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)

Eighty-four years is a lot of history. Tennessee, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Alaska, Minnesota, California, and other places in between . Three children, a passel of grandchildren, and that is not even including all of her spiritual sons and daughters here at Holy Cross. She has been a part of this place before there even was this place. I’m sure each of you has your own memories of Esther.

My most vivid memory of Esther is admittedly an odd one. It was a time when our deaconess and I went to visit her and give her communion. We were outside, looking around the yard and fruit. Arden, Pam and I went around the corner to check out the garden, and when we came back. Esther was no where to be found. Where does a ninety-pound woman in a wheelchair go? In the grass. Somehow she had slid off her wheelchair, and when we found her, she was lying in the grass, with her elbow holding her head up, looking like she didn’t have a care in the world. To some, falling out of your wheelchair would be the source of anxiety and heartache. But to Esther, it meant lying down in the grass with your elbow propped up, looking at the world going by. She was at rest, and it was a good place to be.

The last several years had been difficult for her. The illnesses of her body seemed to be getting the best of her. Her memory was not what it once was. The vitality which once made her who she is seemed to be slipping away. Her southern accent became stronger, while her body became weaker. I’m sure everyone here would agree that it is hard, very hard.

That is the way of life and death under sin, which we all endure. St. Paul says that the wages of sin is death, and we must all pay those wages out sooner or later. It was no different for Esther. Her life was, like all of us, as broken as her body. She was a sinner, and so death came to her just as it will come to us all.

But that is not the end of her story. Our text from Isaiah speaks about a time when the feast will be greater than you can possibly imagine. Food and wine. Everything will be perfect. No cake, only pie. But the one phrase that really grabs you from this is this, “He will swallow up death forever” (Isaiah 25:8 ESV).

Death is the great enemy. It is the one who takes our loved ones from us, either expected or unexpected. Death messes things up, it causes pain and sorrow so that our very hearts will break for the pain of it. The world may try to give us the picture of death as natural, as a part of life, but we know better. St. Paul was right when he said that “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26).

But Jesus Christ has conquered both sin and death on the cross. Our Lord paid the price for all of Esther’s sins, and yours, and mine. Our Lord paid the price, and was laid to rest in a tomb. He took death into Himself by His own death. And He rose again from the dead on the third day, so that death would be swallowed up forever.

That is why we sing these Easter hymns this afternoon. We sorrow, but we sorrow with hope, because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. We weep, but our tears will come to an end at the Last Day. We hurt, but the consolation of God’s love will comfort you and keep you in Him. Esther’s death is hard. It stinks for us who are left here on earth. But she is with saints and angels and all the company of heaven. No more pain, no more heartache. She is at rest in Christ, when goes to the grave with her so that she will rise again at the Resurrection.

Beloved in Christ, rejoice with Esther and with all the saints and angels of heaven. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, and because of that, you, too, shall rise from the dead. That is your comfort and your hope. That is your home. And some day we will be reunited with Esther and with all those who have gone before us and are now with Christ.

So until that day, Esther, rest in peace. Rest in Christ because Christ is at rest with you. Prop your elbow up and look upon the face of Jesus, who loves you with an everlasting love. We will join you there, 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.

Hattie Kerry Funeral Sermon 02-08-2014

Funeral Service for Hattie Kerry (February 8, 2014)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
Psalm 27:4

“At Home”

Kenetha, Teanna, Shamari, Rashad, Family and Friends of Hattie, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is from Psalm 27 as follows: “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalms 27:4 ESV)

Hattie (Taylor) Kerry was born on July 6, 1926. She was baptized in 1955. She joined Holy Cross Lutheran Church as a charter member in 1988. She married her dear husband, Paul Kerry, on August 1, 1953. He preceeded her in death by many years. She died in Christ in the year of our Lord, February 3, 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)

Hattie has been virtually one of the fixtures here at Holy Cross from the very beginning. I’m sure there are many people here who could tell us more stories than we could count about Hattie. My experience with her has only been the past couple years.

As her pastor, my experience with Hattie has been as the giver and receiver. She is the lady who sits in the back row in a wheelchair. She always has her book open and follows along with the service, more or less. She is always there when I come down with the elder to commune her. And she always said “thank you” when I was finished.

If I could put it this way, I would say that she was, well, at home here at Holy Cross. She always looked like she belonged here. And being one of the very few African American members here, that did not just happen.

But at the same time, it did. The verse from Psalm 27 above really captures what I’m talking about: “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalms 27:4 ESV)

Hattie was a sinner like you and me. She made mistakes, she was broken, messed up and deeply in need, like so many of us. There were a lot of people who took care of her in different ways. This isn’t because she was bossy or excessively needy. It was because the wages of sin is death, and she was dying, like every one of us. That death comes quickly for some, and less quickly for others. But it comes to us all.

But there was a great sense with Hattie that she knew where her home was and is. Now I don’t mean sitting in that spot by the back pew, although that is true. I mean she knew that her home was in Christ. In other words, she knew she was baptized. Her identity is not bound up in places and things, or health or wealth or any of the pursuits that this world clammers after so often. Her identity was bound up in God, and in dwelling with Him forever.

I wish I could have known Hattie better. Every time I talked to her we ended up laughing about something. And for those of you who knew her better than me, I’m sure those memories go far, far deeper. That makes our hurt and sorrow all the harder to bear. But our sorrow is for a time. The book of Ecclesiastes says that there is a time for weeping and a time for joy. Our weeping comes from missing Hattie. She was a mother, a sister, and a friend to many. It is right that we weep and be sorrowful.

But do not weep as those without hope. We weep, but we weep with joy, knowing that the resurrection of the body is coming. We weep with a twinkle in the eye, knowing that our dear sister is without sorrow or pain or sadness. I think Hattie would appreicate a little twinkle in the eye, don’t you? For there will come a time, beloved, when you, too, will be raised from the dead and will be reunited with saints and angels and all the host of heaven. And that includes Hattie, and all of your other loved ones who have died in the faith.

Yes, there will come a day when the dead in Christ will rise up from their graves, and heaven and earth will be whole once again. There will come a day when all of our sorrows will be at an end, when every tear will be dried, and when everything that is wrong will be made right again. Hattie is at rest in that now, but it will be so for all of us. Hattie sees clearly what we can see but dimly, a faint trace of the beauty which is coming our way. But make no mistake about it, it is coming.

Hattie was at home here at the Altar of God, and this continues to be her home, as she is now at rest in Christ Jesus.

So until we meet again, dear sister, rest well. Rest well in the arms of your Savior, until the day we meet again in His glorious presence.

Believe it for the sake of Jesus Christ, our risen redeemer. Amen.

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

The Party of a Lifetime (Funeral Sermon for Bonnie Gilbert, September 21, 2013)

Funeral Service for Bonnie Gilbert (September 21, 2013)

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn

Isaiah 25:6–9

BonnieGilbert09-21-2013

TITLE: “The Party of a Lifetime”

Jack, Cheryl, Matt, family and friends of Bonnie, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Isaiah chapter 25.

Bonnie Halboth Gilbert was born in New Mexico on November 26, 1942, and was baptized that same year. She was confirmed in the Lutheran Faith in 1955 by her father. She died in Christ in the year of our Lord, September 14, 2013. “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)

I’ll be honest with you. We had a pretty hard time planning this service. Now it is true that there is grief over the loss of our dear sister, Bonnie, but that’s not what made it hard. What made it hard was that we kept getting distracted by laughter. Getting lost, spoiling the grandchildren, cooking, throwing parties. Whatever it was, it seemed Bonnie went into these things whole hog. I still haven’t found a good Bible passage to use for shopping. Sorry, I tried.

But I think it would be fair to say that Bonnie had not been herself for sometime. The once always active could hardly move around. The do-er seemed to be done-in. It was hard to watch, and I have only known Bonnie for the last couple years. For those of you who have known the long history, and who knew Bonnie in her prime, I’m sure it was much worse. In the end she could hardly walk, had a feeding bag, and her life was not what she had known for so long.

We hear from God’s Word both why and how this happened. While there are medical descriptions of what happened, as a Christian our understanding is a little simpler. “The wages of sin is death,” St. Paul reminds us in Romans. All of us were born into this world sinful and unclean. Even Bonnie. So it is that we are all dying, every one of us.

But that, beloved, is not the end of the story. Not for Bonnie. Not for you. You see, St. Paul goes on to say, “but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus, our Lord.”

So while Bonnie was dying, she was dying to live. This is what Isaiah is getting at in our reading from his book. Hear this part of it again:

“On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 25:6–8 ESV)

God promises that there will come a time for each one of us when we will celebrate what we might call the party of a lifetime. This picture from Isaiah is one I think Bonnie would appreciate. A feast, good wine, great food, a celebration with family and friends unlike anything we have ever known. God, you see, promises to swallow up death forever. God promises that at the last day, that death itself will die.

How is this possible? How is it that our sorrow can turn to joy, even in the midst of such grief? God knows your tears. He sees your heartache. That is why He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to come and take our sins upon Himself, to die upon the cross. Jesus died on the cross so that Bonnie’s death is not the end of her story. Jesus Himself put it this way:

““Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:1–2 ESV)

This day we weep and are sorrowful, but strangely, we also rejoice. Bonnie is not in pain anymore. She can walk again. And she is at the party of a lifetime. I’m sure she’s making sure everything is setup just right for each one of you when you get there. Frankly, they probably don’t know what hit them.

So today we weep, but we weep with hope. Today we are sorrowful, but full of memories, and looking forward to a day that has no end, when the party and the rejoicing will never end.

So until that day when we are reunited, Bonnie, rest well. Rest well in the arms of your Savior. Save a seat for us at the party. We’ll all be there 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.

A Joy that is Full (Funeral Service for Ed Fogarty, June 29, 2013)

Saturday of Pentecost 4, 2013 (June 29)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
John 15:7–11
Funeral Service for Ed Fogarty

TITLE: “A Joy that is Full”

Friends and family of Ed, and especially you his children, David, Scott and Michelle, and his dear wife Ann, 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 15 (7–11). We will focus especially on the words, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24 ESV)

Edward Thomas Fogarty was born in Chicago, Illinois, on July 22, 1931, the son of John and Florence Fogarty. He was baptized into Christ that same year. He was confirmed in the Lutheran faith on February 16, 1969. He married his dear wife, Fran nee Miller, on December 27, 1951, and was married to her until Fran’s death in 2003. Ed and Fran have three children, David, Scott and Michelle. He married his dear wife, Ann, on January 29, 2005. Ed died in Christ after a long illness on Saturday, June 22, in the year of our Lord, 2013. “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)

Keep it fun, Ed would say. I’m pretty sure that the first time I met Ed two years ago, that came up in the conversation. Keep it fun. Ed has a remarkable talent for bringing joy into a situation. Frankly, there are a lot of sayings Ed had which could each be their own sermon. They certainly were for him. I’m pretty sure just about everyone here could recount a favorite line from Ed. “The problem with churches is religion!” That was probably my favorite.

But underneath the joking, the one-liners, the speeches and the sermons was a real joy that was hard to miss or deny. Now I don’t simply mean that Ed was happy. He was not always happy. There were many times in his life when happiness was not on the menu, even if there was a grilled cheese sandwich. No, Ed’s joy went far deeper than any passing emotion or plan. Ed’s joy came from his identity as a Baptized child of God. In other words, Ed’s joy did not come from his accomplishments but from his Savior, Jesus Christ.

One of the hardest things in the world is watching someone like Ed decline in their advancing years. Most of you here knew him far better than I do. You know what kind of a…force of nature that Ed could be. He had a way of involving everyone with whatever his plan at the moment was. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about sanding the cross, caring for his family, or mentoring a young Christian. Somehow, if Ed was involved and you knew him, there was a fair chance that you were going to be involved by the end. You may not have even known it was happening.

But things began to change some time back. The energy that once had kept him going just wasn’t there anymore. He lost weight. He couldn’t catch a breath. The hospital visits became more and more frequent, as did the blood transfusions. He was, for all intents and purposes, fading away to a shadow of the man that he once was. Now don’t get me wrong, here. Ed was still Ed. But it was clear that he was different. Things had begun to change.

Why did this have to happen? Why did he have to die? It seems so unfair, so unreal that this would happen now. He had a list of things that he wanted to get done still. He had a plan, and this…interruption had messed with them all! But Ed would be the first one to remind us of St. Paul’s words, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 ESV)

All of us, from the youngest to the oldest, all of us are dying to live. We may long for eternal life with God, but our brokenness and sin keeps us from Him on our own. In many ways, I think Ed’s sicknesses served him as a reminder that he could not plan and control his own destiny. That was in God’s merciful hands, which is right where they belonged. Being in the hands of God is a good thing.

That brings us back around to the word joy or rejoice. St. Paul, when he was near the end of his own life, St. Paul reminds the Philippians in our Epistle that we rejoice not in ourselves or in our own merits or works. We rejoice in God. Hear again Paul’s words,

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4–7 ESV)

St. Paul, even as he neared his own death, reminds us to rejoice in the Lord. Why? Rejoice because God is at hand. God is present here, in this very house of prayer which Ed was so instrumental in building. Here God promises that He will be here for you through thick and thin, through sickness and health, through conflict and even through death itself. God will be present for you.

Why? How can God be here even in the face of death itself? God is here not in a “god is everywhere” sense. No, God is here for you because His Son, Jesus Christ, died on the cross so that the sting of death would not last forever. The sting is just that, a sting. Because Jesus has taken the road to death and the grave already, we can know and be certain that Ed is following the same path that our Lord followed. Jesus’ death ended in resurrection, and so for our dear brother, Ed, the end of this journey doesn’t lie in the simple grave of a dumb Irishman, but in eternal life forever.

That was what made Ed tick, if anything did. His baptismal faith in Jesus Christ was what drove him and defined him. In the jokes, in the stories, in the plans and schemes which all of you know in one way or another, in all of it there was and is this crazy, wonderful joy in His Savior, Jesus Christ.

Now, make no mistake about it, we are now in the middle of grief. This is a time for both sadness and joy. Sadness because Ed is gone from us for a time, but joy because in Christ, Ed is at peace. I, for one, chuckle every time I think of all the questions that he must be asking St. Peter and St. Paul. “No! You gotta explain this so that a dumb Irishman like me can understand it!” As Jesus Himself said, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24 ESV)

But until the time when we will all join Ed, and Fran, and all the saints who have gone before us, until that time we weep, but we weep with an Irish twinkle in the eye, knowing that God’s mercy is for him, and for you and for me and for all of us broken sinners redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

So rest well, Ed. Rest well until we are united again at the Altar of God to sing praises with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. God guard and keep you until that day.

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.