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.

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