Donald Twietmeyer Funeral Sermon, John 6:68
I bring you grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, Amen.
God’s Word for our comfort this morning is Don’s confirmation verse: John 6, verse 68, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
Let us all pray: Thanks to Thee, O Christ victorious! Thanks to Thee, O Lord of Life! Death hath now no power o’er us, Thou hast conquered in the strife. Thanks because Thou didst arise And hast opened Paradise! None can fully sing the glory Of the resurrection story. Amen.
As Don’s health began its long decline, one of things that was frequently sought was advice: advice and a word from the doctors caring for him. Don would keep track of hospitalizations: how long he stayed out and how soon he was back in. He’d say “I guess the Lord wasn’t ready for me!” and then chuckle, “I’m still here!”
Not long ago he was looking at a possible surgery. He had his knee done, and made it through that, so what were the chances, how did the cardiologist feel? Could he make it through it? The answer was “no”. His congestive heart failure had reached that point. His heart was too weak.
We like to think that doctors know everything and that they can cure anybody, but neither is the case all the time. And so even doctors seek the advice of specialists: the advice of the cardiac specialist, the renal specialist, the liver specialist, and the list probably can go on.
We know that the more acute the situation, the more specialized the advice needs to be. And it was not only the word of medical personal that Don so often desired. Don would call my phone and let me know where he was. He would keep me right-up to date. Just like I was a close relative. In the hospital, or back home. And in either place, the Word of God was sought and administered. The Word of comfort. The Word of assurance. The Word of peace.
And of all the words shared over time –and it became ever more obvious with time that Don was growing weaker –it was the Word of God that mattered the most to Don, that brought him the most encouragement. oh, we’d talk in the hospital –I didn’t have to lead the conversation necessarily –but when it came time to pray: Don listened and was attentive.
It is that God’s Word that brings us to this time and place. To this hour of Donald’s funeral. To this House of God, and later to the cemetery. It is God’s Word that brings us here, and again we look to it for comfort, and assurance, and peace.
Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
These words of the Apostle Peter, spoken on behalf of the disciples to Jesus, and they are also the words of Don’s confirmation verse. These are our Words of comfort this morning.
At this time of sadness, we turn to the Word of God. That is what Christians do. For everything for the child of God begins with the Word. John, the same writer of Don’s confirmation verse, starts his Gospel by saying,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
We know, of course, that “He,” is Jesus. Jesus, who at creation made all things, He is the Word that was spoken, who made all things, who became a human flesh.
We Lutherans have a high regard for the Word. We’re not ashamed to admit this, and we are rather proud to boast in it. We regard God’s Word highly, and additionally, we are also unique in this way: we also regard preaching highly.
For we know that the Word that we need is the Word that comes from outside us. The preached Word is unfiltered, unaltered. When we gather to hear the proclaimed Word of God we have no choice but to hear what God has to say to us. And that Word tells us of sin, of death and of hell. We would avoid these truths and dwell only in the glory of it all if the Word didn’t come to us externally.
This is exactly the context of our Scripture from John Chapter 6. Jesus has been preaching about Himself and has been telling His followers that He is the Christ, the Son of God. He invites them to believe in Him. This faith was to be an intimate faith: an exclusive faith. They would have to come to Him through the Means of Salvation.
We know that this turned off many of Jesus’ listeners, and in the end all who remained with Him were just the Twelve. The Evangelist John writes,
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
The Christian Church imitates the example set here by St. Peter and says: “To whom shall we go? Where are we to turn? When life is unfair and kicks us when we’re already down. When friends desert us and we find ourselves alone. When sickness comes. When our consciences are haunted by past sins and failures. When death is knocking at the door. “Lord, I know no one but you. I know of no other message: You have words of life. Your Word has the proper ring. It is impressive and vigorous. It delivers from eternal death, from sin, and from all misery.”
Several times during his life a similar type question came to our beloved Don. At Baptism he was asked if he renounced the devil and all his works and all his ways. Through parents, sponsors and the Church we reply, “I do!” At Confirmation the same questions are asked, and the blessings of Baptism are affirmed and Christ is confessed. Again the same “I believe” is said.
So, also, in death, all of us may, rather, must, turn again to Christ and say, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
Don knew how to rally. Perhaps it was the military man in Him. That Korea is again so much in the news these days makes us take notice. What will that nut running that country try and do? At least Don doesn’t have to worry about it. And he did his part 60 years ago!
But sin, death, the devil are just like that. They won’t leave us alone while we are in this life. We might think that we’ve come to a peace with them but it’s never signed. It’s more like a stand-off. They want us.
Only Jesus has the victory and vanquishes all our enemies. In John’s Gospel Jesus also says this, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26)
These things pleased Don. The prayers of the Church on his behalf pleased him. The Word spoken to him comforted him. The Lord’s Supper, which he frequented, strengthened him. And all along it was the same Word of eternal life.
This is the faith that carried Don through this life. You saw at home, you learned it as he brought you to this church. His love for you, Donna– and for all your family, was a natural part of his faith.
I am not sure how to bring this into the funeral sermon; and yet it would not be Don’s funeral sermon for me if I didn’t mention it. I am talking about the wine. Don had some pretty old wine he would to share with me. (I mean old!)
No doubt there was more than its actual taste that made that wine taste good to him. It had memories attached to it. It took him back to happy times and people and occasions he cherished. And I would have to sample it. Several samples.
And how much more is the Word of God which refreshes eternal! The forgiveness of sins breaths life into our weary souls. The knowledge of the resurrection fills us with strength for the day. The hope of a joyful reunion gives us faith to make it through this hour and the tomorrows.
Today you can show your love to Don by following his example and remembering his faith. Not that his faith can save you, but by imitating his faith, by finding God’s house regularly, by approaching this table frequently, by taking in the Words of life.
Don did not earn heaven. He was a sinner. He needed Jesus. But he also heard God’s Word and at the last that Word carried him through.
Jesus says, I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. (John 5:24-25)
Friends, do as Don did: hear; and you too will receive the same as Don has: eternal life. For Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Amen.