Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Saturday, May 02, 2009

In Memoriam +Paul Timothy Strefling, 1990-2009+

In Memoriam +Paul Timothy Strefling, 1990-2009+
May 2, 2009
Text: Proverbs 3:5-8

Dear Theresa, Tim, Marie, Kitty, family and friends of Paul, fellow members of Epiphany Lutheran Church, all beloved in the Lord:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5; ESV). Trust is faith. Faith is trust. In the Christian Church, the two terms are interchangeable. And it is in times like this, under circumstances like these, that this admonition to trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding is so vital. Because our own understanding simply cannot comprehend the untimely death of a son, a brother, a nephew and Godson, a grandson, a very young brother in Christ. Our own understanding is unable to come to terms with such a thing. This kind of tragedy should never happen. This is not the way it should be. We know this quite well. And it is impossible not to be confronted with the question, “Why?,” at such a time as this.

Why? Why Paul? Why now? Why in this way? I don’t know the answer. If I tried to answer this question, I would be leaning on my own understanding. If we lean on our own understanding, we will come to all the wrong conclusions. When we lean on our own understanding in situations like this we will be led to doubt God, the opposite of trust. Perhaps we will even be led to despise God, or think Him too weak to prevent such tragedy. Or we will think He does not love us. We will think He is punishing us. We will think of Him as a vengeful God who is out to get us. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Beloved, God is not angry with you. God is not angry with Paul. God loves you. God loves Paul. Faith, trust in the Lord, confesses this even in the face of tragic death. In fact, as strange as it may seem, faith, trust in the Lord, confesses this because of a tragic death, namely, the tragic death of the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, on the cross of Calvary. That is the ultimate expression of God’s love for us, that He did not spare His own Son for us, but gave Him into death on the cross for the sins of the whole world, for the forgiveness of Paul’s sins, for the forgiveness of your sins and for mine. Our heavenly Father gave His Son Jesus Christ into death that Paul might live forever. Of course Paul still had to walk through the valley of the shadow of physical death. No one is denying that. That is why we are gathered here this morning. But since Paul is in Christ, baptized into Christ, united to Christ by faith, having died, He still lives. His soul is in heaven with Jesus, in perfect bliss, awaiting the day of his own resurrection. Yes, Paul will be raised from the dead. His body will live again. It is not only His soul that has been given eternal life on account of Christ. It is not only his soul that has been redeemed by Christ. So also Paul’s body has been redeemed and will be reunited with his soul and given eternal life. Christ Jesus was not left in death. The tomb is empty. He is risen, just as He said. Jesus Christ is bodily alive today, the firstfruits of the resurrection. And being untied to Jesus Christ in Baptism and faith, Paul, too, will rise from the dead.

There is nothing that Paul desires more today than that all of you in this building know that Christ Jesus also died for you, for the forgiveness of your sins, and that Christ Jesus is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity, that you might live with Him eternally also. These gifts are yours also by Baptism and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5). Do not try to answer the question, “Why?” We can only say as much as Scripture says, that we are all under a death sentence, that unless the Lord returns first we will all have to undergo physical death because we are all sinners, that death is the wages of sin, that death is no respecter of persons, that it can strike at any age because all people of all ages are under the guilt of sin. But we can also say what the Scriptures tell us of Christ, that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that Christ died for us, that Christ is risen for us, that Christ loves us and rules the universe for our benefit, that all who believe in Him should not perish, not eternally, but have instead eternal life.

Knowing this changes everything. Christ is risen, and that fact changes everything. We can trust in the Lord with all our heart, even though He doesn’t give us all the answers. He gives us the faith. He gives us the trust. He gives us His Spirit. We can trust in Him and live in Him and even die in Him, knowing that dying, we yet live. Such trust is “healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones” (Prov. 3:8). In fact, the promise for all those in Christ Jesus is that we will live again even in our bodies, bodies made perfect, like unto Christ’s resurrection body. If God is for us in this way, “who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things” (Rom. 8:31-32). The fact is that in all of our sufferings, in all of our trials, even in this time of our grief, even in the face of death, because we are in Christ Jesus “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (v. 37). Therefore we can be certain “that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us,” will be able to separate Paul, “from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (vv. 38-39). Christ has died. Christ is risen. And that makes all the difference. Paul has died. Paul lives even now. Paul will rise again. And so will you. And for all who are in Christ Jesus, including Paul, death is not the end of the story. You will live forever because the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses you from all sin, and because Christ is risen from the dead. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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