Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Saturday, October 31, 2015

In Memoriam +Robert Stanley Kaniewski+

In Memoriam +Robert Stanley Kaniewski+

October 31, 2015
Text: Rev. 7:9-17

            “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17; ESV).  It’s probably safe to say that most of us have never before witnessed sustained suffering like that which Bob suffered over the last several years.  For that reason, this promise, now a reality for Bob, is so comforting.  Bob is with Jesus.  He sees for himself the Savior, the Lamb of God who has taken away his sin and the sin of the world.  He drinks freely of the water of life.  And God dries his tears.  Bob no longer suffers.  He is comforted in heaven, and he awaits the resurrection of his body, cancer and pain free, on the Last Day.  And in this we also rejoice, though we shed our tears.  We’re happy for Bob, though we miss him terribly.  We’re happy for him, for his rest is won, his pain is at an end, and he now knows by sight what we only know by faith: He sees Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.  And that is enough.
            We don’t know why Bob had to suffer so intensely.  Bob is a strong man, but we saw him weakened by the merciless, unseen enemy that is cancer.  To ask why is to be frustrated.  We could say some general things about the “why” of suffering: This is a fallen world and we are fallen people.  God wants us to realize how helpless we are apart from Him, and drive us to Himself for help and salvation.  He would, through our suffering, drive us to Christ, drive us to prayer, drive us to the cross.  All of these things are true, but as far as answering our burning question… why Bob? … well, we’re simply left unsatisfied.  I don’t know why.  And neither do you.  It is fruitless to speculate.  But there are some things we do know.  We do know what God has done about Bob’s suffering, and the suffering of the whole world.  He sent His Son.  He sent Jesus.  “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,” writes the Prophet Isaiah (53:4).  “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (v. 5).  God sent His Son in the flesh to suffer what is ours, to shed His blood on the cross for the forgiveness of all of our sins, to redeem us for Himself, to be God’s beloved children, to bring us healing and life.  And Christ is risen from the dead.  It is all true.  Bob knew that by faith.  He died in that confession.  And he lives to see it for himself.  He knows what God has done about his suffering.  And he wants you to know it, too.  God gave His Son, crucified and risen, for Bob, and for you.
            The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is not just some sort of spiritual resurrection, or that Christ lives in your heart, or some such nonsense.  A resurrection of that sort is utterly meaningless.  So is talk of Bob living on in our memories or in our hearts.  Of course, our hearts are filled with wonderful memories of Bob, and we’ll share those in the fellowship hall this afternoon.  We treasure these.  But you have to understand, that is not what we mean when we say that Christ is risen and that Bob lives.  When we say Christ is risen, we mean in a flesh and blood body.  It is the same body that was nailed to the cross.  He still has His wounds.  He invited St. Thomas to go ahead and poke around in there. “Go ahead.  Touch them, Thomas.  Poke your finger in the holes of the nails.  Thrust your hand in my side.  Be no longer doubting, but believing.”  The body of Jesus, who had been dead, but is now risen, was witnessed by the Apostles, by His brother James, by over 500 men on one occasion, and on the Damascus road by the blessed Apostle Paul.  That’s pretty good eyewitness evidence.  And the point is, this is a real, bodily resurrection.  It has to be, or it doesn’t do us any good.  Any other kind of resurrection is no resurrection at all.  “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20).  And that makes all the difference on this occasion.  If Christ is really risen from the dead, in His body, then Bob really lives, in Christ, into whom he has been baptized.  Not just in our hearts.  Not just in our memories or in the legacy he leaves.  But really.  Consciously.  In Christ.  In heaven.  And because Christ is risen in His body, the firstfruits of those who have “fallen asleep,” who have died, Bob will rise, too.  In his body.  You can count on it.  You’ll see it for yourself.  No cancer.  No pain.  No weakness.  Bob Kaniewski, son of the Father.  Jesus will call him out of the grave, on that Day.  Yes, beloved, this body will rise from the dead.  And so will you.  Jesus Christ has made it so. 
            That made all the difference for Bob as he suffered in this earthly life.  And it makes all the difference for you.  For you know there is an end to suffering.  There is a Promise that will be fulfilled.  Christ Jesus will raise you from the dead.  And He will comfort you eternally.  That is the picture we have in our text.  Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?  These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation, out of the suffering and sorrow of this fallen world.  In other words, these are the Christians who have died.  But they live.  They are continuously coming out, a great parade of saints, believers in Christ Jesus.  There is Bob.  There are all our loved ones who died in Christ.  They march with palm branches of victory in their hands.  They are robed in the righteousness of Christ.  That is to say, they are baptized into His death and resurrection.  Their robes are washed white in His blood.  And they gather around the throne of God and of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, and they sing their praises.  They are sheltered by His presence.  They no longer hunger or thirst.  The sun does not strike them nor any scorching heat.  And the Lamb, Jesus, shepherds them.  He slakes their thirst with living water.  And the Father Himself, our Father who art in heaven, wipes away their tears, wipes away Bob’s tears, comforts Bob and gives him joy.

            That is why we sing hymns of praise today.  It may seem odd at a funeral, but that is what we Christians do.  We rejoice, even through our tears, because we know that Christ has won the victory for us over death.  Christ lives.  Bob lives.  And we live.  Praise the Lord.  And we join Bob and all the saints around the throne of the Lamb, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, every time we gather for the Supper of our Lord’s Body and Blood.  For now, for a little while, Bob has been removed from our sight, but he has not been removed from our presence.  He joins us here at the altar, only now from the other side of the veil.  And on account of Christ, soon we will join him there.  We will see Jesus.  We will see Bob.  This is our comfort.  This is our joy.  Christ is risen.  Bob lives.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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