Funeral Sermon for Don Gutz – January 23, 2021
+ In Memoriam – Donald Gutz +
Job 19:23-27; Romans 8:31-39; John 14:1-6
Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
One of my first memories of Don is when my family first arrived here at Beautiful Savior and he asked if we liked pears, and that if we did, he would be by later that week. True to his word; he stopped by and he brought pears alright. Let’s just say, it’s a good thing we like pears.
That introduction revealed a lot about Don. Not only did he love gardening. He loved to be generous. He loved to talk. He loved his family. He loved his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. He loved our Lord and his gifts. And he loved all these things because God had planted the love of Christ within him and he was rooted Jesus crucified and risen.
And the more I thought about this memory, and other Don Gutz moments this week, the more I found myself thinking how much Don’s love of gardening has in common with our Lord’s love and life and faith given to Don and given to us all in Jesus.
Gardening is a school of many lessons. Gardening, like life, isn’t always easy. So too with our life of faith in Christ. Hard times come. Blackberry thorns prick. Weeds and worries creep in and choke. There are plenty of Trials. Troubles. Tribulation. Sickness. Danger. Death in the garden. And yet, as Paul writes, Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or trouble, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And yet, if gardening reveals life’s hardships, it also reveals God’s greater blessings. For there are certain things a garden needs to grow and thrive: food, water, light, a good gardener. So it was for Don and it is for us in our life of faith in Christ. Only when it comes to faith and life, we are not the gardener. Don knew this. Don knew that our Lord is the gardener and we are his plants. He makes our heart a fertile soil for his Word. He sows the seed of faith and life within. He waters us daily in the holy waters of Baptism. He feeds us with the holy food of his own body and blood. His cross and resurrection give us light and life. Such is the faith that Don knew and confessed.
And this gift of faith is no small thing. After all, anyone who’s spent time with their hands in the dirt, gardening or farming, knows that while there’s a lot a gardener can do – till the soil, weed the garden, trim, fertilize, water, and forth – still there’s a certain act of faith once you place that seed in the ground. One of gardening’s other lessons is realizing that while our Lord places many things in our hands – to care for and tend – there’s far more in life that’s out of our hands.
But Don was ok with that. For he knew that whatever was in his hands, and whatever wasn’t in his hands was safe and secure in the Lord’s hands. As Paul declares, If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Like Paul, Don knew that he, along with all his loves in live – his family, his faith, his church, his garden – rested firmly, yet graciously and safely in the hands of our Lord Jesus.
In the hands of the Great Gardener himself. Who stretched out his hands upon the tree of the cross to make all things new, to save and rescue Don, and me, and you, and all. This same Lord who wonderfully created all things and planted a garden in Eden more wondrously made Don a new creation in Holy Baptism, planting faith and life in Don by water, word, and the Spirit.
This same Lord who wonderfully formed Adam from the dust of the earth has more wondrously redeemed us in our flesh by Jesus our second Adam. This is why we join Job and Don in confessing, “I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God”
This same Lord who filled creation with such wonderous, bountiful fruit and plants that Don enjoyed gardening and giving away, also deals with us in his bountiful grace. Jesus climbed the tree of the cross for you and for Don, to rescue, redeem, and restore. Then God the Gardener cast himself like a seed into the earth – down into our grave and Don’s – so that in Jesus’ resurrection we would receive the first fruits of his life, death, and resurrection. Like a plant in spring Jesus rose from the earth three days later so that when he returns, Don and you and me and all flesh will stand and see our Redeemer, our Savior, our great and gracious gardener. And He will pull us out of our graves as easily and as quickly a skilled gardener pulls up his vegetables.
Now, Don would be the first to tell you that he received all of our Lord’s blessings, not because of anything special or remarkable or particularly deserving that he had done. But because of everything the Lord had done for him. Like the growth of a garden, Don’s life and faith and love were all gift from our all gracious Lord Jesus.
And that is why Don was comforted in life and in death. He knew he was in the hands of his gracious Lord and Savior and Gardener. And so are you.
Our Lord comforts you today as well. Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if that were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will take you to Myself, so that where I am, there you also will be.
It’s hard to say exactly what the new creation will look like, but I wouldn’t be surprised that along with our Lord’s house, in the new heavens and the new earth that Jesus has prepared for us, that in the resurrection along with Don’s glorified and risen body, and ours, that there will be a garden for us to sit and enjoy with Christ as we rest under the tree of life with our good and gracious Gardener.
Until that day of Don’s resurrection, and ours…
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.