Funeral Sermon for Loren Bartels – 10.15.22
+ In Memoriam – Loren Bartels: February 7, 1934 – September 23, 2022 +
Psalm 126; Malachi 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-57; John 11:17-27
Beautiful Savior Lutheran
“The Great Things of God”
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Above the altar in Isenheim, Germany stands a famous altarpiece painted by Mathias Grunewald. Off to the right side of the painting stands John the Baptist, the Scriptures in one hand, the other hand is pointing the viewer to the center of the piece…to Christ crucified. Behind John the words painted in Latin read “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
As I thought about the life and faith God gave, and still gives to Loren, and will give to him and to all who believe in Christ in the resurrection on the Last Day, I kept coming back to that Grunewald’s painting of John the Baptist pointing the way to Jesus, and to John’s words…he must decrease, and Christ must increase.
That’s the way it was for Loren as well. I must decrease. Christ must increase. In fact, on more than one occasion, Loren told me that when it came time for his funeral there would be no testimonies. He even wrote it down just to make sure we remembered. No spotlight on him. No center stage. Just tell the preacher to tell my family and friends what’s really important, he said; to know Jesus died and rose to save you. That in Jesus you receive eternal life by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
By God’s grace, that’s how Loren lived, with the Scriptures in one hand, and with the other he pointed his family, friends, church members, and anyone he had the opportunity to say it to, that Christ had died and risen to be his savior, and yours.
Psalm 126 says it this way, “The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.”
Yes, the Lord has done great things for Loren. The Lord called him into the Church, the body of Christ through the new birth of washing and regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon Loren in the waters of baptism. The Lord has done great things for you as well; you who are baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus. For you have put on Christ. You are covered in his perfect life, death, and resurrection. You are washed. Cleansed. Adopted by grace into God’s family.
And if you have yet to be baptized, I can imagine Loren saying something like, “Come on in; the water’s fine. God’s gift is free. Salvation is yours. Forgiveness, grace, mercy, it’s all here for you in Jesus. We must decrease. Christ must increase. The Lord has done great things for you too.”
Yes, Lord has done great things for Loren. God fed and cared for him, from those hard days working on the farm, through his time in Army, and down through the years as he raised his family and rejoiced in God’s gifts of children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. The Lord also fed and cared for Loren as he received the Lord’s body and blood in communion with his Savior and yours.
He knew and believed what the Scriptures said about him, about each of us, that we are sick and broken and dead in our sin, but that in Jesus there is true healing. In his body and blood are the medicine of immortality. In the hands of Jesus our Good Physician you are safe, secure, and saved.
Indeed, the Lord has done great things for Loren, and for you. And none greater than what Paul proclaims in 1 Corinthians 15. Death is swallowed up in victory. On the cross, Jesus destroyed the last enemy. Death itself is dead. On the cross, Jesus crushed the serpent and our sin forever under his feet. Loren’s sin, your sin, my sin – it’s all cancelled, washed away, and covered in the blood of Jesus. On the cross, Jesus gave his life for Loren and for you. And then three days later, Jesus rose from the dead to give new life to Loren and for you.
That’s where John the Baptist is pointing us in that painting, just like Loren was pointing you in your life and conversations together…to the great things that God has done for you in Jesus’ dying and rising. Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Jesus’ death and resurrection is an end, the end of sin and death. And Jesus’ dying and rising is also a beginning. The beginning of new life. The beginning of the great things the Lord has done and will do for Loren and for you. As St. Paul writes…
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
The same Lord who was born for you, lived for you, suffered, bled, and died for you, who rose from the grave for you and ascended for you; he will one day return and raise you from your grave. He will call out Loren’s name and your name as he called out Lazarus’ name at the tomb in John 11. And Loren, and you and I will rise again. Our perishable bodies will put on the imperishable gift of resurrection and new life in Christ. Our mortal bodies will be raised to life and immortality in Christ to live with him in the resurrection of the body. Our broken, sin-sick bodies will be healed, made whole, cleansed and holy to stand before our Redeemer with Loren and all the saints as we rejoice in the great things God has done for Loren, for you, and for all.
As Jesus said to Martha, he says to you today. “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. Do you believe this?”
Loren did. And by God’s grace, so do you.
For the Lord has done great things for us; and we are glad.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen.