1 Corinthians 15:51-57
July 28, 2019
Immanuel Evangelical-Lutheran Church, Alexandria, Virginia
At any age, losing a father devastates. It’s disorienting. A father protects, provides, and guides. And Nick was all of that. Without your father, the world is not right. It stings.
This loss opens a flood of emotions: grief; guilt; anger. That’s natural. But experiencing the loss points us to the gift. A father is a gift; so is a husband, a grandfather, a friend. A father is a gift. So today is a day to give thanks.
Maria, Christina, Michael, Trish – where would you have been without your husband and father? What would you have lacked? Thank God He cared for you and loved you through a faithful husband and loving father.
Nick always lifted up the room. He brought his line dancing group to church one day, and the smile on his face was infectious. Several times I bumped into him at Panera. “Well hi, Pastor!” he’d say immediately.
Nick was a tireless worker. Even in his delirium toward the end, in his mind he couldn’t close up shop, there were a few more shirts yet to press.
Nick was a soldier. We are losing collectively our fathers. The greatest generation that kept our world safe from tyranny is almost gone. Nick was a soldier. Wounded on Okinawa, recipient of the purple heart, He was a hero.
But that was never how he presented himself. He was humble, and unassuming. Where did that come from?
Nick was a Christian. That’s where it came from. A recent episode showed simultaneously Nick’s politeness and his piety. I was visiting him in the hospital, and there was lots of discussion, with nurses and doctors coming in and out. In the midst of his own pain, I’m think he didn’t want to encroach on my time – as though my time was more important than his! Which of course it wasn’t. So he interrupted, “Well I think the Pastor has a word for us.” It was the politest way I’d ever heard someone say, “Let’s get on with it.” But the Word was what he asked for, the Word of God.
And that Word is how we ultimately deal with the sting of death. And unlike Nick, that Word is not polite. It is bold, audacious, outrageous. It overturns everything we are seeing now. “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’”
When it comes to death, God is not polite. As our soldiers in WWII stood brave in the face of tyranny and demanded total surrender, so has our Lord done. Christ did not merely endure death. Christ defeated death. His death was the death of death.
We feel its sting now, but Nick does not. Up until now I’ve been referring to Nick in the past tense. He was a good father, he was a soldier, etc. That’s normal, but not really correct. Nick was a Christian, and he still is. His body has died, but his soul is with the Lord. He lives because Christ lives.
You who have lost your fathers, they are not lost. They are in God’s nearer presence. They are part of the communion of saints. When you come to the holy eucharist, you are united with Christ and all who are in Christ.
I’m sure Nick celebrated with joy V-J Day, Victory over Japan. His honor we should celebrate. But there is day coming with a victory even greater, far beyond what we can comprehend. We heard the holy prophet Job confess this day: “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.” God creates. He did not create our flesh to be destroyed. Even after Nick’s flesh returns to the earth, still in his flesh he will see God. In the resurrection the redeemed will stand in their bodies to enjoy God’s new creation. There will be no falls, there will be no dementia, there will be no cancer. There will be no tears, or sorrow. Sighing shall flee away, and death’s tyranny overthrown.
Maria, Christina, Michael, Patricia – in the midst of sorrow, give thanks. The Lord gave you a husband and father. It was good. Now is the night of sorrow. But we have a Redeemer. Sorrow has an end, because the grave has an end. With Job, Nick and all the baptized shall stand again on the earth. On that day of resurrection, we will laugh and sing, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!” +INJ+