Sermons, Uncategorized

Depart in Peace: Sermon for the Funeral of Melvin Brockberg

Click this link to listen to this sermon: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1skddtLleyX_RGiVZIy_9UZiNFyhtwEce/view?usp=sharing

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

Now that he now longer is here on this earth, we have only our memories of him. We close our eyes and can almost picture him, can’t we? No flashy, fancy clothes, no big, expensive car, no excesses of luxury, no political aspirations. He was an ordinary man, devout in his faith, humble in his attitude. You didn’t read about him in the newspapers all the time, but his name was written in the Book of Life. He knew of his salvation—that it was not something he could bring about. Like each of us, he had broken God’s commandments. He had failed to do the good he should do and had often done what he shouldn’t. But, by God’s grace, he had heard the good news of the Savior and believed it. He did not look to himself for his own righteousness or eternal salvation. Rather, the Lord was his hope; the Lord God was, and is, his future, his eternity.

We know for certain that he was a righteous man, though we also know that his righteousness was not from himself. Rather, when he was brought into the Church through the Word of God, then the Lord’s righteousness was given to him as a gift. Forgiveness of all sins, eternal life, salvation from death, and deliverance from the Evil One are all part of the blessings that God had declared to him. He became an heir of heaven and all the riches of the Lord God Almighty.

As he faced an uncertain death, he might well have agreed with the Apostle Paul as he thought about continuing to live in this world of disappointment and suffering, or to simply die. Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain… Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:21-23).

How many times had he thought of the 23rd Psalm? How often did he recall and rely on the part where the writer speaks, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me?” How often had he awakened in the night thinking of his life and thinking of the Promise of God, which had been given to him?

We don’t know, do we? For those thoughts of his are like yours and mine—very personal, known only by oneself and by the Lord. What we do know is that the Lord was with him during his travels through all of the valleys, at his bedside when he had bad dreams, with him when he received news that was less than comforting, and keeping him close even at the moment of his death.

Dear family and friends of our departed brother in Christ, Melvin: the only thing that is able to keep us going in tough times is the promise of God given to us in His Son. That promise was given to that man I’ve been speaking of, the man from the Bible named Simeon, the man who is now with the Lord in heaven. And it sustained him during his entire life. It is his story in Luke 2:25-32 that provides our text for today under the theme: “Depart in Peace.”

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said, ‘Lord, now You are letting your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel.’”

In a special revelation given by the Holy Spirit, Simeon had been given the promise of God that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. That special day came for Simeon when Mary and Joseph entered the temple with the Christ Child. Simeon was given the wonderful privilege of actually holding Jesus. What the universe could not contain was held in the arms of one man. Simeon embraced his Savior, his Salvation, his Redeemer, his Lord. He held eternity in his hands.

Dear people, is a baby able to be that and to do that? Well, this was not just any baby being held. This was the Baby—the Son of God, begotten of the Father from eternity and the Son of Man, born of the Virgin Mary. The Seed of the woman who would crush the serpent’s head. This little One would grow up to tell you that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life … that no one is able to come to the Father except by Him … that He came to lay down His life for you.

This Baby held in Simeon’s arms, would grow up for the specific purpose of taking his place and ours upon the cross. No, He did not look forward to His own death. Unlike you and Melvin and me, Jesus knew exactly how He was going to die. Jesus knew He would experience hell itself. Why, He even prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”

Jesus lived a perfect, holy and righteous life in our place. He died our death and atoned for our sins. He suffered hell so that we might not have to. He rose up from His grave as He defeated death. The tomb could not hold Him; nor will it hold those who fear, love, and trust in Him above all things. He promised to be with us, always, even to the end of the age, as He ascended into heaven to His rightful place as the King of kings and Lord of lords.

From there, in Paradise, He awaited Simeon. He awaited Melvin. He awaits you and me. The Lord looked down from above and knew that Simeon would not see death until his eyes had seen the Lord’s Christ. Having stood in the Temple and seen Him, Simeon could depart in peace. And, no doubt, one day Simeon did depart in peace, according to the Word and will of the Lord.

Simeon reminds me of Melvin. Here was a quiet, unassuming man, so inconspicuous that few but the closest to him really knew that much about him. If you look in his scrapbook, you can see that he made the newspaper a few times in his life: when he got married to Dorothy, when he moved a big dairy barn to his farm, and when he sold a cow that had an image of Mickey Mouse on its side to Disney World. Melvin was a private man. As far as I can tell not many folks even knew he was going on the Midwest Honor Flight last week. But we do know this most important thing about Melvin: As with Simeon, the Lord looked down on Melvin and knew he would not die until he had seen the Lord.

And Melvin did see Him. Through the Word of God at his Baptism, Melvin saw the crucified and risen Christ. Having received the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, Melvin could’ve departed in peace as a tiny baby. But that was not the Lord’s will. Through the Word of God, Melvin peered into the manger and saw the Good News of great joy—the Savior of the world. He saw the sinless Son of God hanging on the cross for his sins. Having seen the Lord, Melvin could have departed in peace after his confirmation day, or when he served in the United States Army during the Korean War, or the day he married Dorothy, or during one of his bouts of pneumonia, or any time in between. But that was not the Lord’s will. None of those times were the right time for Melvin.

When would it be? Not one of us knew until last Thursday. Of course, God from on high knew when it would be all along. And He knew that Thursday was the day for Melvin to depart in peace and spend eternity in Paradise. God, in His great mercy and love, permitted Melvin to die suddenly, without lingering illness or incapacitation such a short time after some of us had joined in worship in the chapel service at Falls Landing and he told us how he so looked forward to the Midwest Honor Flight.

For Melvin, there is now, no pain, no sorrow, no suffering. No more earthly hurts, conflicts, or grudges, no more struggle with sin, no more guilt over past mistakes. He has departed in peace according to the Word of God. The promise had been given and Melvin believed and trusted in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Last Thursday all things were ready in heaven and on earth for Melvin to depart in peace.

From there in Paradise, Jesus awaits for the Last Day, when He will raise the bodies of all the dead. He’ll take all believers with Him to the new heaven and new earth, where they’ll live forever in glorious, resurrected bodies, with clean hearts and sinless souls. This promise is good whether you believe it or not. The heavenly riches are there whether you believe it or not. Jesus died for you whether you believe it or not.

For those who do believe in Jesus, trust Him, and follow Him, well, you may depart in peace because your eyes have seen Him. Oh, it’s not that Christians look forward to dying. Christians do not especially want to die any more than anyone else. I know I don’t. But a very wise Christian woman said something like this: “It is not the dying that bothers me, it is the struggle to keep on living that is so hard.” So from God’s point of view, the view that both Simeon and Melvin now have, any day is a good day to die. The Christian may, indeed, depart in peace.

Sadly, for those who never knew Jesus, or who no longer believe in Him, or who’ve wandered away from Him, there really is no good day to die. Because on that day Jesus will say to them, “Depart…. depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Whoever believes in [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the Name of the God’s one and only Son.

Isaiah the prophet gives good counsel to each of us: “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call on Him while He is near.” The Apostle Paul encourages the same: “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”

According to God’s Word, Melvin believed and was baptized. No, like each of us he was not perfect, he was not without sin. But by the grace of God, Melvin was declared righteous and having salvation for Jesus’ sake. With the Word, Melvin lived his life of faith in the Church. Through the Word of God, Melvin received Christ at Holy Communion. He received the very body of Jesus born of Mary—the very blood of Jesus shed on the cross. And for perhaps a thousand times after the Lord’s Supper, along with the entire congregation and all the company of heaven, Melvin sang Simeon’s song: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy Word. For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of Thy people Israel.”

How about you? Will you depart in peace like Simeon or Melvin? You can, you know! Those of you who seek the Lord, who have heard and believe the good news of our Savior Jesus Christ can depart from this sanctuary in peace, knowing you have been declared righteous, knowing that those sins and offenses you’ve suffered at the hands of others have been redeemed in the blood of the Lamb, knowing you have salvation and eternal life because are forgiven of all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Now may the peace of God that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sermons, Uncategorized

My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation

simeon-with-the-christ-child-in-the-temple.jpg!Large
“Simeon in the Temple” by Rembrandt

Click here to listen to this sermon.

“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation” (Luke 2:29–30).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

For many, it’s over for another year—the celebration of Christmas. After the parties, the food, the gifts, and the services, the days after Christmas are characterized by leftovers, crumpled wrapping paper, and a distinct lack of energy. The holidays are winding down; now comes the rest of a long, cold winter.

Where do you go from here? What do you have planned? Plans aside, what will happen to you as 2019 begins and continues? There may be lots of good in store: Grandchildren, a promotion, true love, stability, graduation. There may be unwanted troubles: strife at work or unemployment, family disagreements, a call from the doctor because he wants to run some more tests, a death in the family—maybe even yours.

What will happen to you from here? You have some plans, but you don’t know much for sure. Really, what can you be certain of? So much is out of your hands and beyond your control. So much of life is a mystery.

I guess you could say the same thing about our text. There are a lot of details about which we can only speculate. A man of mystery is walking in the temple. I say this because we don’t know much about him. We know his name is Simeon, but that’s about it. Traditionally, he’s pictured as an elderly man who has led a good life of many years; but we really don’t know. He could be a nineteen-year-old, still working on a full beard. Is he married? Widowed? Healthy? Ailing? Does he have kids? Grandkids? A good life? Bad?

We don’t know. The Bible doesn’t tell us. It does tell us his name is Simeon. The Bible also says that Simeon “was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”  That’s why he’s at the temple—he’s going to see the Messiah.

Suddenly, He appears. The long-awaited Messiah is there; not just a human being, but the Lord has suddenly come to His temple. The Son of God has become flesh to be the Savior of the world, and He is making His first incarnate visit to His Father’s house. The prophecy is fulfilled! The Messiah is on the temple grounds. And nobody notices. Nobody cares.

Except for Simeon. He cares. He knows, because the Holy Spirit has told him. He confidently walks up to the Messiah and His entourage. He boldly takes hold of the Savior. And there, out in the middle of all the temple activity, he sings so that everyone who hears will know: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy Word; For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.” The Lord Himself has come to His temple with salvation. He has come to redeem His people. It is a glorious, divine truth; so Simeon sings the song of praise.

Uninformed by the Holy Spirit, it’s quite likely that others think he’s nuts. Nuts or blasphemous, take your pick. Temple-goers have come here to worship the almighty Lord who made the heavens and the earth. There on the grounds, this Simeon is holding a 40-day-old baby in his arms, guarded by the formidable entourage of, well, a poor-looking husband and wife. But, Simeon isn’t concerned with the Holy of Holies, where the Lord dwells in His glory. He’s peering at the Baby in his arms, and singing the strangest of lullabies: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy Word; For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.” Like the Baby has words. Like the Baby is in a position to send Simeon along with His blessing. As if the Baby is the Lord.

We talked about this at Christmas, too. If you go by your eyes alone, you’re likely to miss the Savior. Go by what the Holy Spirit says into your ears, and there He is. People who are looking for some glorious display of power to prove the presence of God will hustle by the Baby and keep on looking.

But by faith, Simeon knows. The flesh and blood he cradles in his arms is the Son of God incarnate. He is Immanuel, “God with us,” present with His people as God and man. He is with His people to bring peace, salvation, light, revelation, and glory. Don’t let the hairless head and the tiny toes fool you. This is the Lord of heaven and earth. And though that toothless mouth can’t form words yet, He has been speaking from eternity. He is there. By faith, Simeon acknowledges His Savior and rejoices in His salvation. He embraces the Word made flesh, and he is forgiven for all of his sins by the Baby Jesus. That’s why he can depart in peace.

He departs in peace, and what happens to Simeon then? We’re back to, “We don’t know,” for he disappears from Scripture. It’s a mystery.

Traditionally, we assume he’s an old man who dies and is called to glory soon after. On the other hand, he could have forty years of life left before he dies. Maybe a good life, maybe a terrible one by human standards. But Simeon departs in peace because God is faithful. He has kept His promises made through the prophets. The Virgin has conceived and borne a Son, and His name is Immanuel. That Lord has come to His temple, where Simeon has held and beheld Him.

The prophecies will continue to be fulfilled. The Messiah will make the blind see and the deaf hear, the mute sing and the lame leap for joy. He will be stricken, smitten, and afflicted for our iniquities. He will be the cursed man on the tree, betrayed by a friend, His bones out of joint and His robe gambled away. All this will take place so that other promises of God will be kept: Promises of pardon and peace, double helpings of grace for the penitent people of God.

God is faithful, and the promises will be kept. That is why Simeon departs in peace. He doesn’t depart to peace. It is not that he faces a rosy, sublime sort of life because he has held the Savior. Whatever other trials lie ahead, he still faces death. He’s still in this fallen, sinful world. But he departs in peace.

Simeon is at peace because God is faithful. He has sent the Savior. He has not forsaken Simeon, but has come to redeem him. Whatever Simeon faces, he is at peace with God. The Lord has kept His promises, and Simeon knows the end of the story. The end of the story is life everlasting, because the Son has come.

So, taking stock right now, this is what you know about you. You’ve made it this far. And you have no idea what is going to happen to you tomorrow. Even with all the careful planning, January 1st is still up for grabs. You just don’t know.

Not knowing leads to all sorts of temptations. You’re tempted to worry. And while a godly concern is good, worry too often turns into doubt of God’s will and faithfulness. You’re tempted to disappointment when things don’t go as you desire. The greater sin here is that you vastly prefer your will over that of the Lord’s who truly works all things for your good.

We don’t like not knowing, because not knowing means we have to live by trusting. We like to think we’re in control. Faith isn’t natural. In fact, it’s impossible unless it is given by God. But God gives you faith, faith by and in a blessed truth that you do know. Today, you stand with Simeon because you behold your Savior. The Holy Spirit has revealed this to you—not through some mystical vision or writing in the sky, but by His holy, inspired Word.

His Word announces to you that the Baby in Simeon’s arms grows up and bears your sins to the cross. That same body is pierced and that blood is shed before He is placed in the tomb. That same Savior, with the same body and blood, is risen again on the third day. And before Jesus ascends into heaven, He speaks of Word and Sacrament, and promises, “I am with you always to the end of the age.”

He is with you in His Word and Sacraments. It was He who washed you clean of sin in the waters of Holy Baptism. It is He, the Word made flesh, who is present in His Word when it is proclaimed. It is He who says to you, “Take and eat, this is My body…take and drink, this is My blood, for the forgiveness of sins.”  The same body and blood that Simeon held and beheld. And that went to the cross. And rose again. And ascended into heaven.

Like Simeon, you behold your Savior today. No, you don’t see tiny toes and a hairless head; you observe a man preaching and then see bread and wine. But faith tells you this. God keeps His promises. His Son has come, died and risen, as promised. His Son is here, in these means, to forgive, as promised. You know this by faith, not by sight.

It is little wonder, then, that you sing Simeon’s hymn near the end of each communion service. You have heard the Word, and there the Holy Spirit has revealed to you your Savior. You have just received the Lord’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, just like Simeon. And just like Simeon, you sing: “Lord now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy Word. For Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people. A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.”

You sing with Simeon because the Savior has come to you, too; your eyes of faith have seen your salvation, and thus then you depart in peace. You depart in peace, though not necessarily to peace. You stand to face some ridicule along the way. If Simeon looks strange as he sings to the Baby, you’ll draw some strange looks for looking for Jesus in, with, and under bread and wine, water and Word. Some will tell you that you’ve lost your religious sanity, if not your salvation.

But you know better. Christ is here because He promises, and He always keeps His promises. You have His Word on it, so you depart in peace. Not that life will be peaceful. No, don’t leave here expecting that the devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh will go easy on you because you’ve been in the presence of God. This visit of your Savior only enrages them all the more. Don’t hold the Lord to promises He hasn’t made, expecting an easy life in this world as His child. His only-begotten Son suffered.

You can expect your share of trouble, then. This unholy trinity (the devil, world and sinful flesh) will work their hardest to convince you that the Savior’s presence at best does you no good, at worst only leads to trouble for you. They will wield their weapons of worry, guilt, anxiety, sickness, grief, and death. They will do their best to crush you.

But the truth is that they have been crushed already; crushed by the Son of God whom you behold today. They can make you miserable for a bit, but their days are numbered. In Christ, yours are not. No, you don’t know what chapters life still holds; but in Christ, you know the end of the story. And the end of the story is life everlasting. This is why you depart in peace. The One who suffered, died and rose again is with you, to raise you from your sufferings and death to life everlasting.

What does the New Year hold? What does tomorrow hold? You cannot know. We commend tomorrow to the Lord, trusting that He will indeed work all things for our good. He has promised to do so for His servants, even as He promises that His Son has died for you. You don’t know much about what lies ahead, but you do know that you are His—and so you know the end of the story.

Therefore, even now, you depart in peace: For you are forgiven for all your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.