Funeral Sermon for Leonard Erdman
A Voice Like Roaring Waters –
John 10:4, Rev. 1:15
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus. Our texts for today are both from St. John, first from his Gospel and then from his Revelation.
More than once I would see Lenny before the 9:15 service sitting in the back pew, as he went through his treatments. I would sit next to him and ask him, “Well. Lenny, how are you doing today?" And he would answer with a clear voice and say, “Oh, I’m doing pretty good, Pastor.” And he’d tell me all about his treatments for the week, and we would watch the church gather before worship together.
A few days ago, I went to see him in the nursing home. I sat next to him and asked, “Lenny, how are you doing today?” And he answered with a clear voice and said, “Oh, I’m doing pretty good, Pastor.” And he told me of his days in the hospital.
On Thursday, Pastor Griffin went to see Lenny in the nursing home. They said the Lord’s Prayer together and the Apostle’s Creed. They remembered their baptisms and Pastor Griffin said to Lenny, “It seems you’re going home soon. How do you feel about that?” And Lenny said with a clear voice, “I’m at peace.” Even when his breath grew shallow, even when his strength of his body was failing, his voice was clear and strong.
In the face of his trials, his struggles with cancer, and even the day of his death, his voice was clear. Today, I invite you to listen to the voice of your Good Shepherd, clear and strong, as he holds out to you the hope that Lenny clung to all the days of his life.
Two points for our meditation today: first, that the voice of Lenny’s Good Shepherd was clear, and second that it was strong. First, the voice of our Good Shepherd is clear. John says it like this in his Gospel: I know my own and my own know me. The Good Shepherd calls his own sheep by name. He goes out before them, and they follow him because they know his voice.
Pastor Griffin has said that on more than one occasion, he would sing in the choir on Hay Daze and he really didn’t know what he was doing. So, it was always his goal to find someone who could really sing and stand next to him. Now, I’m not too sure if Pastor Griffin sings bass or tenor (I don’t know if he knows himself) but when you’re following someone who really belts it out (and belts it out for 70 years), when you hear a clear voice leading you, it becomes easy to follow.
From the day he was baptized, April 23, 1928, the clear voice of Leonard’s Good Shepherd called him into his flock as soon as the Water and the Word touched him. From the day he was confirmed, March 29, 1942, his Good Shepherd fed and nourished him with the Body and Blood, bread and wine. As he was called to fight the good fight of faith all his days at home and abroad, as he was called to take ahold of eternal life in these days, as he was taught by his God to have a generous hand, a kind heart, so again and again and again, Leonard came to the place where he could hear the clear voice of his good shepherd calling out to him with the same good news that we’ve preached for two thousand years and more:
Death was never the design, and it will not be your end. Your savior has fought the good fight for you. Your savior took your punishment in your place. Your savior will lead you through the valley of the shadow of death. Your savior follows you around with goodness and mercy all the days of your life.
These are the promises of God, clear, absolutely clear, sung by the saints below and again by the saints above.
Second, the voice of our Good Shepherd is strong. Listen and wonder at the description of Jesus in the book of John’s revelation. Can you tell in his writing? These are words describing a man that defies description. He comes riding the clouds. His eyes are like flames of fire; his feet like burnished bronze. His face like the sun shining in full strength; his voice is like the roar of many waters, like the perpetual crash of a bowling alley, like the sound of Niagara Falls.
The first Europeans were awestruck when they saw the falls of Niagara. And I quote: “The human habitants within sound of its Fall were few and far apart… Its few visitors came, gazed and departed in silence and awe.” It was like a wall of sound that deafened all else, like peal of thunder that would never stop; when you draw near, it overwhelms first your ears and then all your senses.
And I tell you that to tell you this: the overwhelming roar of those waters is like a drop in the bucket compared to your Savior’s strength for you. The greatness that makes those falls great serves best when it lets us hear the merest part of the greatness of God. Carl Boberg said it like this: “Oh Lord, my God, When I in awesome wonder, consider all the works thy hand hath made – I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, thy power throughout the universe displayed…”
It is that strength – the indescribable strength of the Father - that wrestled death to the ground for Leonard. It is that thunder – the thunderous love of Jesus Christ - that proclaimed “It is Finished” on the cross for Leonard. It is that vitality – the vitality of the Spirit of Life - that will raise Leonard from the grave on the last day. It is that power that gives eternal life to Leonard and all believers in Christ. And for that, “Then sings my soul, my savior God to thee, How Great thou art, How Great thou art!”
Our God is powerful enough to answer our prayers. He is loving enough to answer for our good. Our God is powerful to redeem us from our sins. He is loving to die in our place. Our God is powerful to lead us home. He is loving to prepare for us a place.
So, I urge you, now as you’re in our earthly choir to sing the refrains of the promises of our God. Sing, and sing like you’ve never sung before. Know that your voices are joined with all who sing in the heavenly choir, even its newest member. Know that your voices are raised to our God in heaven. Know how great he is. And let the clear, strong voice of your savior lead you through death even into eternal life. We sing together the final verse and refrain of Hymn #801, How Great Thou Art.
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