Gordon Dumdei funeral
April 19, 2018
“The Good Shepherd”
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
Dear Friends in Christ,
The kingdom of God is like a family going on a trip. They’re all packed up, the father is closing the garage door, and the kids are as happy as they can be. You ask them where they are going, and they don’t know. You ask them which highway they’re taking, and they don’t know. You ask them where they will be sleeping that night and when will they come back and they don’t know. But ask them who they are going with, and their faces light up, their smiles reappear, they answer, “We’re going with Mom and dad!” They knew with whom they were going, and that was enough for them.
So also was it true for Gordon as he approached his final hours. He didn’t really know how much longer he had, he didn’t really know exactly what life after death would be like, but he knew with whom he was going, and that was enough for him. He knew that Jesus Christ wasn’t just some hired hand who maybe would take care of him and maybe not. He knew Jesus Christ was the Good Shepherd who had laid down his life for the sheep, he knew that his sins had been paid for at the cross, he knew the resurrection on the third day had sealed the deal, he knew by faith that his name had been written in the book of life going all the way back to Holy Baptism, he knew that as often as he ate and drank at his Lord’s Table that his Lord loved him and was with him always, he knew by faith that through all the ups and the downs of life, His Good Shepherd was following him around with goodness and mercy.
So also is it true for us, as we fix our eyes today on our Good Shepherd. We travel our own journeys of life not knowing exactly what the twists and turns of life will be, but knowing who is with us and will never leave us. Even as we walk in these days through the valley of the shadow of death, we do so knowing that the Lord is our Shepherd, as often as the thorns and thistles of life threaten us, he keeps on leading us into the green pastures of his word, he coaxes us toward the still waters of his grace.Two truths we want to rest in as we think about what it means to be watched over, protected, and provided for by the Good Shepherd.
The first truth in which we rest is that Jesus was both sent and he came willingly at the same time. He was simultaneously drafted and volunteer. It reminds me of my brother Curtis who volunteered for the draft back in 1968. If my memory serves me correctly, he drafted into the army in those days of Vietnam, and if he volunteered he would spend three years instead of two, but he would have something to say about where he would be sent.
The fact that Jesus was both sent and he came willingly is meant to comfort us. Jesus said once that he and his father are one. They had one mission, one purpose, they were on the same page. In our text, Jesus makes it clear that he knows his sheep and his sheep knows him, just as the father knows him and he knows the Father.
My father grew up in the dusty depression years in North Dakota. From age 5-15 or so, he spent spring, summer, and beginning of fall months watching over the family flock. He and his brothers would use a sheep dog and a little pony, and they would spend long days watching over the sheep, making sure they didn’t get into the neighbors fields, making sure they didn’t scatter when lightning would strike and thunder would roar. My dad was a man of few words, and later in life, I was trying to draw him out a bit into some story telling. I asked him if he grew fond of those sheep, and he said, “No. I hated them. They were dumb.”
What a contrast we have in our Good Shepherd – no matter how dumb, no matter how foolish, no matter how often we stray into trouble, He keeps on being patient, he keeps on loving us, he keeps on helping us up and saying, let’s try that one more time. He keeps on finding a way to be fond of us, he favors us with his grace, He covers us with his forgivness.
Jesus is that Good Shepherd who not only loved His Father, He loved us. He came down into our world not only out of a sense of duty, but with a sense of compassion. No one forced him to lay down his life, he laid it down of his own accord, we rest this afternoon in truth #1 – that this Good Shepherd was both sent and he came willingly on our behalf. For the joy set before him, this shepherd fixed his eyes on the city of Jerusalem, he would not be distracted until he had endured the cross, suffered every bit of shame, and was crucified until he was dead and buried.
The second truth in which we rest is that this Good Shepherd didn’t stay dead. He rose up again on the third day, and because he lives, at least four things are true. 1) Because Christ is risen, we may be confident that He is who he said he was, the Son of God. 2) Because he is risen we may sure that all of Holy Scripture is true. 3) Because Christ is risen, we may be sure that the Father accepted the sacrifice of His Son as full and complete payment for our sins.4) Because Christ is risen, we may be certain that the day is coming when the archangel will shout, the trumpet will sound, Jesus will come back in all kinds of glory, and this kind and generous man of faith will rise up again. Already now, we believe that his soul, his spirit is in the presence of Christ. Already now, we know he is resting from his labors, already now, we know that no more troubles or trials can even get close to touching him.
So many sweet memories you all have of Gordon, this is most certainly true. He was easy to like, a pleasure to know, and as consistently cheerful a man as you could know. Some of you have fishing stories to tell about Gordon, others could tell about his golf game, many of you will long remember how he would wear button down shirts, not sweatshirts, he would wear dress slacks, not sweat pants, real shoes and not slippers. A man with his life in order, he was. If he said he would call you at 8:30 in the morning, he would call you at 8:30 in the morning.
We remember today how grateful Gordon was not only to share 43 years of God’s grace with LaJune, but also 27 years of his Good Shepherd’s love with Ella. There was no way of him knowing where his journey of life would go, no way of knowing which roads would be taken, which cities would be his dwelling places, no way of knowing how long the ride would be, but he knew who it was that was always with him, he knew his sins were forgiven, he knew his mansion in heaven was on reserve.
I will long remember him coming forward for communion, and as I handed him the little glass of wine, he would hold it up in the air, as if to say cheers, as if to say how blessed am I, as if to say, Jesus loves me, as if to say, I know in whom I trust, as if to say, the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, I have everything I need, and down the hatch it would go, and on his way, Gordon would go, resting in God’s promises, standing in his grace.
For a couple of years now, Pastor Muther and I had the privilege of driving on down to Blue Earth, talking smart, visiting with, and then inviting Gordon to taste his Lord’s goodness in the mystery of Holy Communion. Always I would ask him if he was sorry for his sins, if he believed in Jesus as his Savior, and if he promised to live the strong Christian life to the best of his ability. Always he would say yes, and always he would receive God’s forgiveness into his heart and soul. After communion, we always prayed.
This afternoon, I close with a prayer similar to a prayer I often pray with the older Christians after communion, and with Gordon, the prayer went something like this. “Gracious God, I pray today for Gordon’s children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. I pray that you would send your angels to be with them, that the wicked foe would have no power over them. I pray that all of Gordon’s descendants, family, and friends would be in the Christian faith, that they would be strong and growing in that faith through all the chapters of life, that they would be a blessing to so many others along the way. I pray that you would follow them around with the goodness and mercy that only you can give and that Gordon Dumdei would rest in peace. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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