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Funeral Homily for Brownie Good

June 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Augustana, 2012

Click here for mp3 audio 40 Funeral Homily for Brownie Good.mp3

Pat, Steve, Lee Ann, gathered family and friends, grace and mercy from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

There are more than a few standby passages in the Scriptures that we turn to in hours saddened by grief but there are perhaps not too many that are as straightforward in their clear confession of Christ Jesus and His victory over sin death and the power of the devil than the ones you have chosen to be read and heard by all here today.  Job, a patriarch like Abraham and Lot, perhaps even the richest man of his time, a man who suffered not as a result of his sin, but rather he suffered so the mercy of God could be shown through suffering.  He confesses very clearly the resurrection of all flesh on the last day, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.  26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” (Job 19:25–26)  And from Saint Paul here, “If God is for us, who can be against us?  I am certain nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”  And Simeon’s Song from Luke chapter 2, holding the eight-day old baby Jesus in his arms he cried out in prayer to God, “I can now go to my rest in peace, my eyes have beheld my own salvation.”

Three men from the Scriptures confessed the steadfast promises of the Lord God.  There might be a tendency to think that these men Job, Simeon, and Paul are Bible men, just sort of soft men.  You know the type, men who don’t know how to work hard; they have soft hands and softer heads.  If anyone thinks that about Job, they certainly haven’t done their homework.  Simeon’s background is a little tougher to determine but he was more than likely not a priest.  He had received the consolation from the Lord and typically one doesn’t receive such consolation, such comfort from the Lord, without truly needing it.  And Paul too was not just an academic but a trained tent-maker and earned his living with His hands and on top of that he suffered, like all the apostles he truly suffered for the sake of the Gospel, the message of Jesus Christ.  “If God is for us,” Paul asks, “who can be against us?”  Paul should know.  Just about everybody was against him.  As it turns out, Paul was asking a pretty important question because if we’re attuned to world at all we know we have a few enemies out here and even a few we cannot see too.

Try to look at it any which way you can and the impediments to faith and life in this world are still there.  Condemnation, government oppression, being hard pressed on every side, persecution for the sake of the faith, hunger, nakedness, dangerous circumstances, or threat of the sword.  These are the things Paul was talking about.  Add to that list, injustice, discrimination, prejudice, lack of work.  Then throw in a measure of nature conspiring against us in wind and violent storms, and the failures of our own bodies whether they just wear out or there’s a flaw in the genetic code so that they don’t work right or look right so that our own bodies actually work against us.  And don’t forget the more subtle enemies like fear and doubt.  And those are just the enemies we can see.  There are the powers and principalities, the powers of the devil, the demons allied against, seeking to drag us away from the glory of God.  And I read the papers and I watch the news and they seem to be winning.  On days like today it looks like they’ve already won.

Brownie was certainly no stranger to suffering.  He suffered the loss of four of his brothers and four of his sisters.  He suffered the painful loss of a son, Barry.  I used to visit Brownie about once a month and bring him the Lord’s Supper but I’ve only been here four years, so I don’t know Brownie outside the sun porch with his oxygen.  When I came over we’d sit and chat for a while.  Brownie would always ask about me and my family and about the church, of course.  And sometimes we’d swap sea stories as sailors often do.  And I don’t think he was happier than when I was telling him about going hunting a couple of years ago or a house project I was involved.  And we’d sit and fuss about the politicians, of both stripes, we weren’t partial.  And when we’d had enough of that we’d have the Lord’s Supper.  And afterwards, when I stood up to go, I shake his hand and he’d light up, grateful for the visit, and smile and thank me for coming and wish me well.  A pastor could get used to making calls like that.  Well enough of my musings; let us meditate on God’s Word.

Job, in the midst of having lost everything, all his wealth, his family, even his health, still he wants it recorded for all history that he is innocent.  “His spirit soars to his only hope: his Redeemer, God Himself.  The divine Redeemer will stand on the earth on the Last Day and Job knows he will receive his vindication in his resurrected body, from which he will see the Redeemer with his own eyes.  What great news that today, the Redeemer sees you in your helpless state.  A true Redeemer who buys back His kinsman from bondage, Christ Jesus has won you for Himself at the cost of His own flesh and blood.” [1]

And Paul was well acquainted with “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword.”  He was imprisoned many times, beaten many times, shipwrecked, he was left adrift for a night and a day in the open sea, on frequent journeys and journeys those days were always dangerous.  He was in danger from rivers, in danger from robbers, in danger from my own people, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposed to the elements.”  (2Co 11:26-27)  He could testify from experience that that nothing could keep you from the love of God in Christ Jesus has for you.

Simeon trusted the Lord’s Word of promise that he would not die until he had seen the Lord make good on that promise to redeem Israel.  And the Spirit of the Lord brought him to the temple that day and there he was face to face with little Mary and Joseph and little eight day old Jesus.  And the Spirit of the Lord prompted Him to speak as a prophet from the Old Testament, “I have seen the salvation of Israel.”  He held Jesus in his own arms, the long promised one, the salvation of Israel.  Like Job, like Paul, like Simeon, Brownie was certain of his salvation.

I remember praying for Brownie over the years and wondering how hard it must be for a fellow who seemed to like people so much to have to be so isolated from them for fear of getting sick.  I remember thinking about the cruel irony that a guy who loved talking with folks and telling stories had so little breath to do it.  And I remember him being rather gracious about it.  He always seemed to be one of those guys who truly received each day as gift, as a gift from God.  I loved seeing those pictures because they showed so much more than the sun porch and oxygen tank, they showed such a full life, a life of blessing and love.  And what’s more, Brownie confessed with his mouth and believed with his heart these Words from the Scriptures that fill our ears and hopefully console our hearts this afternoon.  “I know that my redeemer lives.”  “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”  “I can now depart in peace, I have seen my salvation.”

As I said, these are not the mutterings of mad or soft men, but men who were tested by life and forged in the hot furnaces of trial.  They know that of which they speak and yet they knew the promises of God.

It is not just coincidence that in our church we sing Simeon’s song after the Holy Communion when we have beheld the body and blood of our savior Jesus Christ promised us under the bread and wine.  Despite what many may think the Christian faith is not Pollyannaish.  We are well aware of the “tribulation, and the distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword” in our world and when we’re at our best we work hard to mitigate the effects of that suffering and feed the hungry and clothe the naked and sow the seeds of peace because of our Savior Jesus Christ, the Prince of peace.  And that happens because we are truly at peace.  And we know this peace, we know this rest from all our enemies allied against us only through Jesus, the consolation of Israel and the light to the Gentiles, Job’s Redeemer, Simeon’s salvation and Paul’s love of God.  It was Christ Jesus who was born into the world seek and save the lost, to rescue the world from sin, death, even Brownie, and to loose us from the power of the devil.  And look what He has done.  He has come and stopped the mouth of the old accuser, Satan.  Job is not only vindicated, Satan can’t accuse you of your sin.  He died on the cross punished under the Law as a fulfillment of it.  Simeon not only holds in his arms the salvation of Israel but the Savior of the world, he holds your consolation and your righteousness.  And Christ Jesus was raised to new life by God the Father as a proof, think about that, Christ Jesus came back out of the grave, out of the tomb as a proof that nothing, not even death, can separate us from God’s love.  “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for [you] all, how will he not also with him graciously give [you] all things?”

This is the summary of the Christian message that Jesus came only for sinners, sinners like you, sinners like Brownie, sinners like me.  He came to save us from sin and to help us to stand.  It was God’s plan all along and you will stand in your own flesh with Job and with Brownie, and be vindicated before God with Christ your Redeemer.  You will stand in the eternal temple of God and before Him and behold your salvation for all eternity.  You will live forever, even now from now on, in the love of God which in Christ Jesus.  This is God’s promise to you, just as certain as God made it Brownie, He makes it to you.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.


[1] Edward A. Engelbrecht, The Lutheran Study Bible (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2009), 807.

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