16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise prophecies, 21but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22Abstain from every form of evil. 23Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
Here ends our text.
Ann, Diann, Don, and Dan, here we are gathered again. It just seems like yesterday we were here in remembrance of your mother. It is hard to believe that it’s been seven months. Now we are gathered in remembrance of your father. As hard as it might be after losing both of your parents, we need to focus on the words of St. Paul: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Now you might be wondering how that is even possible. How is it possible to rejoice when you have buried both of your parents? How are you to give thanks at a time like this? It is very difficult on one hand, but very simple on the other. As long as we live in this world, it will be very difficult to rejoice always, especially at times like these. We would be hard pressed, even at the best times of our lives, to give thanks in all circumstances. Because of our sinful nature, it’s just not possible. We are selfish people, especially when it comes to our loved ones. We would do almost anything to have just another day with our loved ones, especially those who have died. However, that is our own selfish nature and not God’s desire. According to Psalm 139, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” We live the exact number of days according to God’s timetable – not one day more and not one day less, and for George, that last day came Friday.
As hard as it may be, now is indeed a good time to rejoice. We rejoice in the fact that George has died and is now with Christ. We rejoice in the fact that George was called to the waters of Holy Baptism where he was given the title, “child of God” and had God’s name placed upon him. We rejoice in knowing that through Holy Baptism, George received the forgiveness of his sins: past, present, and future. We rejoice in the fact that George received the crown of eternal life, won for him by Jesus Christ.
This wonderful gift of Jesus Christ was given to George and he was most grateful for it. This is what he treasured because it was a gift from God. And for this wonderful gift, George gave thanks. He gave thanks for the bountiful richness of life that God granted to him and to you his family. He gave thanks for the times when there was plenty and he gave thanks for the times when there was nothing. He took the words of St. Paul to heart: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
For George, there was never a time when he didn’t give thanks. Even in the last days of his life, he would thank the kitchen staff of Pioneer Manor for the food they served him, even if he couldn’t eat it. He did it not just because it was the nice and polite thing to do, but because it was what the Christian was to do.
Today, all of us gathered here today give thanks to God for George. Some may give thanks because he was a great person or he did great things. I don’t think any of us would question whether or not George was a good person, but that’s not the reason why we give thanks to God. We give thanks to God because God made George His beloved child through Jesus Christ. God made George a saint. Some may have some reservation calling a person a saint, but not us, because we know that George is indeed a saint; not because of the things George said or did in his earthly life. George wasn’t perfect, and neither are we. We know that George is a saint because he was a baptized believer in God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. George is a saint not because of what George did but because of what Christ did for George. Christ came into this world to live and to die for George’s sins. George knew that and rejoiced greatly at that fact. That was one thing that George tried to pass on to you, his children. If you learned nothing else from him, he wanted you to know the love that God has for you by sending Jesus to die for you.
What a wonderful thing to hear, time and time again! George heard it every Sunday when he came to church. He heard it every time he heard the pastor say, “I forgive you all of your sins.” If you want to know about rejoicing, there it is. What better thing can a person hear than that their sins have been forgiven!
If there was one thing George was fond of, it was time. He ate at certain times. He liked church to last only for as long as it needed to and not a second longer. He valued his time and if you overstayed your welcome, he would be quick to say, “Ok, thank you for coming.” I heard that a time or two from George myself when visiting him. During a recent visit to the hospital, I went to visit him. I walked in the room and walked over to him and said, “Hello George. It’s Pastor Tucher.” George was very quick to respond with, “Ok, thank you for coming.”
As we prepare to receive Jesus in the manger on Christmas morning, how fitting are George’s words today. Those words of George can just as easily be spoken to Jesus, thanking Jesus for coming into this world, for living and for dying for him and for his lovely bride, Hertha; for living and dying for you, his children; for living and dying for all of you. There was nothing that brought more joy to George than knowing that Christ has forgiven him all of his sins.
Paul concludes the text by saying, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God has sanctified George and now he is blameless, standing before God the Father, united with Hertha and all who have gone before him in the faith. God has been faithful to George in the promises He has made to him and God is faithful to the promises He has made to you as well. He has promised to George and to you forgiveness that comes through His Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.