Alvin Nissen Funeral (Job 19)
- Order of Service: Funeral Service
- Hymns: LSB #739, 748, 744
SERMON TEXT: Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! (Job 19:23-27)
Kathy, Daniel, Doug, Kristin, Nancy, Joe, Barb, David, and all who knew and loved Alvin: Grace to you and peace from God our Father through His resurrected Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
When Job said these famous words, he had lost everything he held dear in this life. His vast wealth was destroyed. His children were dead. His health was attacked. His wife had turned her back on him. His friends told him that he had gotten what his sins deserve. This is the way of the fallen world. When things go bad, everyone abandons you. But Job also points out that there is One who will not abandon you. Not at any time. Not for any reason.
Alvin was a man, like Job, who had every right to feel abandoned. Like everything, including God, was working against him. He had the right to question why he was still here. After all, he had sat in the pew here not once, not twice, but three times as he buried a wife. He also buried two children. This would be enough to drive anyone to cry out in despair. This is enough to bring out the questions of abandonment.
We live in a world filled with sin. “Sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” Since the world is filled with sin, the world is filled with death. We cannot escape it. We might be able to avoid it for a while, but “it is appointed for man to die once.” God has appointed it for everyone ever since Adam and Eve fell into sin. Death is a constant in our lives.
However, some seem to skate through life virtually scratch-free from death. They go through life with very few loved ones dying. Others, like Alvin, seem to be a magnet for death. There's no rhyme or reason to who and why. Sin frustrates those it holds captive. And that's everyone. You can't help it. And you see it in the lives of those around you. You see it in your life. You see what it does for your future.
The future seems bleak because everything seems to have turned against us. When sin and death surround us, everything seems to darken. But this darkening occurs most when we close our eyes and focus too much on ourselves.
With this bleak picture, we often abandon God. Seeing that we cannot escape death's wrath and judgment, we walk away from God. We blame God for our troubles. That He's punishing us by these things. But death is not merely and solely punishment. God allows things to happen, even death, to do His alien, or strange, work. Job was tormented because Satan wanted to get him to blaspheme God. St. Paul spoke of a “thorn in the flesh” that Jesus refused to remove three times. “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” St. Paul didn't whine about it. He embraced it. Although he wanted to be far away from it, he believed Jesus' promise to him.
Although we may abandon Him, Jesus never abandons us. When we are at our lowest, Jesus is there with His greatest gifts. The same grace and peace with which I blessed you at the beginning of this message. These seem to be so small and insignificant in our sorrow, but they are the greatest gifts we can have with our tears. God's grace and peace support and sustain our faith in Christ. We know that the future is ahead of us. A glorious future that no one can take away.
Job's faith in his own resurrection shows this. “After my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” Although he was going through the lowest point a person could possible ever imagine, his faith remained firm. “In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.” He knew his Redeemer. He knew his Redeemer was coming. He knew that he would see Him with his own eyes. Job's faith held firm because he had been redeemed.
He believed St. Paul's words, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus redeemed Job by faith alone, as we focus on in this 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Jesus redeemed Alvin also by faith alone in the water and blood of Holy Baptism. Eternal life was promised to him on that day. Life he looked forward to because he knew, like Job, that his Redeemer lives. And because Jesus lives, Alvin's life was wrapped up in Jesus' death and resurrection. The only way to live a life with meaning. Knowing Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Believing His redemption of your body and soul. Certain you will see Him face-to-face with your own eyes.
One day, He will stand on the earth. He will stand here to call His own to His side. He will give glory to those who believe in Him. Glory that will last forever. Glory that will be personal and tailor-fit to each of you. The many rooms that Jesus is making ready for each of us. And it will be a glory beyond compare. St. Paul writes, “For I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Part of this revelation is the promise that He is coming back.
Your Redeemer lives. And He offers you everlasting life. The promise that this moment is not the end. The grave is not the end. It is the gateway to the resurrection. To the promises that He gives. The promises that Job believed in. That Alvin believed in. That you are called to believe. He lives and so will you. Amen.