FUNERAL SERMON FOR THOMAS MCAULY – 6/23/15
TEXTS: IS. 40:1-2; Rom. 8:31-35; 37-39; Luke 24:25-27: 30-47
THE GIFTS CHRIST FREELY GIVES (LSB – 602)
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Dear Bonnie, dear family and friends of Thomas McAuly: Why this hymn?  As you mark the death of your husband, your father, your brother in Christ, why the hymn we just sang?  Tom had noted the other hymns as ones he desired to be sung at his funeral. But the one we just sang I chose for reasons that connect to Tom’s earthly life and to Tom’s life even now.


As the first stanza noted, Tom did proclaim and cling to Christ’s strong name in this house of worship. The second stanza focused on baptismal gifts – The gifts flow from the font Where He calls us His own…Here He forgives our sins with water and His Word. That gift of God Thomas received one month after His birth – on October 6, 1935. It is the gift the risen Christ mandated with all the authority in heaven and earth. It is a gift by which our living Lord promised to distribute His forgiveness to us sinners.


Therein comes the strong connection between this hymn and the life of the man whose death we mark today. You see, the Scriptures treat the forgiveness of sins in two ways. One way is how it is won!  Only by God the Son in the flesh – only by His sacrificial death – only by the shedding of His holy and precious blood!  What occurred on Calvary’s center cross is the center of human history. No person or phenomenon or period in history compares with the world-changing act of Jesus - suffering God’s wrath in our stead!  As the hymn Tom singled out confesses, we dying sinners have no plea except the shedding of Jesus’ blood on our behalf.

FUNERAL SERMON FOR THOMAS MCAULY – 6/23/15
TEXTS: IS. 40:1-2; Rom. 8:31-35; 37-39; Luke 24:25-27: 30-47
THE GIFTS CHRIST FREELY GIVES (LSB – 602)
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Dear Bonnie, dear family and friends of Thomas McAuly: Why this hymn?  As you mark the death of your husband, your father, your brother in Christ, why the hymn we just sang?  Tom had noted the other hymns as ones he desired to be sung at his funeral. But the one we just sang I chose for reasons that connect to Tom’s earthly life and to Tom’s life even now.


As the first stanza noted, Tom did proclaim and cling to Christ’s strong name in this house of worship. The second stanza focused on baptismal gifts – The gifts flow from the font Where He calls us His own…Here He forgives our sins with water and His Word. That gift of God Thomas received one month after His birth – on October 6, 1935. It is the gift the risen Christ mandated with all the authority in heaven and earth. It is a gift by which our living Lord promised to distribute His forgiveness to us sinners.


Therein comes the strong connection between this hymn and the life of the man whose death we mark today. You see, the Scriptures treat the forgiveness of sins in two ways. One way is how it is won!  Only by God the Son in the flesh – only by His sacrificial death – only by the shedding of His holy and precious blood!  What occurred on Calvary’s center cross is the center of human history. No person or phenomenon or period in history compares with the world-changing act of Jesus - suffering God’s wrath in our stead!  As the hymn Tom singled out confesses, we dying sinners have no plea except the shedding of Jesus’ blood on our behalf.


But how does His blood cover us?  How do the blessings of His redemption come to us?  Do we just wish for it?  Do we try to feel a certain way so that it becomes ours?  Do we live a good enough life for it to count for us?  Do we measure up somehow to receiving it?  Do we decide to make it ours by the power of our will and the strength of our commitment to religious things?


That’s where the main vocation of Tom’s working life is instructive. Whether it was for Mercury Marine or Harnischfeger Crane Company or Waukesha Industrial Supplies Tom’s work in a physical way closely parallels the work this hymn details in a spiritual way. Tom was a warehouse manager and a distribution manager. His vocational focus was on making sure things got where they needed to go. Boats and motors and related parts do no good if they are manufactured and not distributed. Crane parts and tools that are well designed and carefully fabricated are useless unless they are dispensed to the proper place.


So it is with God’s good gifts. They were won for us in the flesh of Christ on the cross. But they are not given out or distributed at the cross. You can’t go back to Jerusalem, stand where some think the cross stood, and claim the forgiveness that Christ won there for the whole world. That would be human imagination. You cannot go fishing as Tom loved to do and distribute forgiveness of sins to yourself on the lake. That would be human pride and presumption.


God has clearly revealed where He distributes the forgiving/life-giving fruits of Jesus sacrificial death. Concerning Holy Baptism the Word Jesus sent His apostles to speak promises that this washing of rebirth gives forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38) – covers you with Christ (Gal. 3:27) – and saves you (1 Peter 3:21) even as Noah was rescued by God in the flood. This washing of rebirth is not magic, but it is a miracle of God’s gracious giving, a holy mystery of God’s grace that He is faithful to. Tom graduated from Goodrich High school in Fond du Lac and began life-long work of distribution, of getting into peoples’ hands what they need. On the 30th day of baby Thomas’s life God began the life-long work of getting to this sinner the gifts He needs for life beyond the grave.


Stanza three of the hymn reveals another means by which God distributes His forgiveness. The gifts of grace and peace from absolution flow; The pastor’s words are Christ’s for us to trust and know. On the day of His resurrection – fresh from the grave –Jesus stood among His frightened, hiding disciples and said, “Peace be with you; As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you…Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld (John 20:21-23). The center of the church’s life is the speaking of forgiveness – in keeping with God’s revealed will. Not for open, continuous, willful, unrepentant sin, but for sin that is recognized and confessed. Week by week Tom sat in these pews to receive God’s word of absolution. In the week before and on the day before his death, Tom confessed his sin in his hospital room. He did so in the words we use in worship here and heard again the forgiveness – the risen Christ commanded to be given.


Tom heard God’s absolution in the context of another means of distribution God has instituted for His gifts of forgiveness and life. Stanza five proclaims – The gifts are in the feast,, Gifts far more than we see…The body and the blood Remove our ev’ry sin; We leave his presence in His peace, renewed again. There was not much physical relief for Tom in this last distress. He sought all the medical help he could to heal and to relieve his breathing. Every effort was taken to distribute oxygen to his body – to enable him breathe deeply and easily. That’s what the Hebrew from Isaiah 40 means. Comfort, comfort my people - means to cause my people to breathe deeply and easily. As Tom heard those words at St. Mary’s hospital in the context of Holy Communion, he was reminded that before God the standing He had was already one of breathing deeply and easily. Christ’s holy body and holy blood that He distributes to us sinners received in faith – bestows also forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. There is no deeper comfort – no greater confidence to stand before God than that.


Tom’s presence in this congregation included concern for the distribution of God’s gifts to others. His service on the Board of Elders when I came and his presence in Bible Classes showed clear interest in the use of God’s Word and in the worship of the congregation. When we transitioned from two Sunday morning services to one on Sunday morning and one on Monday evening, the weekly presence of Tom and of you Bonnie for several years was instrumental in the logistics of that beneficial Monday evening change. Worship was correctly seen by Tom not as something we do but as something Jesus does in our midst that we cannot do for ourselves. That is the most important recognition there is in correctly understanding the Christian faith and the work of Jesus among His people today. What He won on the cross He continues to distribute through His Word and Sacraments.


That’s what Jesus conveyed to the Emmaus Disciples on the evening of His resurrection Day. He set their hearts to burning through a seven mile sermon but then He revealed Himself to them in the Breaking of the Bread. That’s what the Holy Spirit led the Church to be devoted to with all their strength. The center of their life after Pentecost was fellowship in the ordered prayers flowing from and framed by hearing the Apostles’ teaching and receiving Holy Communion (Luke’s term for it is the Breaking of the Bread – Acts 2:42). This is still the center of Christ’s work in and through His church today and Tom’s life in our midst was anchored in Christ’s promised distribution of His gifts.


Had Tom been here Sunday, he would have heard the very text that is the basis for the other hymn he had singled out for us to hear – Chief of sinners though I be.   St. Paul spoke these words (1 Tim1:15) but they are true for each one of us. We all fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Comparing and counting others as having a greater debt to God than we have robs us of the comfort of the Gospel. If God kept a record of sins – no one could stand (Psalm 130:3-4). If we fail the law at one point we are guilty of all of it (James 2:10). No earthly court distributes justice and law in that manner but then the justice of God’s court is high and holy – as far as the heavens are above the earth.


That justice struck the holy Son of God on Calvary. That act of God – the death of Son of God and Son of man, alone answers for our sin. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the risen Lord – victor over death who has clearly promised where He distributes His forgiveness and life.


Thomas McAuly in the fine and helpful vocation of distributing earthly goods to others and in service to his country as a marine knew that none of this - nothing in His life could earn or distribute to himself the good gifts of God that bring eternal life. To that end He depended on the promises and presence of the risen Christ to distribute or give-out what He purchased for us by His perfect life and His sacrificial death.


As you mourn the loss of your husband, Bonnie, your father, Michael and Grace and Marty, your grandfather, your dear friend and fellow worker, Keith, your brother in Christ breathe in deeply what God promised Tom in Christ. It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn?  Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? 


The most important thing we can do in our brief lives on this earth is breathe in the gifts of Jesus the Holy Spirit delivers from the Father in God’s Word and Sacrament. We will be separated from everything else in this fleeting life. Education and business and medicine cannot distribute that which conquers death. But Jesus does!  We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.


In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a