SERMON FOR THE FUNERAL OF LOUIS GABRIEL, 7-20-2018
LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL, SHOREWOOD, WI
Rev. Michael Larson
For all the saints who from their labors rest. Jesus invites his saints into this rest, for He Himself says, “Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” He says, “I will give you rest…in me you will find rest for your souls.” Isn’t that what we are all looking for, after all? Rest, peace, and quietness?
To be sure, we are restless people. There has never been a time or a people who are more restless. In this fast-paced world of ours, I wonder if we even know how to rest anymore?
St. Augustine said 1600 years ago that our hearts are “restless until they find their rest in God.” Jesus said, “Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Lou has found the rest that he has always hoped for. A rest that passes all human understanding, for he rests in the Lord Jesus.
Dear Sandy. Dear Jo, Tom, and Jim. Dear Walter and Kim. Find peace and rest for your souls too. Jesus has loved you and he loves your father. Take rest for your souls and trust in God. God delivers on his promises and he knows what is best. Your father, and Sandy, your husband, has finished his course, and his labors are complete.
Jesus says, “Come unto me all who labor.” Lou’s labors were real. Mourning the death of his wife to cancer, and Sandy, the tragic death of her husband, God brought these two together in wedded love to serve one another. And ever since their home has really been this church – where the word of Christ has been taught and received by them with great joy.
Lou taught history in junior high, did substitute teaching from kindergarten on up through high school. He taught Boy Scouts, and modeled hard work. Raising five children in a blended family, well, that’s no small undertaking! So he kept his eyes on Christ through it all. He kept his hands busy, following his Lord’s work in carpentry, in woodwork, and refinishing. In this, he was an artist. And what’s more he labored as a Christian, believing in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Lou has lived a long life of laboring for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Living in faith toward God and love for the neighbor. And thanks be to God, his labors have ended and now enjoys rest in Christ Jesus for eternity.
Lou has been redeemed and saved by the Gospel. What is this Gospel? The Gospel, for those who need reminding, is the good news that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has intervened in our lives by pure grace! Intervened and stepped in to save us poor sinners from the power of sin, death, and the power of the grave.
In our time together, Lou was eager to confess his sins. Lou was a man eager to receive the Lord’s Supper – which is the meal of immortality – and the antidote to death. He was a man eager to receive that blessed word of forgiveness. And we know that where there is forgiveness of sins there is life and salvation. Lou believed that.
In Lou’s last days he sometimes became anxious and troubled. But nothing calmed his heart and his soul as much as the words of Holy Scripture and singing a Lutheran hymn.
Dear friends, Jesus went to His cross, bearing Lou’s sins and all of your sins on his back. He suffered the punishment that was our due, and out of love marched victoriously to the cross, suffering shame and sorrow. On Easter morning Jesus broke free from the grave and crushed the power of sin, death, and the devil. He stood up on the earth and hell and death cracked under his feet.
He appeared before His disciples, risen from the grave, blessing them with the healing balm of the forgiveness of sins. He ascended into heaven, opening to us the glorious portal of everlasting life, saying, “Where I am going, there you shall be also…In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”
Lou lives because Jesus lives. He lives now more than ever before. We’ll lay him to rest in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. The blessed joy of the beatific vision of heaven, seeing God face to face, with a renewed heavenly body in which no pain or sickness can dwell. Lou’s strength is renewed and his dreams have come true. The rest that he has longed for he now enjoys with Christ our Lord.
Jesus calls us to live as pilgrims in this land. Passing through this valley of sorrows and pressing on toward the goal. For our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. This is the meaning of the words “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” True rest is found in death. For in dying we truly live. And this is where baptism comes in. Holy Scripture says “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
The Lord has spoken to Lou, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come, enter the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world.”
For you Sandy. You are not left a widow. The eternal bridegroom Jesus remains with you. He is by your side. Jesus through it all has always been your man. Continue to listen to his gentle voice – his word of comfort. Let Him continue to guide your steps unto the way of peace and joy. Find your rest in Him who loves you.
To those who believe in Jesus Christ and receive His gracious gifts, his word of forgiveness, He gives the power to become the children of God and bestows on them the Holy Spirit. May the Lord, who has begun a good work in us, bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus. And may we all find the rest that we have been searching for, a rest found only in Christ our Lord.
May the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.