FUNERAL SERMON FOR ERVIN KOHUT
MARCH 7, 2013

TEXTS: HEBREWS 11:1-3; 8-10; 13-16/JOHN 14:1-6

IN CHRIST – A BETTER COUNTRY IS ERV’S Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Dear Sue, Michael, Jenny, Matt and Brenda, dear George and Paul and other family and friends and fellow members at Luther Memorial Chapel of Ervin Kohut.  As you mark the death of your husband, your father, your brother, your brother in Christ, Hebrews 11 helps direct our thoughts…Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Those who died in faith are described as strangers and exiles on the earth…seeking a homeland…a better country, that is, a heavenly one.  Our reading ended, Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.  In John 14, Jesus makes clear who does that preparing…I go and prepare a place for you…I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

Erv was seeking a better country.  When he was a boy of five years his homeland of Hungary became a “people’s republic.”  Its new constitution was modeled after the Stalinist constitution of the Soviet Union.  Religious orders were almost totally dissolved.  Religious instruction was almost totally abolished.  Stalin usually left a few show places.  Nearly 4000 clergy and nuns were deported, imprisoned, tortured, and killed.  Repression was also severe among the overall populace.  Educational and economic propaganda choked out opposing voices.  Hundreds of thousands were purged from their places of work and influence. 


FUNERAL SERMON FOR ERVIN KOHUT MARCH 7, 2013

TEXTS: HEBREWS 11:1-3; 8-10; 13-16/JOHN 14:1-6

IN CHRIST – A BETTER COUNTRY IS ERV’S Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Dear Sue, Michael, Jenny, Matt and Brenda, dear George and Paul and other family and friends and fellow members at Luther Memorial Chapel of Ervin Kohut.  As you mark the death of your husband, your father, your brother, your brother in Christ, Hebrews 11 helps direct our thoughts…Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Those who died in faith are described as strangers and exiles on the earth…seeking a homeland…a better country, that is, a heavenly one.  Our reading ended, Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.  In John 14, Jesus makes clear who does that preparing…I go and prepare a place for you…I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.


Erv was seeking a better country.  When he was a boy of five years his homeland of Hungary became a “people’s republic.”  Its new constitution was modeled after the Stalinist constitution of the Soviet Union.  Religious orders were almost totally dissolved.  Religious instruction was almost totally abolished.  Stalin usually left a few show places.  Nearly 4000 clergy and nuns were deported, imprisoned, tortured, and killed.  Repression was also severe among the overall populace.  Educational and economic propaganda choked out opposing voices.  Hundreds of thousands were purged from their places of work and influence. 


When the boy Erv was seven years old the “State Office of Church Affairs” acted to bring remnants of the church under total state control.  Church leaders thereafter had to be politically correct idealists who believed that only communism had a future.  They were all approved by the government.  In daily life - living standards fell and basic foods and clothing became scarce –especially in urban areas such as Budapest.  The climate continued to worsen.  The regime became so strict that a political joke could lead to lengthy imprisonment. 


A spontaneous nationwide revolt in 1956 led to a temporary Hungarian government releasing political prisoners and planning elections.  For just a few weeks there was a breath of fresh air and the promise of freedom.  Then, however the Red Army rolled in killing thousands and causing nearly 200,000 men, women and children to flee as refugees.  Along with his father, Paul, 12 year old refugee Erv was on the run seeking a better country. 

Making for the Austrian border – they had to walk the last 40-50 miles.  The experience of that last leg included bullets whizzing nearby and flares lighting the night sky.  Erv’s father had made him practice how to lay motionless and not make a sound.  That training proved crucial for at one point they lay motionless in tall grass as a guard walked by just a few feet away.  Despite the distance and the dangers, they crossed the border into Austria and eventually came to America. 


This background is reviewed for those who know it and shared with those who do not because what Erv experienced early in life helps picture what he and all Christians experience throughout and at the end of life.  The country in which we live is not a lasting one.  The homes in which we dwell are not our eternal homes.  The freedoms we have are always imperfect and always threatened – not the least of which by our own sinful natures.  While giving thanks for our daily bread and blessings God would have us set our mind on things above where Christ is seated – to desire a better country.


We are strangers and exiles on the earth.  Our Fatherland is not Hungary or America but the country of our heavenly Father.  Like Abraham, we don’t know fully where we are going on this earth or how long the journey will be.  Perhaps 68 years – perhaps less – perhaps more.  As Abraham lived in tents and followed God’s call in faith, he knew that attainment of earthly territory and goals was not the completion of his pilgrimage.  Every earthly home and country pointed beyond to what only God can prepare.  As our text described it, Abraham was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 


Erv’s vocation involved designing and building.  As a layout fabricator – planning and sketching and figuring angles and carefully cutting and fitting together and arc-welding metal pieces was something he did with energy and careful attention.  He liked his work.  He showed me some plans a time or two – the mathematics and engineering of which was beyond my ease of understanding.  But he did his best to explain nonetheless.  You have noted also Erv’s fascination with one of the world’s top inventors – Nikola Tesla – and his readiness to talk at some length about Tesla’s accomplishments.


Erv appreciated human ingenuity and creativity and craftsmanship – perhaps some of that gleaned from his father who was a furniture maker.  In retirement Erv wanted to cross fields and use some handed down tools to try his hand at woodworking.  I suggested some bookshelves needed in the vicar’s office.  He did a fine job – with some explanation along the way of how he could have done a few things different.  The shelves are still put to good use.

 

But Erv knew human intelligence and skill and craftsmanship would be of no benefit to him when his stay on this earth ran its course.  In this house of worship Erv regularly confessed his sin and his faith in the work of another on his behalf.  In the past few years and especially in the last 18 months Erv received the forgiveness-laden gifts of Christ in Word and Sacrament in monthly visits that were made to him.


In his confession of sin; in his confession of the forgiveness of sin Jesus Christ purchased for him and served to him, Erv was acknowledging that his eternity had to be designed and built by God.  This is what Jesus spoke of - “Let not your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms…if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  When the disciples said they didn’t know the way Jesus responded, I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.   


You see, the gift of Jesus Christ in the flesh in the gift of God’s design – and it is marvelous in our eyes!  He also left His homeland – heaven’s glories.  He entered the borders of our earthly life in the womb of the Virgin Mary.  He was not a refugee fleeing violence and political oppression.  He willingly came into the midst of violence and oppression as Savior to redeem us.  What the earth received in Him was God and Man in one person – the miracle of the ages – the mystery of God’s grace at work to rescue us. 

 

The physical design for His most important work was not an impressive engineering feat.  He created the universe and designed the marvels of DNA and of nature and created the wonder of a baby being knit together in its mother’s womb.  Yet He did not use an amazing invention for His most beautiful and loving and difficult work.  The instrument that He used to accomplish the central work of human history was simply the dry tree of the cross.  On that tool of cruel death the Holy Son of God was lifted up for our justification.  He died for real sinners who need real forgiveness – like you – like Erv – like me!  His blood cleanses us from all sin.  Then He did what no amount of human engineering has ever done or will ever do.  He conquered our last enemy of death!  He stepped forth from the tomb in new life to give you new life.  It’s that gift of new life that the risen Lord continues to serve His gathered people in weekly worship.


George, you have mentioned how your brother sent money back to Hungary to assist family members while you were still there and how he played an important role in reuniting family members here when that became possible in the 1960’s.  Our brother Jesus Christ made the once for all payment that open’s the Father’s presence to us again. God was in Christ Jesus reconciling us to Himself - not counting our sins against us - reuniting us in His family as His family.  It is that reconciliation that God brought to Erv in His baptism in Budapest.  It is that reconciliation that the risen Christ continued to bring to Erv in word and bread and wine as a member of Our Shepherd Lutheran Church in Greendale and here at Luther Memorial Chapel.

 

Erv was thankful for his new country and concerned for its welfare.  He had seen firsthand how easily freedom is lost and life is impoverished and imprisoned.  He served America in the Air Force and the Air National Guard for over two decades.  He was very thankful that God gave him wife and children here and for the opportunities they were provided in this land.  He valued a great deal that you in his family were energetic workers and spoke of that to me on more than one occasion.  He mentioned points of strength concerning each of you to me – things that you do that he knew he couldn’t do as well.  As you would see that he had unique talents and abilities – so he could recognize that in you.  He was very thankful to be able to attend your wedding, Michael and Lindsey, and appreciated the respectful speech and manners of the South and truly enjoyed that time of celebration.


It’s never quite possible to understand the level of pain another is experiencing, His hospitalization for back pain about 18 months ago and the increasing struggles and inactivity brought by that pain were a factor in limiting his last months.  I last spoke to him on the phone last Tuesday just four days before his death.  I had asked about bringing the Lord’s Supper by that afternoon.  Erv said he was sorry but he just wasn’t feeling up to it.  It was a brief conversation and our plan was for me to check back the next week – this week.  Our plans here are always tentative.

 

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die…a time to weep and a time to laugh.  Erv didn’t know when death would come, but he did know the way through the valley of the shadow of death.  This wasn’t due to his varied experience as a refugee or his keen competiveness or his design capabilities.  This was due to the gift of faith God gave him in the one who said, I am the way, and the truth, and the life.


God give you comfort concerning Erv in Him.  Let not your hearts be troubled.  To be with Christ is to be in the land promised to Abraham and to the fathers.  In His eternal presence the time of danger and pain and weeping and struggle is ended.  In the new heavens and the new earth He has prepared for us, the design is perfect, the love is full, the life is eternal, and everyone is first family – the Bride of our Lord Jesus Christ and children of our heavenly Father. 

 

With Abraham, God grant us faith in the sure and certain promise God gives to us in Christ Jesus.  With Abraham, God grant us to desire a better country – to look forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

 

In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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