Bloggers Unite against hunger and poverty

Right now, more than 500 million people are living in “absolute poverty” and more than 15 million children die of hunger every year.

• World Health Organization estimates that one-third of the population is underfed and another third is starving.

• Even in the United States, 46 percent of African-American children and 49 percent of Latino children are considered chronically hungry.

You can make a difference by supporting a benevolent organization of your choice that works with the poor and contacting your elected government representatives to share your concerns and suggest changes in policy beneficial to the last, lost, and least among us.

Thank you and God’s blessings.

Funeral Sermon Helen Rutschke

Funeral Sermon for Helen Rutschke, based on Ps 23; Gal 6:1-10 John 14:1-3. By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson, at Prairie View Cemetery, Medicine Hat, AB, 11:00 A.M., April 28, 2009. 

There are many different kinds of death and a variety of circumstances that surround death. In some cases, death is indeed viewed in a very negative, tragic way, and it is seen as “the enemy.” In other cases, death is viewed in a positive, hopeful way, and considered a blessing. I believe that in Helen’s case that death was a blessing, as her life’s journey here on earth peacefully ended last week after a long and fulfilling life of 95 years.

   Those of you who knew and loved Helen will indeed miss her. Over the years, without doubt Helen touched your lives in many ways. Each of you here today will have your special stories and memories of Helen. You who are family members certainly shall remember Helen for her caring, generous, kind spirit. She loved her family; she also loved visiting with her friends. She could be described as “a people person.” In addition to that, Helen enjoyed knitting and crocheting, gardening, and, of course, her pets. She also supported the SPCA. 

   I’ve only had the pleasure of knowing Helen the last 7 years of her 95 years, as her pastor. During those years, Helen and I enjoyed many visits together in her home, and later at Riverview Care Centre. While she was still in her own home, she would always offer me her warm hospitality, insisting that I could not leave without having a cup of tea or coffee and something to eat with her. When I left she would shake my hand and hold onto it for some time, reluctant to have me leave.

   Speaking of hands, we trust that Helen was and is now in the hands of Jesus the Good Shepherd, whom Psalm 23 speaks of so confidently. Psalm 23 was Helen’s favourite Bible passage. The LORD, the loving, caring Shepherd of us all: it is he that journeys with us throughout our life on earth. It is he who promises to be with us in life, in death, and beyond.

   The 23rd Psalm follows a special line of thought, and when we concentrate on the words with heart, soul and mind, a new way of thinking and living are born. In only 112 words, we discover the power and inspiration, the comfort, guidance and strength we need to see us through life and death. Whenever you are sad, discouraged, feeling lost and alone, or sick, when life isn’t what it should be, here’s an exercise for you. Read out loud or recite from memory the 23rd Psalm several times. Slowly read every word. Let it sink into your heart and mind and soul. You will be astounded with the blessings you shall receive.

   In Psalm 23, we are given a beautiful picture of a God who is like a loving, caring shepherd. A God who is always with us, providing for our needs, and protecting us from danger and harm. A God who walks with us even to the end, to lead us through the door of death, into life everlasting. And so, we can give our thanks to God our Good Shepherd, God our loving Father, and Jesus his Son, who provides us with all that we need in this life and the next. We can give thanks to God for the life, memories and love of Helen. God who offers you here today his comfort and love, and provides for all of your needs now and in the future. God who, one day, shall call us all to that better place, to dwell with him and our loved ones forever.

   In our passage from Paul’s letter to the Galatians, we learn too of our need to be connected with each other; to share each others’ burdens and joys; to, as Jesus taught us, do to others what we would have them do to us—which was certainly integral to who Helen was and how she lived her life. Paul, in this passage also exhorts us to “work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” Helen obviously had a strong work ethic, as she worked into her 70s at Woolworth’s, Eaton’s and K-Mart. As a people person, she was able to serve the needs of others through her work and receive great satisfaction from her contacts with people by serving them. What a blessing that is, because 99% of any work involves loving what you do.  

   The gospel passage from John 14:1-3, in the language of love and deep intimacy, describes further this comforting reality of death and the hereafter in terms of utter trust and hope. Jesus, speaking with his disciples reassures them, first of all with these comforting words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” In others words, he invites the disciples and us to trust in him as well as his message. “In my father’s house there are many dwelling places.” Here we have a wonderful example of relational language. Language spoken in the context of family life. Just as Helen no doubt showed her love to you by valuing family-life and being loyal to each of you as family members and providing for your needs—so too Jesus teaches his disciples and us that as members of God’s family, we are assured of an eternal dwelling place, a home. It’s a place where we can feel safe and secure, understood and respected, valued and loved. It is our LORD’s deepest desire that all of us, each and every one of us, be in loving relationships with him and other members of his family that we may all one day dwell in the Father’s house.

   So, family and friends, let us give thanks to our Triune God for the long and fulfilling life of Helen; for all of the memories that you will cherish of her; we also give thanks that her suffering is now over; she is at peace and will dwell in the presence of our loving God and Saviour forever. Amen.

Movie The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

I recently watched, with my wife and daughter, “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.” I realise that some Holocaust experts are critical of the movie–primarily for the reason that children, in most cases, were not allowed to survive in the concentration camps. The issue of a lack of security around the fence of the camp may also be anachronistic. That said, I still believe that it is an encouraging movie, which has the potential to build friendships and deeper understanding between Jews and Christians.

The two 8-year-old boys, one Jewish, in the camp, and one German, out of the camp, and son of the camp’s commandant, become friends. Bruno doubts the Nazi propaganda he is unwillingly subjected to, and continues to secretly visit his friend Smuel at the camp. The movie reminds me of Jesus’ words to his disciples in the Fourth Gospel, speaking of the highest order of friendship: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn 15:13)

Funeral Sermon Judy Hall

Funeral Sermon for Evelyn June “Judy” Hall, April 24, 2009, at Pattison Chapel, Medicine Hat. Text: Jn 20:11-18 Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

“Singing Our Goodbyes”

A mother, grandmother, friend, companion, a woman of faith in the Lord, Evelyn June “Judy” Hall, has departed from this life. You who knew and loved her best shall surely miss Judy. Death can be a sad reality for you. However, to grieve is not a sign of faithlessness. Rather, our grief and mourning are natural expressions of the loving care we have for each other, and the genuine sorrow felt when a loved one dies.

Yet, as Christians we are an Easter people, and this is still the Easter season. So, for those of us who believe in the risen Christ, sorrow is trumped by joy; death is trumped by life; grief is trumped by hope. And so we can joyfully sing our goodbyes to our loved one—trusting that they shall share in new, resurrection life with Jesus Christ the risen Lord and Saviour.

The old adage is true: God works in mysterious ways! His wonders to behold. As chaplain of The GSS facility, South Ridge Village, I had the privilege of meeting and knowing Judy for these last few years of her life. Over the years, Judy would enjoy her outings with her friend Henry, and they would sometimes go for drives and, on some Sundays, they would come to the afternoon church services at SRV. Judy was a woman of faith and she loved coming to church—this may well have been one of the legacies she inherited from her grandfather, the Reverend Woods.

Over the years though, I came to realise that Judy especially loved music—both singing and dancing. Whenever musicians came to SRV, Judy would like to attend and participate with great enthusiasm. Attending the weekly Hymn Sings was no exception. Judy seemed to light up with great joy when she could sing her best loved hymns. I would always know that Judy was in attendance at the Hymn Sing, because I knew she had to request her favourite hymn. You see, Judy loved to sing “In the Garden,” which Wally sang earlier. In the garden was definitely Judy’s all-time favourite hymn. And today we included it along with the others to help us sing our goodbyes to Judy.

I find it fascinating and providential that this was Judy’s favourite hymn. Let me explain. In the garden was written by the hymn-writer C. Austin Miles, back in 1912. At heart, it is an Easter hymn, because the garden here actually is based on and refers to the Gospel passage I read, John 20. In the garden, beside Jesus’ empty tomb, on that very first Easter morning is where Mary meets the risen Christ, who calls her by name, and then her grief turns into joy as she recognizes her living Lord and Saviour.

Here is what C. Austin Miles says about the process of writing this hymn: “One day in March, 1912, I was seated in the darkroom where I kept my photographic equipment and organ. I drew my Bible toward me; it opened at my favourite chapter, John 20…That meeting of Jesus and Mary had lost none of its power to charm. As I read it that day, I seemed to be part of the scene. I became a silent witness to that dramatic moment in Mary’s life, when she knelt before her Lord, and cried, “Rabboni!”…Under the inspiration of this vision I wrote as quickly as the words could be formed the poem exactly as it has since appeared. That same evening I wrote the music.” Miles goes on to say: “It is as a writer of gospel songs I am proud to be known, for in that way I may be of the most use to my Master, whom I serve willingly although not as efficiently as is my desire.” (From: Forty Gospel Hymn Stories, by George W. Sanville). This hymn, some of you may remember, was sung in the movie “Places in the Heart,” which won two Academy Awards in 1984.

Speaking of heart, Judy shall certainly be remembered by her family, adopted family, and friends as a wonderful, big hearted person. She was kind, welcoming and loving to most everyone. Her life was albeit an imperfect, yet beautiful parable of spreading love around. In a way, Judy’s love and loyalty to her family, was similar to the love and loyalty of Mary Magdalene in our gospel passage. Mary being the first to go to the tomb of Jesus, and Mary’s grief were signs of how much she loved Jesus. Mary’s willingness to listen to Jesus and go and tell the Good News of
Easter joy: “I have seen the Lord” is the ultimate sign of her love for Jesus, being the first ever preacher of Christ’s resurrection. Judy’s loving acts and kind words were signs of her love for others. I felt something of her love too—whenever I shook hands with her after the worship services and hymn sings, Judy would have a friendly smile on her face and then she’d always thank me.

My hope and prayer for each of you here today is that you too believe in the risen Jesus, like Mary of old, and like your loved one Judy. For in him you too shall know a joy and hope, a peace and love that endures through all the troubles of this life.

I do not think that it was by accident that Judy has left this life behind now, during the Easter season. Rather, I believe it was God’s plan to take her home to heaven at this time. For as a person of faith, she shall now be given a new, resurrection body, which shall never grow old, get worn out, or break down. Her dementia is over, and all else that brought pain and suffering is gone. She is at peace with her risen Christ. Easter is the season of joy and hope. Life eternal waits for us if we believe that Jesus is our Lord and Saviour who forgives our sins and promises that we shall be raised from the dead to dwell with him and all the other people of faith who have gone before us.

So we sing our goodbyes to Judy, trusting that, one day we shall see her again. I would not be a bit surprised that she’s now a beautiful singer and dancer along with a multitude of other saints in the heavenly garden. Hallelujah! Amen.

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today, April 21, 2009, marks Holocaust Remembrance Day, in Hebrew, Yom HaShoah. We remember the six million Jewish lives that perished during World War II due to the anti-Semitic and anti-Judaic ideology and political policies of the Nazi regime. May the Holy One of heaven and earth preserve and protect the Jewish people from such evil happening to them again. This year the focus is on the children who perished during the Shoah. You can read about it here.  If you live in a community where Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed, please attend the service.

Sermon 2 Easter Yr B

2 Easter Yr B, 19/04/2009

I Jn 1:5-7

Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &

Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s

South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta

“Walking in the Light”

Light. We cannot live without light. Life is possible because of light. Our world, as we know it, needs light to exist. The same is true for us spiritually. Listen to the words of the writer of our second lesson again: “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” We all need the light. Without light we are lost in darkness.

In her book, The Long Winter, Laura Ingalls Wilder tells the story of how difficult life could be on the frontier especially during the winter. She recalls one winter in particular when it started snowing in October and did not seem to stop until April. The temperature dropped to 40 below. Snow reached the roof tops and the townspeople nearly starved.

Things became so bad that two young men, Cap Garland and Almanzo Wilder set out on a 40-mile round trip to bring back wheat for the village. It was a slow difficult trip, with the 19-and 24-year-old boys enduring frostbite and a wagon that turned over in the drifts. The trip back was long and the boys realized they were down to the last mile but because of the darkness and snow they were not sure that they had not passed by the town.

Almanzo headed for the town, which was somewhere in the thick darkness, as well as he could. Almanzo yelled to Cap, “You see anything?” “Nope. We’re in for it, I guess,” Cap answered. “Town cannot be far ahead,” Almanzo told him.

Out of the corner of his eye he caught a gleam of light. He looked toward it and then saw nothing in the storm but dark. Then he saw it again, a glow that shone bright, then abruptly went out. He knew what it was; light shining out from a door that had quickly opened and closed. Near where it had been, he thought he saw the faint glow of a frost-covered window and yelled to Cap, “See that light? Come on!”1

We all need light, without light we are lost in the darkness. We cannot live without light. Light reveals, helps us to see the truth. The risen Jesus appeared to his first disciples, revealing himself as the Light of the world. In the resurrection accounts, Christ’s appearance is described as bright and shining. The writer of our second lesson today also states that “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.”

Greek philosopher, Plato, once said: “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy is when adults are afraid of the light.” The people who engage in criminal acts and acts of evil often wait for darkness to commit their crimes and evil acts. Overall, the majority of such crimes and evil acts are more likely to happen in the darkness of night. Folks guilty of such crimes and evil acts regard light as their enemy because the reveals what is true. You cannot hide in the light.

The writer of our second lesson says that those who walk in the darkness cannot do what is true, they are living a lie. What the writer means here is that those who love to engage in sinful acts like breaking the ten commandments, for example, and then say that they are doing nothing wrong are liars. Such people denied that they were sinners or guilty of sin, therefore they said they really did not need Jesus to forgive them. For them, the death of Jesus was not necessary and did not cleanse them from sin because they had no sin and were not sinners.

John, on the contrary states that we walk in the light when we believe that we are sinners, have committed sins and need Jesus, the Son of God to forgive us. According to John, the shed blood of Jesus on the cross is life-giving; it has the power to cleanse us from all sin. In believing this, we walk in the light. Why? Because Christ, the risen Light of the world has shined on us; has given us the true revelation about himself. The true revelation is that he died for us on the cross to forgive our sins and he was resurrected on Easter morning, defeating the powers of death and evil and opening up for us the way of eternal life by promising that one day we to shall share in a resurrection like his. This is the message of Christ the Light of the world. The message shines on us so that we can walk in the light. We walk in the light when we rely on Christ to live a life of love—loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and loving neighbour as ourselves. We have been given this light, therefore we reflect it outwards to others, to the whole world to see. The message of this Easter season is that we are going to let our light shine; we let the Light of Christ shine through us. We are reflectors of his resurrection Light.

The story is told of a church way up in the highest mountains of Switzerland. A beautiful church, built with great care by the villagers who lived nearby. Yet, there was one thing the church did not have. Can you think of what that might have been? If you guessed no lights, you are correct. The villagers could not go into the church and switch on the lights like we do here. Yet every Sunday evening the people living on the mountain-side opposite the tiny church saw something wonderful. The church bell would ring and worshippers would wend their way up the mountainside towards the church. After they entered the church, all of a sudden it would light up brightly. What do you think happened? Yes, you see the people had to bring light with them, so they carried lanterns. Arriving at church, they lit their lanterns, and then hung them around the church on pegs set in the walls, so the light would spread all around. If only a few people came to church the light would be very dim because there were only a few lanterns. However, when lots of people came to church there was plenty of light. After the service the villagers took their lanterns home. While exiting the church, those who watched from a distance saw a stream of light pouring out of the church and over the mountainside. For many it was a sign that all was well. God’s light was with them and in them. The only time the little church lit up was when people were there. That’s when it truly became a church, and the light shone most brightly.2 The villagers were walking in the Light of Christ and others saw it because they reflected it.

So, too, we are walking in the Easter Light of Christ whenever we reflect it to others through words and acts of love, serving God and our neighbours. Amen.

 

1 Emphasis, Vol. 23, No. 6, March-April 1994 (Lima, OH: CSS Publishing Co., Inc.), p. 52.

2 Cited with some modifications from Rev. Richard Fairchild, the 5th Sunday of Year A, 1999, at <www.spirit-net.ca/sermon.html>.

 

 

 

 

 

Easter Header

Easter Header

 

Over against all human sceptical reasoning, the Church proclaims: “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” This ancient greeting of Christians has provided comfort, hope and courage, as the good news of resurrection joy has been contagiously spread around the world.

 

My favourite story of accentuating the good news of the risen Messiah goes back to communist Russia. On Easter Sunday in 1940 in Odessa, a crowd of some 40,000 Christians gathered to worship the risen Christ, However, communist agitators harassed them by making atheistic propaganda speeches for four hours. Afterwards, a congregant begged to say a few words and was granted permission. He stood up before all of those worshippers and said: “Brothers and sisters, Christ is risen!” Then, from the mouths of 40,000 followers of Jesus the reply roared out, “He is risen indeed!

 

 

risen-christ1

To live is to die-thoughts for Holy Week

To live is to die—thoughts for Holy Week

 

Am I then concerned to say that there is no possibility of deliverance from this world of fantasy that we have created? Is the endlessly repeated message of the media—that money and sex are the only pursuits in life, violence its only excitement, and success its only fulfilment—irresistible? Are the only available escape-routes all cul-de-sacs? There is a remarkable passage in Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago in which the hero reflects that in a Communist society freedom only exists in concentration camps—in other words, that the only way to be free is to be imprisoned. The same notion is to be found at the very heart of the Christian religion—that the only way to live is to die.

 

The Way begins where for Christ himself its mortal part ended—at the cross. There alone, with all our earthly defences down and our earthly pretensions relinquished, we can confront the true circumstances of our being; there alone grasp the triviality of these seemingly so majestic achievements of ours, like going to the moon, unravelling our genes, fitting one another with each other’s hearts, livers and kidneys. There, contemplating God in the likeness of (us humans), we may understand how foolish and inept (we are) when (we see ourselves) in the likeness of God. (Quotation from: Malcolm Muggeridge, Jesus Rediscovered, pp. 115-116).

Sermon Palm/Passion Sunday Yr B

Palm/Passion Sunday Yr B, 5/04/2009

Mk 11:1-11

Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &

Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s

South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta

 

“The donkey owner’s story-a narrative sermon”

 

Hello everyone, or as we say in the Promised Land, shalom! I want you to put your imagination to work today. Imagine that you have travelled in a time machine back to the first Palm Sunday. My name is Eli ben Judah. The Gospels do not mention me by name. I’m the owner of that donkey colt Jesus road into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. I’ll be your host and tour guide. Here is my story.

I remember it well, the day I met Jesus. What a day that was! He came to my stable at Bethphage, near Jerusalem, several weeks before Palm Sunday. The day started out with its usual routines, as any other day. You know: get up at four, dress, pray the morning prayer thanking God for another day, the gift of life, and every other blessing, start the fire, fry some fish, warm up the bread, give thanks to the LORD for our food, eat breakfast, go out into the stable to feed and water the donkeys, and open the stable doors for business—hoping and praying for customers to rent my donkeys.

A few minutes after I opened the stable doors, along came Jesus. I still remember seeing him walking towards me. I’ve never met a person like him before. He walked with dignity and confidence. His body and face were so radiant that I was almost blinded by such an intense light. His light poured into me, as if it were healing and cleansing me completely. The light seemed to be burning away all that was hurtful and destructive in me. His eyes were so loving and penetrating—I felt he could see right into my whole being and that he knew everything about me. He knew all of the details of my life, from birth right up to the present. I thought of our ancestor Moses, before the burning bush, and Elijah, when God spoke to him with the sound of sheer silence. The holiness of Jesus’ presence before me was so intense that I fell to my knees and lowered my face to the dust. Who was I, a humble, ordinary donkey owner to be worthy enough to be in the presence of Jesus?

Even though I had never met him before, I knew, as he came closer, that he was the most perfect, holy person that I’d ever encountered in my life. Like Moses after the burning bush, and Elijah after hearing God’s still small voice, I was never the same again. The day I met Jesus, my whole life has changed. Before that time, I went to synagogue on the festival days, and prayed the daily prayers without expecting much from the LORD. Life was pretty humdrum, and I liked it that way. After that day everything changed. Since then, I have found a new purpose for living. Now I want to tell everyone about Jesus and follow his way and his teachings.

Back to that day, when I was down on my knees, face to the earth, Jesus spoke. He called me by my name, and said: “Shalom, Eli ben Judah, donkey owner. Please rise, I have something to ask of you.”

So, I jumped up on my feet and was full of curiosity, wondering what he wanted from me. Before I was able to speak he addressed me again, saying: “I am going to need your help in a few weeks’ time. I’ll be entering Jerusalem then, and I need one of your colt donkeys—they have to be strong enough for me to sit on and ride into the city. I shall do this in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Listen up now Eli, here’s what will happen. Two of my disciples, James and John, will come here and untie the colt standing by your door. You and a few of your neighbours will see them, and will ask the following question: “What are you doing, untying the colt?” James and John will provide you with this password answer: ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’ Do you think you can remember all of that?”

I was, at first breathless, so surprised, I didn’t know what to say. The prophecy from Zechariah finally sunk in, I realised it was referring to the Messiah. Could this Jesus be our Messiah? After a few moments of silence to collect my thoughts, I blurted out: “You mean to say that you’re, um, the Messiah?!” I asked with excitement and expectation.

Jesus answered with certainty in his voice, “I am he.” Then he commanded me to keep it a secret, saying: “Don’t you dare tell a soul till after my crucifixion and resurrection—then you can go out and tell the whole world.”

Rather confused I asked him: “What do you mean crucifixion and resurrection? You aren’t going to die like a criminal and then rise from death. I mean, if you’re the Messiah and all, aren’t you supposed to deliver us Jews from the tyranny of the Roman occupation and govern our nation with perfect peace and justice?”

Jesus answered me, “No Eli, that’s not my destiny. I’m the Messiah not only of the Jewish people, but of all nations and peoples. My destiny, in fulfillment of our scriptures, is to suffer and die on the cross to atone, once and for all, for the sins of humankind. Three days later God our heavenly Father shall raise me from the dead. Do you believe me?”

I struggled to understand these hard and sorrowful words, and then replied, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. Please stay with me for lunch, you can tell me more.”

However, Jesus told me, “No, Eli, I must keep going to the next village, and the next, and the next after that. I’ve got plenty of work to do before I enter Jerusalem in a few weeks. Remember; keep this conversation a secret until after my crucifixion and resurrection. Don’t forget what I told you about James and John. Shalom Eli, see you in a few weeks.”

What a day! me, Eli ben Judah of all people, a humble donkey owner, meeting the Messiah! I believed Jesus, and yet, I struggled with what I had been taught by the rabbis. How could Jesus be the Messiah riding on a donkey? How could he be a suffering Messiah? Would God our Father really raise him from the dead three days after his crucifixion? Would his death on a cross truly atone for my sins and your sins, and everyone else’s sins, once and for all time? Questions, questions, questions. Yet, Jesus’ presence was so holy, so pure, so enlightening. How could I keep such an encounter with the Messiah to myself? I had to tell everyone, I couldn’t help it! So, that’s what I did. I told every single person in our village: “I’ve met the Messiah, his name is Jesus!” Most of them didn’t believe me, they thought I ate too many nuts and became one. J

The days and weeks passed. Finally the day came. True to Jesus’ words, James and John showed up when I was speaking with a few neighbours outside the house. They untied the colt. Folks asked them what they were doing and they provided the password answer—exactly as Jesus had planned it all. The neighbours who were with me then realised that I had been telling the truth. So, all of us followed along with James and John, because we love parades and this one was very special. Jesus our Messiah entered triumphantly, riding on a colt donkey with the crowd cheering him on, crying, “Hosanna!” which means “save us, save us soon.” Hosanna is a shout of praise, as well as a plea for help. We praised our Messiah Jesus, shared fully in the joy, waving our palm branches as he rode that little donkey, the animal symbolizing humility and peace—and that day shall come when he rules us all in perfect peace.

Well, that’s my story folks. You can time travel back now to Grace Lutheran Church in Medicine Hat. Go in Christ’s peace. And, like me, tell everyone you meet the Good News of Jesus our Messiah. Shalom! Amen.

 

Funeral Sermon Nick Paprocky

Funeral Sermon for Nick Paprocky, by Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson, at Grace Lutheran Church, Medicine Hat, March 31, 2009, four o’clock. Texts: Eccles 3:1-8; Jn 11:25-26.

When I asked Leona if there was a favourite Bible passage that she would like read for Nick’s funeral, she told me Ecclesiastes chapter three. She said that it was the passage read at her and Nick’s wedding and now she wished for it to be read today. I couldn’t agree with her more, because Ecclesiastes chapter three reminds us that God has a plan for us in every stage of life, a time and a place for everything—including death. For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven—it was true for humans back in ancient times, it is true for all of us here today, it was true for Nick. For Nick there was a time to be born, a time to be a child, and a brother. Eventually, there was a time for Nick to be a husband, and a dad, and a granddad. For Nick there was a time to be young, middle-aged, and old; and there was a time to die. The time to die came for Nick last Saturday. Our time to die shall come one day too. For some of us, it will be sooner than later. Are you ready for that time of death? Are you prepared to meet your Maker? One of the reasons why we are gathered here today is to remind ourselves that one day we too shall die, and that we need to be prepared for that day. Nick would say do not put off your preparation for that day.
How do we prepare for that day? Well we need to get our relationships sorted out with each other—and that may mean you need to offer forgiveness to someone and be reconciled with them. Do your loved ones know that you love them? Tell them today, not tomorrow, because it could be too late. Most important of all, to prepare for death, we need to be in a relationship with God through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. How is your relationship with Christ? Do you believe in the words of the Gospel that were read today? Do you believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life? If you do, then you shall be prepared for death.
Yes, as the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us, there is a time to die, and there is a time to weep and mourn, a time to lose. And I would encourage you to do that here, if that seems right for you to do—since it does hurt when our loved ones die, and we shall certainly miss them, nothing is the same without them. So there is a loss for us and that loss can and often does cause us to mourn and it brings tears to our eyes.
And yet, this is also a time to heal, a time to build up, a time to gather stones together. It is a time to remember and honour Nick. Each of you has your special memories of Nick; each of you has been touched in some way by his life; each of you will remember those things and celebrate them. Nick loved the company of his small grandchildren. Nick also loved music, especially listening to opera—as well as singing, dancing the polka and fiddle music. When he was able to, he enjoyed attending church on a regular basis and ushered here at Grace together with Leona. And at Easter time, he would bake special bread, and present me with a loaf. Just as Nick gave me the gift of his special Easter bread, Jesus, on Easter gave us the greatest gift of all—the promise of eternal life because he is the resurrection and the life.
For people of faith, death is not the end of the story. Death and resurrection go together. Strangely enough, we believe that we are not here to preside over a death. Rather, as Christians we are here to celebrate resurrection. There is a time to die, yet there is a time to live, listen to these wonderful words of Jesus: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” This is a wonderful promise to us all and to Nick, whom we commend to God’s eternal care today.
As we celebrate, and take this time to remember, to heal, to gather stones together, to build up—it is also appropriate that this time be one of giving thanks to God for Nick’s life and commending him into the LORD’s eternal care. We worship a God who has defeated the powers of death, sin, and evil—that’s what Easter is all about. Jesus loved and cared for Nick; Jesus loves and cares for each one of you so much that he is the resurrection and the life. One day we too shall share in a resurrection like his and be reunited with our loved ones, and live with them and our risen Saviour forever. That’s the wonderful Gospel Promise—do you believe it? Nick did. My hope and prayer for all of you is that you do too. Amen.