Funeral Sermon for Adam Bechtloff

Funeral Sermon for Adam Bechtloff, based on Ps 23 & Lk 12:35-40, by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson. Pattison Chapel, Medicine Hat, 1 o’clock, November 21, 2009.

Adam Bechtloff has now departed from this world. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity or privilege to meet Adam. For those who knew and loved him, Adam was known as a hard-working farmer, a fun-loving person, who enjoyed and loved life. In his retirement years, he became an avid fisherman. He shall be missed as a good neighbour–willing to lend a helping hand in times of need. For example, about a month ago, Adam helped his step daughter Rose and her husband lay down their floor in Taber. According to Adam, a good friend and neighbour is a priceless treasure, and he tried in his life to be a good friend and neighbour.

You who knew Adam well and loved him dearly shall certainly grieve his loss. You will miss him very much. Now however his suffering and battle with cancer is over. When cancer strikes we often question and wonder: Why me? Why him? Why us? Why now?

When someone dies from cancer, we may ask: “What caused the cancer?” There are, as you know, at least three sources of our suffering: it is self-inflicted, or it is caused by others, or it can come from factors seemingly unrelated to human failure.

If we kill ourselves by smoking, it’s our fault. If someone else kills us, it’s their fault. But if, after having done all we could for good health, we still get cancer, whose fault is that? Perhaps it is the fault of the human race. If human beings had worked as hard to destroy cancer as to get rich, travel to the moon, or build bombs, cancer might have been beaten by now. However, we still ask, “Why does God permit cancer in his world?” We don’t know, but, we do know that the healing ministry of Jesus assures us that, as the Good Shepherd, he walks with us–even through the valley of the shadow of death. That is the promise our God gives us in Psalm 23. He is with us no matter what circumstances we face in life and in death.

This message of God with us is, in fact, one of the most important messages during this time of year. In the Christian Church, soon we begin the season called Advent. Advent means “coming.” During Advent, we prepare for the celebrating of Christmas–remembering that God comes to us in the birth of his Son, Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. However, he did not stop coming to us when Jesus died. No, he comes to us in the present time too; he comes to us each day. Psalm 23 reminds us of this promise that Jesus our Good Shepherd is with us. God doesn’t stop there either. He promises that he will come again one day too in the future, at a time we do not know.

That brings us to our scripture passage from Luke’s Gospel, which reminds us of how sudden death can come and the need for us to be prepared when it comes. Luke gives us the warning: “You also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

In a sense, every death is a warning to us to be prepared to wake up; to be alert; because our turn could be next. Life is not ours to control, or to be wasted and abused. Life is never to be taken for granted. Life is a loving gift from God to be lived in harmony with his purposes.

All of us need to be in touch with God our source of life, who is in control of life and death. Those of us who are married, all know that if we don’t communicate with our husband or wife, then the marriage will not be a good one and may end in divorce. Our relationship with God is very much like this too. God, who gives us life, wants us to communicate with him. We need to pray; to read and study and hear his Word; we need to come to church and receive the sacraments; we need the friendship of other Christians too. These are the means of grace through the church that God has provided for us to help us in our grieving; to help us in our living; and to prepare us for death.

As a Christian and a pastor, I have learned that those who handle their suffering best are those who get beyond blaming someone or something for it; who come to accept it; even though they cannot fully understand, for it remains a mystery. For it is in suffering, as Scripture teaches us, that we are often drawn closer to God. My hope and prayer for each and every one of you here today is that you would trust in the promise of God’s Word that the LORD is your shepherd; that he was with Adam even through his darkest valley of suffering and death. My hope and prayer for each of you here today is that you believe and trust Christ is with you now as you bring your sadness and grief to him; for he invites you to trust in his promise that he will be with you today, tomorrow and forever; and he wants you to benefit from his Word and the sacraments and his Church; that he wants you to come to him for healing and peace; and he wants you to be in a loving, trusting relationship with him now and forever. For in Christ alone is our true security and Source of life now, and in the future, forever. Amen.