21. February 2012
Funeral of Henry C. Klopp
Dearly beloved—Mary and Christine, spouses, grandchildren Lisa, Kayla, and Sara, great-grandchildren, dear sister Esther, nieces and nephews, Betty, friends, and fellow redeemed—grace, mercy and peace be to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The text for our meditation is the St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter eight, especially these words placed upon Henry at his confirmation: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sons of God. Sons and daughters of the King. Children of the heavenly Father. Little lambs. Faith like a child. It may seem odd for us to refer to our beloved Henry as a child. To us he is father, brother, companion, grandpa, friend, or fellow member of the body of Christ, the church. It may seem odd to speak of Henry, an eighty-seven year old, as infant cradled in our loving Savior’s arms.
Yet, it is true. I am fond of reminding young and old alike that they are always children of their parents. Those who procreated us through their blessed marital union—freely receiving children as a blessing from God—they are and always will be our parents. Thus, the fourth commandment “honor your father and your mother” is a command for both this life and into eternity. In this life, we honor our parents by being obedient children, serving, loving, and cherishing them both while they live and even when they die.
That is to say, even when you “flew the coop,” Mary and Christine, you still were dutiful children of your father Henry. St. Paul explained why. The command to honor your mother and father has attached to it a promise, “that it may go well with you and you may live long on the earth” (cf. Ephesians 6:1ff). Even now, your father will continue to provide for you, even in death, as you honor, obey, serve, love, and cherish his memory.
God gave us parents and marriage as the highest example of the Father’s own love for you, his children. From Henry’s own faithful calling as Father, he taught you how it is to be patient and kind. He taught you how Fathers do not provoke their children to anger, but instead bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. So also, in faithfully loving his beloved wife Catherine, even as she suffered and died at a young age, we learned how Christ loves His church, suffering with us patiently as we all journey towards death.
Henry gladly would give his life for his beloved. We know this well, for he served faithfully in his duty in service to His country. He joined the ranks of warriors, there sheltering Catherine, Mary, Christine, and indeed all his friends and neighbors. So, Henry taught us how our God willingly laid down His life for the sake of the whole world, sheltering us from the bombardments of sin and death, sent by the evil one to destroy us.
Henry learned this noble trait from His own heavenly Father, who also brought him up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Our heavenly Father rescued Henry from death 87 years ago when He brought Henry safely from death to life in the waters of the Holy Baptism. He nurtured Henry through the His Holy Word, the pure spiritual milk and meat of salvation. He instructed Henry to fulfill his vocations of citizen, neighbor, husband, father, and most of all Christian. Henry cherished these things, honoring his heavenly Father.
Henry, or Mike, as the family calls him, loved and honored his heavenly Father not merely in good times. He honored his Father even when He spoke with a strong Word of rebuke. Henry loved and still loves his heavenly Father for discipling him with both the rod and the staff. It is true. None of us like it when our Fathers rebuke us, tell us where we’ve gone wrong, or even help us understand the severity with a bit of physical pain. Its hard to imagine actually cherishing the discipline of God.
We know that for the faithful this is true. How could Henry persevere through the pacemaker and rehab, stroke and more rehab, finally succumbing to pneumonia? How could Henry know that this even in pain and sickness, the Lord was training him in righteousness? Henry knew because this discipline came each week to him in the Divine Service.
Today is Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. Sometimes it is called Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, or Pączki day. No doubt, here in the region, if you eat a bunch of those delicious fried pastries, you’ll end up with a few pounds to show for it. Yet, the older name is Shrove Tuesday. To shrove is to present oneself to their pastor or priest for confession, a practice now usually moved to the beginning of Ash Wednesday services.
This was the case for Henry, too. Each week he confessed his sins before his heavenly Father. Each week Henry faithfully admitted that he had not honor his Father in heaven as he knew he should. He had not always been faithful to his children, perhaps at times even provoking them to anger. He had not loved his spouse perfectly, perhaps with a wandering eye or a unclean thought. Henry confessed these things out loud before the altar of the Lord, knowing full well that he deserved punishment.
Yet, for Henry, there was no hope in merely confessing. Throwing yourself to the feet of God, pleading for mercy, has no guarantee or hope attached to it, unless this repentance is grounded in the promise of the forgiveness of sins. So also for us today—to shrove has yet a second component. It is not simply to confess before the pastor or priest but it is also to receive absolution from the pastor as from God himself. Absolution. Forgiveness of Sins.
By the blood-bought forgiveness of sins of Jesus Christ we are brought back into the loving embrace of our heavenly Father. Henry now rests in from all his labors, from his struggles, from his pain and grief, not by his effort or worthiness. No, Henry placed his hope in nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. He was led by the Spirit of God through waters of Holy Baptism to be God’s own child.
Henry approached his death not with fear. No, his every confidence was in the adoption of sons, received by the Spirit, by whom [Henry] cried “Abba, Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
There is no doubt that Henry suffered with our Lord in those last days. He bore the cruelty of sickness and death, finally giving up his spirit with a dying gasp, just as our Lord breathed his last from the cross. We grieve today with the whole creation waiting to finally be set free from the bondage to decay. We mourn the loss of a dear father, brother, companion, uncle, and friend in Henry.
We know and Henry knows fully the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Henry knows now what is like to be set free from slavery to sin. Henry’s eager groaning has finally reached its fulfillment in death. A death like Christ’s that will be but a blink of the eye. Yes, we will lay Henry in the tomb but only for a brief moment.
Then our Lord will call out with the voice of the trumpet and the sound of many rushing winds to Henry. He will call out Henry from tomb and raise him and all the dead. He will give unto Henry and all believers in Christ eternal life. It is true that this is a time for sorrow and grief, for mourning and even groaning.
We too, like Henry, will find these brought to an end in Jesus. The time of discipline will be complete in death. Then, in Jesus, we are made heirs with Him of crowns of victory, songs of triumph, and feasting with joy. We are, even now, adopted children of our heavenly Father, forgiven saints of God. We may wait eagerly now, living a life of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. For Henry this labor and warfare is over and He has already received what was promised to him so many years ago—For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Thanks be to God!
In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church