07. September 2012
Funeral of William Herbert Black
Dearly beloved, Kay, Bill, Teresa, Karen, Terry, friends, and all the fellow redeemed—Grace, mercy and peace be to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The text for our meditation is from the second Psalm, especially these words: I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope (Psalm 130:5).
Dear Christians, Jesus Christ is the firstborn of the dead. Just as He died and rose, so too, all who are in Him die a death like His but will also receive a resurrection like His. Bill has received this death, as all men do. He now rests for what will seem to be a mere three days, only to be called forth in the resurrection of the body on the last day. From the beginning, Jesus Christ, was begotten of the Father to love you, show you mercy, and and give you the grace of God.
To be sure, the Holy Trinity has been gracious, merciful, and loving to Bill in many ways. God showed Bill great mercy by sparing his life in wartime while serving in the US Army in the Pacific Theatre. God gave him a treasure in his lovely spouse Kay. Bill was blessed by God with three children who stood by him to the end. God equipped Bill with talent and passion for printing. These are examples of God’s loving providence for Bill.
While Bill was thankful for these blessings, he did not put his hope in them. Being spared from death is a cause for thankfulness yet many lose their lives each day in battle. What of these soldiers, children in the womb, cancer victims? Does God still love them if they are not spared from death? And Bill loved his wife Kay always. Is her companionship, service, and motherhood God’s chief gift to Bill? What if one’s wife is not faithful in her vocation? Is this God punishing you? What if you are not blessed with children or those children abandon you? Does God still love you? What if you unable to work or find no joy in the work you have? Has God been unfaithful to you?
Absolutely not! Earthly blessings including our very lives come and go, just like the flower fades and the grass withers. What will never die? What treasures from God never see rust or decay? Jesus endures forever. The Word of God endures forever. If we put our stock in anything other the Jesus, when the market crashes, we’re bankrupt and hell bound. We run around in a panic, impatient, anxious, worried about today and tomorrow, and ultimately doubt the Lord has us even in the corner of eye.
A few weeks ago, none of knew this is what today would bring. We were all wringing our hands, desperately trying to figure out what would be best for Mom and Dad, Kay and Bill. The children were anxious. Kay was in the hospital and not getting better. Bill was concerned and busy, what with the house and all the other needs. The finances were tight, the lawyer situation a mess, no nursing home was available for Kay, and we all were wondering whether Bill was beginning to succumb to dementia himself.
Yet, I’ll never forget my conversations with Bill himself during this time. Whether in the hospital or at church, he always had a quiet confidence. He was not in a visible panic. He was worried but never to the point of despair. He was concerned but not anxious. I’m betting you children chalked this up to early dementia. But perhaps we ought to consider another explanation.
Bill’s strength was not from within, nor in the blessings of this life, but in His Lord. How many times in eighty six years of life do you think Bill cried out from the depths for the Lord to listen? How many times did he pray that he would be safe in war? That he would be faithful to his wife? That he would love his children as God loved him? That those children would remain in the faith as he taught them? That he would not be lazy or rude but work diligently and provide?
Bill prayed day and night for the Lord’s ear. He may not have shown it in his stoic facial expression. He may not have always spoken in the kindest way. You may not have seen his head bowed or hands folded. Yet, he knew his faults and did not hide them, at least from God. Every week he faithfully confessed his sins to the Lord and was forgiven. Bill said, “Kyrie Eleison—Lord, have mercy” from his baptism until his death. No doubt, he heard those words—If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared (Ps. 130:3-4). Bill heard those words and never trusted in his iniquity-laden self but always in the Lord and especially his forgiveness.
And if you think this is just a lucky guess, consider Kay. Kay, you shocked your children in the same way. After Bill had his fall and was in intensive care, we expected his death to be immanent. Do you remember that we came to visit you? All the children met you at the home and gave you the bad news, not knowing how you would respond. You floored them by saying: “He’s going to a better place. The Lord’s will be done.” What they had seen in Bill weeks before while you lay in bed, they saw again in you, Kay: a quiet confidence in the midst of things we cannot understand. Hopefulness when it seems all hope is lost; patience and trust when our instinct is the opposite. This unnatural response isn’t unique to just Kay or Bill but is the confident hope of every Christian.
Bill did not look to his country, his wife, his children, or even his work to know God loved him. These blessings from God do not stand on their own. They flow from the greatest blessing the world has ever known. God the Father has so loved you that He gives you His son to forgive you, grant unto you life, and take you into His eternal home. This good news is a gift, freely given, and more amazing than anything we could possibly imagine.
Jesus Christ crucified for the forgiveness of Bill’s iniquities was the source of his every hope. Bill, a child of God, adopted into the Lord’s Israel, knew the source of every blessing. Bill hoped in the Lord, knowing that no matter what came in this life, with the Lord there is mercy and with Him is abundant redemption. Just as the Psalmist prophesied, [the Lord] shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities, Bill saw clearly in faith that every sin, every rude tongue to his family, every error of judgment, every struggle, and even every pain is redeemed in the blood of Jesus.
While Bill’s own father served as a negative role model, his mother handed down the faith to him, instilling this same confidence. She wrote in the Bible given to him on Christmas Day 1938: “Take care of this book, do not abuse it, don’t leave it lay, but use it.” And I know that Bill hopes even now the same for you, his wife, his children, and his friends. He faithfully attended to the Word of God, confessed his sins, receiving divine pardon in Holy Absolution, attentively listened to the Word proclaimed (although often comforted by the Gospel to the point of dozing off!), and received the life giving food and medicine of immortality that is Christ’s body and blood. This was not secondary but integral to his life with Christ. At the center of his whole life sat the forgiveness of sins—given, proclaimed, eaten and drunk. In this word he hoped. In this word, Dad confidently waited for the Lord.
Kay, Bill, Teresa, Karen, Terry, friends, and all the fellow redeemed—the Psalmist said: I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. Do not grieve as those with no hope. Do not mourn without the promise. Jesus died for sins of the whole world. Jesus died for Bill and thus Bill lives. Jesus shed His blood for Bill and washed him clean in Holy Baptism, naming his child forever. Jesus is the promise of the Psalmist fulfilled for Bill and for you. In Jesus there is mercy and with Him there is abundant redemption for His servant Bill and for all who believe. Bill has been redeemed from all his iniquities. His daily cries from the depths are over. The Lord has heard his voice. Thanks be to God!
In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
William Herbert Black
June 16, 1926 + September 3, 2012
William was given life by his creator and was born on June 16, 1926, the child of Albert and Helen Black. He received the gift of Holy Baptism and became a child of God on August 1, 1926. On July 9, 1939, he publicly confessed his faith and was confirmed at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Dr. Martin Luther in Chicago. He regularly received the gracious gift of the Lord’s life-giving body and blood in the Holy Supper.
On April 29, 1950, William received the gift of a beloved companion in his wife, Catherine neé McCalmont. They were blessed with the gift of three children: William Jr. (Teresa), Karen, and Terry. God blessed William’s life with many special people as he served God in his vocations at home, church, work, community, and country.
Finally, on September 3, 2012, God blessed William with a holy death and took him home to rest in the arms of Jesus to await the resurrection of the dead. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord. We give thanks to God our Father through Jesus Christ, our Lord, for our brother, William.