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Funeral Meditation for John Carpenter

FIRST LESSON Isaiah 25:6–9

6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. 7 And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; 8 he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.


PSALM Psalm 139

1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me. 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. 3 You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely. 5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. 7 Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
SECOND LESSON Revelation 21:1-7

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
5 And the one who was seated on the throne said,
“See, I am making all things new.”
Also he said,
“Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 Then he said to me,
“It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

GOSPEL John 14:1-6

The holy gospel according to St. John the 14th chapter.
Glory to you, O Lord.

1 Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.


John, Kelly, Hannah, Leah, Prue, Shirley, Linda, Fredrick, family and friends. We gather here today, to say farewell to John Burke Carpenter; beloved husband, father, grandfather and brother. But more than that, we gather today knowing, that our separation from John is but a temporary one, for we know in our hearts that in Christ, we have eternal life. John and Iris are once again together in the care of their Lord and Savior and as fellow children of God and joint heirs with Christ in God’s kingdom, we also have hope. We have the assurance of scripture that tells us that death does not have the final word.
Through Christ’s obedience unto death, He overcame death so that we might live with Him forever. This doesn’t mean that we won’t miss John, for we already miss his presence among us; nor does this mean that we won’t grieve his absence from us. I personally will miss his warm smile and friendly greeting. What this does mean, is that as Christians, we have a hope beyond the grave; for our hope lies in Jesus Christ, the author and giver of life. On occasions such as today when we bury a baptized and faithful believer, we have the great privilege of turning to the lively assurance that Scripture give us, about life beyond the grave. But to accept that assurance we need to have faith in God.
In our gospel lesson, chosen for today, St. John recorded the words of comfort Jesus gave to His disciples not long before He was arrested that final time. And these words of guidance can be difficult to follow on a day like this: “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Behind this statement is the same kind of faith that lets us take comfort from praying, “Our Father, which art in heaven” for if we have a heavenly father, we have no need for a troubled heart. Loving fathers mend broken hearts. And behind the advice of our Lord’s words, as recorded by St. John, are other words of comfort as well. Christ has invited us, for example, with the words, “Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” However, there are two messages given to us in the Bible that seem on the surface to contradict each other.
Often, when we gather on occasions like this, we pray to God asking for strength that we may not grieve like those who have no hope. On the other hand, Jesus taught us in His sermon on the mount: “Blessed are those who mourn (or grieve), for they will be comforted.” On days like today, we feel the tension, don’t we? For this very sad day, yet it is also very glad day! The only way to get through it, is to grieve, to cling to family and friends, to remember the promises of God and to sing. The only way to get through it as a Christian is to grieve as a Christian; a hope filled, faith filled life expecting Christian. I say it by faith, but John can say it now, from experience . . . direct experience with the Heavenly Father who makes this day untroubled.
It is, of course, the death of Jesus that makes the death of John bearable. We know what happened next for God’s own son. We know that the funeral for Jesus was not the last event. Even as we call that Friday in Passion week “Good” on which our Lord was buried, we call this day a “Glad Day” for John, glad because it’s not his last day. Glad, because Easter is God’s answer to our sadness. Glad, because God has promised to do for John and all who die in the faith, what he did for his only Son, Jesus. This is why we don’t mourn like those who have no hope. We’ve been told a few things about what’s next. We’ve been told that we, like Jesus, get a brand new body, fit to live eternally; a vigorous, healthy, painless, eternally young spiritual body.
Some will tell you that every meditation ought to have a story. But for the Christian, the funeral meditation has two stories: In this case, John’s and the Lord’s. Two stories that are meshed together like tough wire in a chain-link fence, holding back those forces that would make this a sad day only. It will, of course, take more than a short meditation to tell John’s story and I won’t try, because his story will be told over and over in the days, months and years ahead. What I will do is tell just a bit of his story; the small part of his story that I came to know. But to do that I first need to remind you of two passages from the Bible that to me best illustrates the character and faith of John Carpenter.
The first is the Psalm that was selected for the service this afternoon. On Sunday as I was sitting and thinking about John and how much he meant to all of us here, I couldn’t help but be comforted by the last 4 verses of our Psalm reading. David praying to God, wrote; “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. King David knew that in life and in death God takes care of us, and so did John.
The second passage that came to mind comes from St. Mark’s gospel chapter 15 starting at verse 42, there we read, “When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.
I knew John to be a man of God, firm in his faith. He was quiet man, a man of few words, but he was a man of action. Over the years I’ve heard comments made and stories told of the things John was involved in. He was a family man, a provider, a farmer, a Sunday school teacher, he helped with Luther league, served on several committees of this church and was always quick to lend a hand. But John wasn’t one who paraded his good works in public. Almost everything he did, he did quietly.
What’s even more interesting is that John didn’t help others and his church out of some perceived obligation, he did it because it needed done and that was good enough for him. Prue did some digging yesterday and found that John, for almost 60 years, had a perfect church attendance record. He was faithful to his church and could be counted on by others. Many here will attest to the fact that if you needed help all you had to do was give John a call. That was the way John was; he didn’t help out expecting something in return; he gave of his time and shared his talents gladly because of his love for God and others. In everything he did, he did it out of love and concern.
Joseph of Arimathea, didn’t go and ensure Jesus’ body was taken care of properly out of some sense of obligation, nor did he do it to receive praise and recognition, Joseph served God out of love and concern for his Lord. He did it in service to God. And like Joseph of Arimathea, John simply saw a need and took care of it. John’s story and Jesus’ story are stories that are intertwined; each tells us of God’s love and of God’s promises. It tells us of a faith in God that there is life beyond the grave.
For, after all, what does it really matter if Jesus is the only one to ever rise from the dead? That’s good for him. But linked, as He is with each of us, we will all live forever, along with those who precede us in death and follow us in life, additional links in an endless fence.
I’d like to close this meditation with one long question, filled with sadness, filled with gladness, linking us all together as family: If God could make John from the soil of this land; if God could bring into his life a woman to love him for fifty-three plus years; if God could make him a brother; if God could make him a father and a grandfather; if God used John’s time to inspire us and instruct us in the church and community in so many ways; if God could do all that, and much more from the soil of this earth, then don’t we have reason to believe that God will accomplish even more from the soul of John?
Knowing what God can make from soil, just think of what God makes from the soul! This is a sad day because our loved one’s work is done, the memories are beautiful, and we will miss him. Yet this is a glad day, because we’ll miss him only for a while, a short while. Hear the echo of his faith in the God who made every memory of yours possible. Hear the echo bouncing over field and hill and from ear to ear, a single word perceived by faith and the gift of memory. We can almost hear John affirming the God who makes this sad day a glad day say “Amen.”
For the last three years of His earthly life, the disciples followed, were taught and became very close to Jesus. After the resurrection Jesus knew that His time on this earth, in bodily form, would be short. His crucifixion was near. For this reason He wanted to give those whom He loved most, a very special comfort. The words He spoke to the disciples that day are recorded in the 14th chapter of John and are magnificent words familiar to most of us. This is a passage very appropriate today because we too, are His disciples, and He would comfort us as well. Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God and believe in Me also. In my Father’s house there are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. These too are words of promise, a promise that each and every believer can not only share, but share in.
In the 4th chapter of II Timothy Paul writes, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing”.
In the coming weeks and months, I encourage you to remember these promises from the Bible, and I encourage you to draw strength and security from them. It is from these passages that we will be able to take comfort in the knowledge that Jesus not only knows the pain and grief, that each of us experience, but also that He has defeated death and returned to the Father, to prepare a place for each of us, for each of His brothers and sisters; that where He is, there we may be also.

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