Sermon from Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Rocklin, California, published via the power of IFTTT.
Monday of Pentecost 13c, (August 1, 2016)
Memorial Service for Jerald L. Swagger
TITLE: “The Way to Life”
Friends and family of Jerry, especially MaryAnne: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. John chapter Fourteen. We will focus especially on the words, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Jerald L. Swagger was born on July 10, 1934, and was baptized on December 21, 1958. He married MaryAnne – née Spaulding on August 23, 1957. He was confirmed in the Lutheran faith in 1986. Jerry died in Christ on Monday, July 18 in the year of our Lord two thousand and sixteen, at the age of eighty two years. “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”” (Rev. 14:13 ESV)
It is hard to see the way of a man like Jerry. I can’t really describe his life. It is just too much. He spent time on Okinawa while in the Navy. He was married to MaryAnne for fifty-eight years by my reckoning. Children, grandchildren, projects, time in the Word of God every morning, he was an engineer with both an eye for details and the ability to see the big picture.
But here’s the thing. We can and will spend time in the days and weeks and months and years ahead describing who Jerry was. That is important. Memories matter. They make us who we are. We pass them on to our children and grandchildren, we share them with one another and are better off for the telling.
But what Jerry was is nowhere near as important as who he is. Jerry, you see, is baptized. He is in Christ. He is a child of God, and as such, he is an heir of eternal life. That is what Jesus is talking about when He says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
What does this mean? It’s very simple. A way is a path, a road, a direction to go on a journey and the means to get there. If you don’t know the way, you are lost. And for pretty much his whole life long, Jerry knew the way. Jesus revealed it to Him in His Word, for Jesus Himself is the only way there is. Through the military, working for Bell Telephone, marrying his dear bride, raising children, and everything in between, the way, the road was and is Jesus Christ.
Jesus also says that He is the truth. In other words, Jesus Christ and the resurrection of the body are reality for Jerry, for you and for me. In the book of Isaiah we hear that Jesus swallows up death forever. While Jerry was taken from us suddenly, the reality is that he has been in Jesus all along, and whether he is here with us or there with our Lord, Jerry has always been held in the palm of God’s hand. Nothing can change that. That is reality, friends. That is the truth.
Jesus is finally the life. In Holy Baptism many years ago, Jerry was reborn by water and the Spirit. So what that means is that while you see at a grave overlooking a beautiful hill, the reality is that Jerry is with Christ, and that on the Last Day Jesus will raise Him and all the dead and give eternal to him, and to you and to me. Jerry’s life, his future has never been clearer. He is in Christ.
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. And while that comforts and gives hope, we still grieve. We still sorrow over the loss of the man, husband, father, grandfather, friend, however it is that you knew Jerry. But the grief that we feel is the grief of loss for now, it is not the grief of eternity. So grieve, but grieve with a twinkle in your eye, because you know the rest of the story. I, for one, think that Jerry would kind of like that twinkle in your eye. It will show that you know the way, the truth and the life, just like Jerry has his whole life long.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.