19. February 2023
Funeral of Edward Liermann
For He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ—Beverly, Carmen, Eric, and Tracy, family, friends, and fellow saints of God—grace, mercy, and peace are yours in Jesus Christ, your LORD, and Savior. Amen. Jesus keeps His promises. Ed’s confirmation verse, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” was given to him by Pastor Jagow more than seventy years ago. The LORD kept His promise to Ed for his long life and has fulfilled His Word now for Ed in a Christian death. And that promise remains for Ed as he now rests in the sleep of Jesus and waits for Christ’s return, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting in the new heavens and the new earth.
That verse, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” was proclaimed by the preacher to the Hebrews almost two thousand years ago. It’s just as true today for Ed as it is for you and it has been for every Christian who has heard those words proclaimed into their ears these millennia. Jesus keeps His promises. He has never left His church, working faith by the Spirit through the inspired Word breathed out on His people to give life and salvation.
The only reason the church remained with Jesus in the faithfulness was by God’s speaking, giving, and preserving. This Word of promise continues to be proclaimed today. And this Word of promise is what kept Ed faithful unto death. He knew and rested confidently in that promise, even after entering hospice a year and half ago, and the nursing home a little over a month ago. Jesus made a promise and Jesus keeps His promises.
This promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” proclaimed by the preacher to the Hebrews, to Christians in the Scriptures, and to Ed on his confirmation day, was not new. Patriarchs and prophets had long relied on the same promise. Five and even six millennia of Christians, both before and after Christ came, have relied on this promise from the LORD to face whatever challenges were set before them.
After the patriarch Jacob escaped from his murderous brother Esau, fleeing from his homeland and going to lands unknown, God visited him in dream by night. He saw the famous ladder unto heaven, with the ministering angels ascending and descending on it. God was showing Jacob that even though it seemed he was abandoned and lost, these angels of the LORD were in service to him to guard, protect, watch, and serve Jacob. But even more, angels are messengers and the dream itself might mean anything without God attaching His Word of promise.
So, the Lord stood above it and said: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.” (Genesis 28:13-15)
The patriarch Jacob would now live trusting in this great promise, knowing that the LORD keeps His Word. But Jacob also wavered and faltered, despite having this Word. It was not the fault of God’s Word or the Spirit given for faith in that Word, but rather that Jacob remained a sinner according to the flesh. He would continue to struggle with doubt, worries, loss, and heartache. But God kept sending him a preacher and kept repeating the promise to him again, “I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”
Again when the people of Israel were given to finally return to the land promised to Jacob, who himself and his twelve sons and their tribes travelled to Egypt, after four hundred and thirty years of exile in Egypt and forty years of wilderness wondering, they doubted and wondered if God was truly with them. Their life experience and the promises of God didn’t seem to line up. Yes, God had given them water, manna, and quail in the desert. But where was the promised land flowing with milk and honey? When would they finally get to go back home? Thus God gave to His prophet Moses to preach to them again of the promises.
The Lord has said to me, ‘You shall not cross over this Jordan.’ The Lord your God Himself crosses over before you; He will destroy these nations from before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua himself crosses over before you, just as the Lord has said. And the Lord will do to them as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites and their land, when He destroyed them. The Lord will give them over to you, that you may do to them according to every commandment which I have commanded you. Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” Then Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and of good courage, for you must go with this people to the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it. And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” (Deut 31:2-8)
The stories of Jacob and his kin are Ed’s story, too. God has never ceased to send his preacher to repeat His promises, over and over, for the sake of faith and hope in the face of shame, guilt, despair, and loss. Jesus was with Ed while serving overseas and on those long hauls across the country. Jesus was with Ed with His promises no matter what, be it times of joy or times of sorrow. The LORD promised to be with Ed from rebirth in the font, in his dying breath and burial in the grave tomorrow, and until the last day when a trumpet blast and a cry of triumph, Jesus will call out to Ed with His resurrection song. And Ed—along with the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and innumerable saints before and those who are yet to come—will be raised from the dead to life immortal and incorruptible. And like Jacob, Moses, and Joshua, Ed has the promise to return home, the new heavens and new earth.
Jesus keeps His promises. Ed’s confirmation verse, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” is your promise, too. “Be still, my soul; your God will undertake To guide the future as He has the past. Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake; All now mysterious shall be bright at last.”
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin