30. November 2022
Funeral for Willis A. Liepert
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.
Dearly beloved of the LORD, family and friends, grace, mercy, and peace is yours in Jesus Christ. Amen. Jesus has kept His promises for Willis. It took a while, but sometimes that is what the LORD does. For Willis, that was 94 years of life, full of blessings but also difficulty and loss. Through it all, Jesus kept repeating His promises.
You are forgiven! You are my beloved child! I will never leave you or forsake you! I promise to keep you in the faith! You will be with me in paradise! Resurrection and eternal life are yours, now in hope and then in sight. And Jesus kept His promises for Willis, who now rests in the peace of Jesus awaiting the Last Day, the triumphant cry of the joy of all the faithful raised to life immortal.
So, no matter what twists and turns life took over those 94 years, Willis had Jesus with him to comfort and guide Him. No matter what loss and difficulty this life, world, or even the demonic powers might cause him to suffer, Jesus’s Spirit was there to renew and restore Willis to faith and life in Jesus. The gift of Willis’s baptism into Jesus and the breath of the Spirit received there kept and preserved him, day in and day out.
Waiting is not always easy. As an honorable serviceman, there was the end of the tour, waiting to go home. Yes, I’m sure Willis grew anxious to return from the Pacific or from Reserve duty. But his waiting could be with hope because He had the promise of its end. He would go home!
Waiting is impossible without a promise. And in the case of Jesus’s promises, they are even more sure than any military commission. They promised you would come home but couldn’t confidently say if you’d be standing or lying on return. But Jesus has promised that after a peaceful sleep, He will wake up Willis and all the dead and give to Willis and all who believe with eternal life. Jesus will cause Willis to stand up again, alive, restored, and resurrected. That’s His promise and our confident hope!
We heard Simeon sing confidently that God keeps His promises. This man, described by St. Luke, was “righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” You might think this is some extraordinary person. But it’s the same description given to all the faithful patriarchs, prophets, priests, kings, apostles, and disciples. It’s the same description given by God of Willis and all Christians. We are the righteous, made right in the forgiveness of Jesus. We are the devout, made faithful by the work of the Spirit. We are the waiting ones who will be brought out of the great tribulation and comforted in the Gospel promises fulfilled in Jesus.
Elderly Simeon had been coming by the Spirit to the temple, trusting that one day the promised Messiah would be presented there. His hearing and meditation on God’s Word and faith gave by the Holy Spirit had given him confidence that the Christ would come before His death. And so, He daily waited, watched, prayed, and hoped for what God promised. He did know the day or the hour of His LORD’s coming, but He believed confidently that it would come. This is the conviction of faith, which trusts in the promises, and trusting remains patient in hope.
Willis lived in the same confident hope, believing and trusting that when the LORD brought this life to a close, He would also give Willis resurrection and eternal life in the new heavens and new earth. Like Simeon, God the Spirit brought Willis to the place where Jesus the Messiah is found. But Willis didn’t have to sail to some far-off land. Nor did He have to go to the same temple of stones in Jerusalem made with hands.
Jesus blessed His apostles with His Name, His Baptism, His Word, and His Sacrament. And with His Name, He promised to be with them everywhere they went. His Word and Spirit have gone out to the ends of the earth. So, Jesus is with His church in Farmington, West Bend, Random Lake, Sheboygan Falls, or even the Mariana Islands and Japan. And so Jesus was with Willis, too.
Willis was brought into the holy church by God the Holy Trinity in Baptism. And baptized into Jesus, the holy temple, and the indwelling of the Spirit was brought to him. Now, Willis could live trusting that where ever he went, Jesus was with him to protect, guide, provide, and sustain him. Like Simeon, Jesus came to Willis to console him with the Gospel of sins forgiven. And being forgiven, Willis was always prepared to depart in peace.
If Willis died in combat, thy will be done. If Willis died at sixty, or seventy, or even by reason of strength at eighty, thy will be done. If the good LORD took His sweet time, again… thy will be done. Even if he lived another year, two months, and twenty days past the death of his beloved Janis, so be it. The promises of God, given to Willis in Holy Baptism, confirmed Word preached to Him, and given to him in the body and blood of Jesus in the Supper, sustained and preserved him for a blessed 94 years. And now, Willis has finally been given rest from all his labors, in military service, in marriage and raising children, in auto work, in the orchard, and in all his part-time jobs and hobbies.
Like Simeon, Willis can truly say this day, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word!”
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