The Lord Is My Shepherd: A Funeral Sermon

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The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23).
Dear beloved of Arnie, honored friends, and guests: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want,” writes the psalmist, and even in his last days Arnie confessed this to be true. But to the human eye, it surely looked as if Arnie did want at times in his life. I have to think that growing up in a family of fifteen children during the Depression, Arnie had times of want. I suspect that there must have been a time or two of want when as a young, recently married man Arnie served our country in war overseas—if even just the want of a new pair of boots and healing for feet fallen apart in the heat and humidity. I would think that in raising a family on the farm there were dry years and times of low prices when Arnie experienced want. And I’m sure that there have been a few times since Arnie and the other charter members established Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church that they and this congregation have faced want. 
Then there’s this last few months, especially the last few weeks, when Arnie stood in want of relief from his relentless pain. A man recently so vibrant and active, filled with grit and determination, Arnie stood in want of strength. And as he faced the stark reality of his own impending death, Arnie stood in want of life.
The Lord is my shepherd; shall I want? Shall I need something the Lord will not give? What did He give to the husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, friend, congregational and community leader whom we will lay to rest today?
Throughout all of this—and much, much more—the Lord provided Arnie with everything needed to support his body and soul. He formed him in his  mother’s womb, brought him forth alive, and placed him within a family. For over nine decades the Lord put food and drink on his table and clothing on his back. He gave him Esther as his wife for more than 73 years, blessed their union with five children, five grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. The Lord gave them a home, a farm on which to make a living and raise a family. The Lord was his shepherd. Arnie did not want. The Lord brought him home safely from the war, though thousands of other young men, including close friends, never made it back. He brought him through thick and thin, times of laughter and times of tears, times of health and sickness. The Lord was even so gracious, He gave Arnie the opportunity to work the ground and bring in the harvest even in his ninety-fifth years, well past the age most farmers make their last round. And He gave Arnie and Esther the opportunity to enjoy many years of traveling and volunteer work.
More importantly, the Lord was the kind of shepherd for Arnie that other shepherds would think a fool. For what shepherd thinks that the life of the sheep is more important than his own? What kind of shepherd, to save his flock, would gladly and willingly throw his body between the lambs and the wolves and say to the predators, “Go ahead! Sink your fangs into my flesh instead of those dear sheep; spill my blood instead of theirs”? What kind of shepherd loves the sheep with a love so true that He would sacrifice everything for them? None, of course, but one. None but our Lord Jesus Christ, that great shepherd of the sheep, who laid down His life for dear lambs, lambs like Arnie, lambs like you.
That He might let you and Arnie lie down in green pastures, the Good Shepherd’s crucified corpse was laid within a tomb. That He might lead you beside still waters, He thirsted upon the cross, drank only the bitter cup of His Father’s wrath against sin. That He might restore your soul and bring Arnie and all sinners back from the wilderness of sin and death, our shepherd Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” and gave up His soul. That He might lead all of you in paths of righteousness that lead to Paradise, Jesus walked the lonely road of suffering that led to the hill of Golgotha, where our unrighteousness was hammered into Him. That Arnie and all of you might walk through the valley of the shadow of death, fearing no evil, Jesus walked it first. He let death and darkness have their way with Him, that you might fear them not. The rods of the Romans beat Him, that His rod and staff might comfort you.
This is the kind of shepherd Arnie had and still has—the Good Shepherd. He is the kind of shepherd who loved you and gave Himself up for you, that you might be His. He is not dead, but lives! And His way with death was to strip it of its powers, defang that wolf of mortality, so that death’s bark is always worse than its bite. Death has left his fangs in the flesh of your shepherd; the wolf of death cannot harm you now; and it did not harm your loved one whom we lay to rest today.
The Lord is my shepherd, Arnie’s shepherd, your shepherd. He is like none other. These last few weeks, as Arnie’s physical life slowly ebbed away, Christ stood beside him. In the presence of the enemies of death and sin, Jesus prepared a table before His beloved lamb. He fed Arnie with His body and gave him to drink of His blood. He anointed his head with the oil of forgiveness by the power of the Spirit. He spoke of His love and grace through His called and ordained servant. He reminded Arnie of the still waters of his Baptism that made him God’s own child over 95 years ago, and sustained him daily up to the time of his last breath. Arnie’s cup ran over, filled to the brim and more with the love and life of his shepherd.
Jesus died and yet He lives. All those who live and believe in Jesus, even though they die, yet shall they live, for Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Through Him there is no want. Through Him and in Him there is comfort for you. Here is the comfort: today Arnie lives. He is with his shepherd in the paradise of heaven, and there he awaits the Last Day with all the saints. And when that day comes, the body that we lay to rest this day will rise from the dust a perfect body. His restored body, wondrous beyond imagination, will be given back to Arnie. And so it will be for all those who are in the flock of Jesus.
For now, you mourn, but not as those who have no hope. The end of Arnie’s earthly life was but the beginning of his life in heaven. There, he is with Jesus, his shepherd, the saints, and the angels. Arnie will dwell in the house of the Lord forever, for the Lord has prepared a place for him, as He has for you.
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20–21).
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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