Walt's Place: Sermon for the Funeral of Walter Edward Bauman
Dear Bette, Linda, Bryan, Nancy, other family and friends of Walt:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
In some ways, I feel a bit like an intruder on this occasion. I only met Walt a little over a year ago. I didn’t know him for years—or even a lifetime—as many of you have. I didn’t know Walt the husband, the father, or grandfather. I didn’t know Walt the farmer or business owner. I never got the chance to go fishing with him. But I count myself fortunate because I came to know Walt in a way that many of us never have the chance to know others in the distractions and daily grind of life. I came to know Walt at a time in his life when his thoughts were focused on what was most important to him—his family and, most of all, his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I came to know Walt as a fellow redeemed sinner and child of God.
Each time I met with Walt, we would first talk about whatever sport was in season and then fishing. He would tell me about running Walt’s Place and what a good-looking woman his wife Bette is. Then our conversation turned to things eternal. Like each of us, Walt wrestled with his own regrets and worries, fears and demons, but he trusted in the complete sufficiency of Jesus Christ. By God’s grace, the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace, Walt held on to God’s gift of forgiveness and the promise of eternal life. This gave Walt great comfort as he considered the day of his own departure from this world.
Among the promises of God heard was our text for today, John 14:1-3:
[Jesus said:] Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.
These words were given to Jesus’ disciples shortly before He was to give up His life on the cross of Calvary for the sins of the world. They needed encouragement to prepare them for what lay ahead. But they’re given to us today as well. In times of sadness, in the midst of death, we too, are in need of Christ’s comforting words. For they are the only words that bring true comfort, peace, and hope.
Jesus had just told His disciples that He would be leaving them soon. Realizing that they were greatly distressed at the thought of His leaving, Jesus offered them these words of comfort: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.” The troubled hearts of the disciples would disappear if now when all seemed so strange and dark to them, they would only believe and trust. Trust in God is the antidote for a troubled heart.
This trust is to be grounded only in Christ and in His promises. So Jesus added, “In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” God has provided this place for each one of His followers, from all eternity. To emphasize the comfort of His words, Jesus reminded His disciples that in His Father’s house there is room not only for Himself, but also for all His disciples. His leaving would be for their benefit. His departure, rightly understood, should not be a cause for distress, but the very contrary—it should be cause for joy.
Jesus’ promise is for all His disciples, including Walt and you and me: “I go to prepare a place for you.” The preparation for this place began from the foundation of the world. God chose you in Christ to be His own. It was continued as the Son of God took on human flesh and lived a holy, righteous life in our place. It was completed on the cross as Christ took upon Himself the sins of the whole world and His righteousness was credited to us. It was His great sacrifice that paid for our sins and gave us a place in the Father’s house as His children.
Walt’s place was given to him already in his baptism here at Trinity on May 18, 1924. There at the font, via water and Word, Walt received faith and forgiveness, salvation and eternal life. Walt confessed his faith publicly in the Rite of Confirmation here at Trinity on May 28, 1939. In front of God and the gathered congregation ,Walt acknowledged the gifts given him in Holy Baptism and first received the very body and blood of His Savior Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins and the strengthening of his faith. He promised, by the grace of God, to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it. Like each of us, Walt was less than perfect in the keeping of his promises. But God is always faithful to His promises. His grace is sufficient for all of our needs!
A week ago today, Jesus sent His holy angels to bring Walt to His place. Now Walt’s soul is in the presence of God where there is fullness of joy and where there are pleasures forevermore. On the great Last Day when Christ returns, Walt’s body and the bodies of all who have died in the faith, will be changed, fashioned like Christ’s glorious body. And then together with all of Jesus’ disciples, Walt will be with Christ—body and soul for all eternity.
So not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust in Christ. Though absent from us, we know that Walt is with the Lord. And we can look forward to the day when we shall be reunited with him in the rooms of our Father’s house.
Until then, let us continue to follow the way to the place that has been prepared for us. Let us hold on to Jesus Christ who is the way and the truth and the life. Let us trust in Him whom we alone have the forgiveness of sins and the hope of heaven. Let us hear His voice in His holy Word and follow Him in faith until He calls us as He has Walt: “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).
On this day, as you mourn Walt’s departure from this earthly life, you can take great comfort in Christ’s words:
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also (John 14:1–3).
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.