Clarence Outsen – September 20th, 2016 – John 14:1-6
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
Cindy, Sienna, Melinda, and Guyneth, friends and family of our beloved brother in Christ Clarence – Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Age and illness can do terrible things to us, and yet in the midst of these struggles, God still provides us with great and loving care. Clarence's life was an example of this. We here at Trinity only got to know him for a few short years, and even then, that was only when age and illness had already started to do a number on Clarence, when it was best for him to be over there at Harvest View. Of course, by the time I showed up here, even more of his spryness was gone, and in this past year Clarence would become more and more frail, and yet I myself would marvel and rejoice inside whenever I saw him, his cheerfulness, his smile, but also his dogged determination to come to Church, to hear preaching, to take the Lord's Supper even with hands that were more and more becoming unsteady. It was a wondrous and faithful and beautiful thing to see. And so even though we at Trinity only got to see him towards the end of his earthly days, even though we didn't get to know him in the days of his youth and strength, I would like to thank you, family, for letting him stay with us in Herscher for a time. And I think I can safely say that Harvest View was a place that God had prepared for Clarence, a safe place of support and care; and that God also prepared us at Trinity to be a home for Clarence for a time. It is a wondrous gift of God and His love.
Yet not nearly as wondrous as what our brother in Christ Clarence now sees. Listen, for 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?” Clarence, at this moment, is with His Lord, Christ Jesus. At this moment Clarence dwells with Christ in joy and peace in Heaven, and when Christ comes again on the Last Day, Clarence will come with Him and be raised from the dead and on that day our joy will indeed be full. But right now, Clarence has it better than He had it a week ago, or a decade ago, or even 50 years ago. Even as so many of the trials and pains and hardships that are far too common in this sinful world clawed at him, Christ Jesus our Lord called Clarence to His own side, called him unto peace and joy.
Clarence sees this now, knows this now. Of course He does, for He knew His Savior Christ Jesus all his earthly days, walked by faith all his days. Clarence knew the One who said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” - and thus Clarence knew the way to heaven and life everlasting; Clarence knew the truth of the forgiveness of sins that Christ Jesus had won for Him with His own death upon the Cross, and Clarence knew the life everlasting that Christ's resurrection had won for him. All this Clarence sees now – he sees his Redeemer now, which is a wondrous thing of which we can only imagine.
As for us here, we still walk by faith. The same good news of salvation in Christ Jesus that gave Clarence hope and joy in his days is the same message of salvation that is proclaimed to us. Because Christ Jesus has died and been raised, like Clarence your sins are forgiven for His sake, and you have life in His Name, so that even should, indeed even when this world does its worst to you, you too belong to Christ, just as Clarence does. You too have been baptized, washed clean of your sin and claimed by the Father. You too have heard the Gospel of Christ Jesus which gives Christ's own forgiveness and life to you. And this shapes how we see today, how we see the days to come.
Saint Paul reminds us, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen.” Yes, we mourn. Of course we do – Clarence was a tangible gift from God to us. If even I can see that he was a such a gift towards the end of his life, I can barely imagine what sort of gift he must have been when he was full of vim and vigor. And yes, our mourning is a weight, it is a burden. But St. Paul reminds us that it is a light and momentary affliction, at least when we compare it to what is to come. For we have not lost Clarence – we know precisely where He is; Clarence is at home with the Lord. And we have not lost Clarence, for in Christ Jesus and His love for each of you, it is your home as well. While still here, you all have things on your plate, tasks given to you by God to do so that through you He may care for your neighbor, for you too are meant to be gifts from God unto your neighbors, even as Clarence was a gift to you. But until such time as Christ calls you home, be at peace. Rest secure in Christ, knowing that in Him you are forgiven, in Him you have life, and that our brother in Christ Clarence is well taken care of. God grant us that we would hear His Word and remain in the faith, even until we see Clarence again in the Presence of Christ Jesus our Lord. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit + Amen.