Summary: A sermon preached for a good member and a fellow outdoorsman.
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, through your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to your Word, granting us a renewed and strengthened faith, that we might find comfort in your grace, and hope for the future. Enable us to trust in your gift of eternal life, accomplished for us through the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus the Christ, so that we might live our lives in the confidence of being reunited with all your redeemed saints, in the life to come. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
Let me begin by expressing to you, Janet, and the rest of your family, not only my personal sympathy, but also the sympathy of our congregation. Quite frankly, you and Bob have been well loved and respected members of our congregation, and so we share in your grief, and lift you in our prayers and concern, that God’s grace might bring you his peace.
I remember the first visit I made to your home, to share with you some of the aspects of our congregation’s ministry and to get to know you a little better. However, it wasn’t long into conversation when Bob offered me a beverage and asked if I like to hunt. When I responded by saying that I take three of my four weeks vacation for hunting, that did it. Bob showed me his trophy hanging in the garage, and the stories of our hunts started.
After my visit, as I was driving home and reflecting on our conversation, I remember thinking, “Now there’s a guy I can really relate to, and he golfs. Then it hit me! Janet is a hunter’s wife. After all, as Josie has often told me, when two hunters get together, you might as well let them tell their stories, because it is in their system.
To prove her point, Josie made a cross-stitch picture of a hunter holding his rifle that hangs on the kitchen wall of our camp. The inscription on the picture goes something like this: “Behold the hunter. He riseth up early in the morning and disturbeth the whole household. Mighty are his preparations. And when he returneth in the evening, he is hungry and cold, and the truth is not in him.”
Well, I’m sure that you, Janet, have heard those stories many times. For Bob loved the outdoors. It was a part of his nature. It was a part of what made him the special person he was – what endeared him to you, his family. It is a part of what will be missed by you, his family. In fact, when I visited with you and Rob Wednesday morning, you told me that Tuesday evening, following Bob’s death, your family gathered together and shared those stories in his memory.
That touched me, for it revealed what I had already come to know in my subsequent visits – and that is that Bob was a loving husband and father. He not only loved the outdoors, he truly cared for you, his family. And I’m sure he will be sorely missed.
Yet, over the past year, we have all seen Bob’s health gradually deteriorate. It was difficult for us all to witness, but especially for you, Bob’s family, to experience. And as we have watched Bob’s health wind down, rather quickly during the past couple of months, we may have experienced our own anxiety winding up. Our hopes that he may have been healed of his disease, slowly gave way to the thought that he might not be with us much longer, and the hope that he need not suffer indefinitely. It is a painful transition to make, for all involved, as we face the finite existence of life here on earth.
Listen to how Paul expressed his faith, as he perceived his life here on earth coming to an end. Paul writes, in his letter to the Philippians, and I quote, “For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, this will turn out for my deliverance. It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death…
If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you…” End quote.
I believe this is the struggle that Bob faced, as he neared the end of his life. He dearly loved you, his family, and cared for you deeply. He wanted to be with you, and do what he could to enhance your life with his presence. And yet he knew, that the ultimate goal of his faith, was to be with his crucified and risen Lord, as a baptized child of the kingdom of God.