A House Not Made with Hands
“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
By baptism into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit you have died. You who by faith hear and trust the Word of Jesus are pinned by nails to the cross – for that is where Jesus was, crucified and dead on the cross. And really – this is all we need in the face of death – this truth that all those who trust in Christ, who seek from Him, from His Word His life giving absolution – His forgiveness given by baptism and faith – this reality, born of faith in Christ, received in the waters of baptism is all we need when our loved ones die. For real comfort in the face of death is found only in Jesus. Found only in His Word.
By baptism and faith Dean, who we today both mourn and celebrate, is now at peace and rest with Jesus, even as Dean is no longer with us here on earth. Jesus’ victory is sure and true, even when life here on earth speaks a different word. Especially when we gather to hear God’s word, and find comfort in Christ at the death of a loved one. At the death of Kelton Dean.
Marcie – Joel, Paul, Joy and Angela – family and friends. Grace to you and peace from Christ today as we walk together through the valley of the shadow of death. Amen.
This memory sticks out to me today, and I’m not entirely sure why – about how happy it made Dean that I, as his pastor, usually called him Dean. I never really asked why he liked that so much – maybe you can tell me later Marcie.
But – anyway, as everyone here is well aware, Dean was a story teller, and he lived a life worthy of many stories. Many of which I myself had the privilege of hearing first hand. This story telling puts Dean in good company – for his Lord and Savior Jesus was also a story teller. The purpose of the many stories our Savior told was not simply to entertain, but to illustrate a greater truth about who God is and what God has done, is doing, and will do for us. These stories of Jesus are never purposeless, rather, they illustrate for us the greatest truth that God loves us – and even though we struggle with our own failures, Jesus never leaves, nor forsakes us. Even when we are stubborn and insist on our way, Jesus is patiently, and lovingly calling us by His Word to Himself.
Many of Dean’s stories served a similar purpose. From running away from home, to hitchhiking with nothing more than a nickle in his pocket, dean shared these stories to let us know how the Lord Jesus watched out for him, and how Jesus will watch out for us. The stories of our Lord’s protection of Dean illustrate how God also cares and provides for us, and leads us to faith in Jesus. At least, that is what Dean always told me. The consistent refrain Dean spoke was how merciful God had been to him. What a good and gracious God we have in Jesus.
In many ways, we live in a house made, not by hands, but by words. In the very beginning of all things, when there was nothing, God spoke – and by His Word our Lord made. “Let there be light…..” This physical flesh in which we dwell, this body is merely a tent – an earthly dwelling that, because of sin – that is, because you and me, all of us have fallen far short of God’s Word and will for our lives will one day be destroyed. Death – the death of a loved one such as Dean reminds us of this difficult truth.
While some say that because all people die, that death is natural – the truth is that death is not natural. Not everything that is common, not everything that all people experience in life can be called natural. Death is not the way it is meant to be in this life. Life is natural. Death is not. Death is a punishment. It is because of this reality of death that we must look not to this earthly tent, but to a house not made with hands. A house eternal in the dwellings of God in heaven.
A house built on the Word of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan illustrates the answer to the question: “Who is my neighbor.” Most of us know the answer to this question – we just don’t really like the answer. Your neighbor is everyone. Your family – the people who live in your home. The people who live next door. That one person you don’t like. That other person who made you mad, so you no longer want to speak or listen, or help them. Everyone.
Dean knew the answer to this question of who was his neighbor, and because of the love Jesus poured into his heart, Dean lived it. Following the example of Jesus, Dean would help anyone who asked. Because He knew who it was that crawled into the mud and muck of his life on the side of the road to clean, bandage and heal him by the Word of forgiveness, namely Jesus. Therefore Dean looked on others, all those who he met along life’s path as an opportunity to share his faith in Jesus.
Most often, when we hear this story of the Good Samaritan, we are left with the impression that we have to now go and be the Good Samaritan. However, not only is this impossible, for no one can live up to this great example, it is also wrong. You are not the Good Samaritan. Jesus is.
It is Jesus who lays down His life for you. It is Jesus who bears all your sin and sorrow and pain, and on the cross it is Jesus who bleeds to heal you. Jesus is your Good Samaritan, a truth Dean knows very well.
Today is a day of tears, as is appropriate when we experience loss. Dean has left you, and so your hearts and minds experience the loss as a time of mourning. Such is the way of life for us here in this world that has been broken by sin and death.
These emotions of loss and sadness reveal a deeper issue – we have fallen in love with a world of sin, and brokenness and death. As wonderful as the blessings of family is, the danger is to lose sight of Jesus’ words that teach us that to be truly blessed is to both hear and keep God’s Word.
Loss is hard for us, yet, in your sorrow, you are not left as an orphan. Jesus Himself is with you in His Word, so the challenge for us as Christians is to mourn our loss in thanksgiving. The challenge for us today is to remember with thanksgiving the life of Kelton Dean, and as we shed our tears, do so thanking Jesus that Dean, while he is now dead is not gone. He is only gone from this world, but Dean is alive with Jesus. Even now – even today Dean is alive with His Savior.
There is no doubt that Dean fell asleep in the arms of Jesus. On his lips was the Name of his Savior. Countless times, as I was privileged to share with Dean and Marcie the Words of Jesus, the Words of the Bible, the Words of the forgiveness of Christ, Dean’s response was one of faith. “How beautiful.” In Dean’s ears, and in his heart lived the beautiful words of Ps. 23. Comfort and hope found in the truth that his good shepherd, Jesus the Lord was gently leading him through the valley of the shadow of death and into the light of eternal life. The very same lips that received with thanksgiving the body and blood of his Savior in the Lord’s Supper spoke words of beauty for those of us who were privileged to hear them. Dean spoke of the sure and certain hope of Jesus in the midst of the trials and sufferings of this earthly life. As death slowly stole his breath, his heart was set on Christ, and on His sacrifice for Dean. Jesus’ sacrifice for us all.
Dean was not afraid to die, for his confidence was, indeed, is in Jesus. Knowing this, knowing this Word of God let it be kept in your heart that at death you may find comfort and hope in Jesus. This is the lasting heritage Dean leaves behind, the Word of the Gospel. The truth that in Christ we have forgiveness.
In Jesus we have life. So, even as Dean passed from death to life in the Word of Christ, the very same Word of God speaks blessings from a merciful and loving Savior to you, for Jesus desire and will is for all of us to follow in Dean’s confession of faith in Jesus.
Dean has made his final journey, and hitchhiking on the wings of Angels, He is now home. May this Word being comfort to grieving hearts and tear stained faces. Jesus has called home His son, Kelton Dean. Amen.