Thursday, March 5, 2009

"A Full and Happy Life” John 8:31-32; Psalm 91:16

S-1103 3/3/09 Hymns: #200; # (solo Amazing Grace), (S) # 360; # 341

Texts: Job 19:21-27; Romans 8:35-39; John 10:11-18

Theme: "A Full and Happy Life” John 8:31-32; Psalm 91:16

SOLI DEO GLORIA Armour, SD. Celebration of the New Life of Erwin (Erv) Knodel

Goal: That the hearers rejoice that Christ has given them eternal life through His suffering, death and resurrection.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia (3x)

Saints in Christ, Jerry, Virginia, and Shirley, family, friends and neighbors, we gather in the Lord’s house today to celebrate the new life granted to our departed brother by His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The text for this blessed and glorious celebration is Erwin’s confirmation verses: “If you abide in My Word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jh. 8:31-32). And from Psalm 91 “With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (91:16).

Beloved in the Lord, in the Gospel of John Jesus says these words: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (Jh. 10:10). The reason Jesus came to earth was to suffer and die for the sins of all people including Erv, and by His death and resurrection from the grave He gave to all who believe in Him a full life. This life is a gift from the One who spoke in our Old Testament reading “With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” We can certainly say that our departed brother Erv had a full and happy life. Oh, what a life Erv had—truly a full and happy life. A life lived to the fullest under the watchful eyes of His Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

I have been privileged to know Erv since the summer of 1994 and ever since that time, I have learned to appreciate Erv for all that he is and all that he did. Anyone that knew Erv knew that this man enjoyed life. It seemed like he wouldn’t settle long enough to allow any grass to grow under his feet. He was always busy doing things he loves. Whether it was being a father, husband, grandfather or a farmer he had fun doing it. Erv didn’t do things the normal way. He always had to be different. He always designed his own thing or made something that might work for his benefit.

Someone once told me Erv had nine lives. It appears he always lived dangerously, because he didn’t want to miss having fun doing it. Whether flying his plane, plowing with his Studebaker, or riding his motorcycle he did with gusto.

One day I happened to visit with Lea and Erv in their house. Lea was telling me about a recent event that Erv did. He was in Rapid City visiting his daughter Virginia and her husband. He took off on his motorcycle to head to Armour. Sometimes later, Virginia called her mom to let her know that her dad should be arriving before too long. Lea said, “Honey your dad is here already.” Virginia said, “It can’t be. He left just a little over 3 hours ago.” And Lea responded again, “Your dad is here already.” To which again Virginia said, “It can’t be.” Finally, Lea said, “Here, you talk to your dad.” In a little over 3 hours, Erv who at the time was in his mid 80’s made the trip from Rapid City to Armour. Now that must have been a fun ride to be sure. Oh, yes, Erv lived a full and happy life.

But there was another side to Erv. Even though he loved life and lived it to the full, he lived it as a true disciple of His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As his confirmation verse stated, “If you are my disciples you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

That truth is what he longed to hear Sunday after Sunday as he sat (point to the location of his pew) in the house of the Lord with his lovely wife and children. He sat in this house of worship for years and years so that he might be blessed to receive the Word and Sacrament.

Part of the truth that Erv cherished in his walk of faith he wanted to share it with others. For this reason when some saints determined to build a house of worship, Erv rolled up his sleeves and began to work to erect this place. He even designed a small gadget that will allow the builders to transport cement from one location to the others. And if that wasn’t enough, he was part of the crew that anchored the bell tower so that it might ring to call Sinners and saints to hear God’s Words of Law and Gospel, of death and life. That same bell called us to these words of life even today.

It is this truth that Erv longed and hungered for and that is why he supported the ministry with his presence and finances. This truth in love he passed on to his children and grandchildren. This truth he wanted others to know because it is the most important part of his life. Having fun was great, but greater to him was living under the watchful eyes of His Savior feeding on this truth and sharing the truth with others.

But there is more. I am not sure how many of the family members or even the saints of Redeemer know about what Erv did. In October of 1994, shortly after I arrived to Armour; I was sharing with him and Lea that I have a desire to begin a ministry of allowing people to listen to a Scripture, brief comment on that Scripture and prayer 24 hours a day. The more we visited the more he was interested. Then looking at Lea and looking at me asked, “Pastor, what do you need to make this a reality?” I told him “We needed a recording machine and a telephone line to the church”. He told me “let me know how much money you need” I checked into it and let him know. He asked me to come and see him and he gave me a check for $200.00 to purchase the unit and the phone line. And Dial A Prayer was born. And this ministry has been active since October 1994. He gave the seed money and the saints of Redeemer have continued to keep it going and growing. 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year the ministry of “Dial A Prayer” has touched many lives in this community, county and country. All because someone cared to teach others the truth about Jesus Christ.

This is true discipleship. Discipleship, that brings joy not only to one’s life but to the lives of others. Erv lived as a true disciple of Jesus even to his final weeks on the earth. Once he no longer could come to the house of the Lord, the Lord came to him through the Word and the Sacrament at his home and then at the nursing home. He always had a smile to this pastor when I walked in. And when I would visit him at the home, I would ask him, “How are you doing today?” He would respond, “I am weak.” He may have been weak in body, but was strong in spirit. He hungered to be fed with the heavenly manna. He repented of his sins. And he relied on the Lord Jesus Christ to give him the strength to go on.

As true disciple of Jesus, Erv lived a full and happy life. Living it into ripe old age of 100 plus 11 days. Those years were blessed by the One who called him in the water of Baptism on March 7, 1909 and made him his very own and last Friday evening, the Lord who died for him and rose again said, “Erv, come to my home and rest. Come and live the true and happy life full of grace. Come and rest in my house without any pain or suffering or hardships. Come Erv and live the full and happy life promised to you by Me. And that Friday, God with His pierced hands reached out and took Erv and transport him from this vale of tears to the life eternal where he really is living the full and happy life. And what a life he is having now. He is not weak. He no longer has problem with his hearing. He no longer has to worry about sin or any kind of affliction. But now he is basking in the glories of heaven, living life to the fullest. Pause.

Someone had written these thoughts:

Aging. It’s no fun. The way we try to avoid it, you’d think we could … This body must die so the new body can live … Aging is God’s idea. It’s one of the ways He keeps us headed homeward. We can’t change the process, but we can change our attitude. Here is a thought. What if we looked at the aging of the body as we look at the growth of a tulip?

Do you ever see anyone mourning over the passing of a tulip bulb? Do gardeners weep as the bulb begins to weaken? Of course not … We don’t mourn the passing of the bulb; we celebrate it. Tulip lovers rejoice the minute the bulb weakens. “Watch that one,” they say. “It’s about to blossom.”

Could it be that heaven does the same? The angels point to our bodies. The more frail we become, the more excited they become. “Watch that child of God in the nursing home,” they say. “He’s about to blossom.” …

Erv has now “blossomed!” The body has been left behind and the spirit has gone home to peace and glory! Erv is now living the full and happy life.

In Jesus' Name. Amen.

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