St. John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI
Dear Christian friends, friends and acquaintances of Ron Smith, Pastor Merrill, Pastor Fischer, and especially you Diane, Pastor Bradley and Judy, Corey and Alison, Nathan, and you Tim, Jacob, Ian and Lauren:
Peace be to you, and grace, from Him who freed us from our sins (Rev. 1:4-5). In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
We are gathered here today to commend our beloved brother, husband, father, grandfather and dear fellow Christian friend Ronald Smith to the safe-keeping of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who said, “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” (Jn. 14:3). We do this with great faith and confidence that Ron’s faith and confidence was always in that certain Word and promise of Christ. A faithful, confessing member of the Lutheran Church of the Incarnate Word, he has been walking with us accompanied by God’s Word every step of the way. As such we take God’s Word with us from Sunday to live it out in the days and the weeks following. And it is because of our connection with God’s Word in the lectionary from Sunday to Sunday that I would like to draw your attention to that Word which we have heard even as our dear Ron has departed to be with the Lord. That Word is the little parable of the growing seed. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4:26-29).
This little parable means to emphasize nothing more than that the Kingdom of God and the gift of faith grows almost mysteriously, all on its own. So we ought to have great confidence in God’s Word as the instrument of God’s own activity of producing true repentance and faith in the heart of sinners who simply hear the Word, and thus giving them the gift of salvation in His Son, Jesus. The great thing that recommends these words for our meditation today is the little detail that this parable is told by Jesus for the sake of the promised harvest, as He says, “when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
The kingdom of God is like seed scattered on the ground because “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16), that is, the gift of salvation and eternal life is for all people of the whole world. It is the love of God that motivated and drove Him to reach out, to be involved, to redeem, to save and win back his fallen world, alienated by the rebellion of sin, opposed and taken hostage by the devil. It was nothing but love that made God send His Son into this hostile environment, “God incarnate,” that is, taking on the very form and flesh and blood and bone of created man, earning for everyone the right to be called “children of God” by His own obedience, in our flesh, His own bloody payment for the sin of the world on the cross in our flesh. and His disarming of the devil and of death itself in our flesh. Now by faith in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ, all men, everywhere can turn to Him and be saved.
Because the Word works mysteriously, “automatically” as Jesus says, all on its own power, we can have the confidence that the faith our dear Ron professed was indeed the work and gift of God.
In the wisdom and love of God alone, this past Thursday, God’s child, Ronald Archie Smith came to the wide open, welcoming gates of the harvest of God at the age of only 69 years, 9 months and 30 days. Born to Archie and Beulah Smith in Bay Port, Michigan in August of 1939, the gift of faith was planted in Ron with God’s firm promise in Holy Baptism on March 29, 1959 in San Diego, California. The confirmation of that gift of faith was celebrated after two years of instruction in 1961. This planting and growing of faith accompanied also his joining together with Diane Jane Strauch in holy marriage on December 26, 1960, which raises the question, which came first, baptism or the plans of marriage. Blessed with three children (and now daughters-in-law and four grandchildren) the nearly 49 years the growth of faith and the love of God, tested and strong, secured God’s blessings on the Smith family. As with us all it wasn’t without trials, struggles and difficulties. But thanks be to God even these things served only to sharpen and polish and brighten God’s gift of faith in Ron.
Finally, after what ended up being a relatively short time of a very brave and energetic struggle with cancer, as Diane reported, with a reach of his hand and a smile on his face that seemed to remove every wrinkle of pain or concern, last Thursday the Lord spoke his name, “Ron,” and suddenly, silently the holy angels carried him gently to be with the Lord. Thus the story of the successful harvest of a precious soul for whom Christ lived and died, rose again and ascended, urges you and me on to persevere in the same faith, trusting in the God who created and redeemed us to remain faithful to His promises to each of us, that we may live under Christ in His kingdom now and forever.
Oh, that living will be a little different in the days ahead. That familiar presence with Diane will be missed. Brad and Corey and Nathan won’t be able to just pick up the phone and talk to dad anymore. But that gift of faith that you have been given, sustained by that little seed of the Word of God, comforts us. It is comfort, first of all, as the Apostle Paul tells us to remind one another that our loved one is with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:17-18). Furthermore, faith takes comfort that the Lord is with us in the most intimate way as we kneel to receive His body and blood in the Holy Communion. Therefore, if Ron is with the Lord, we are closest to him when we are closest to our Savior in this Blessed Sacrament.
Jesus told this little parable of the growing seed with the harvest in mind. So may we remain steadfast in the Word of God with the harvest in mind, the great reunion with Ron and all those who have gone before us with the sign of faith in the day of the resurrection of all flesh. Let us trust in the same promise of the Savior that was Ron’s constant hope, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10b). Both here, now by faith in the Word and there in the fullness of God’s promises fulfilled, may we, as the little catechism says, “live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.”