Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sermon -- Funeral of Phil Obradovich (May 2, 2014)

ROMANS 5:6-11

In the name + of Jesus.

     I got to know Phil Obradovich pretty late in his life.  And though I didn’t know him for most of his years, I got to learn about many of those years.  Though it wasn’t always bad, it wasn’t always good either.  From talking to Phil, to his wife Beverly, and to you, his children, over the past few years, I learned that there were some difficult and painful times.  That may have resulted in some hard feelings or strained relationships.  One thing is for sure, Phil Obradovich regarded himself as a sinner, and he confessed it freely.  In fact, he spoke of it often.  He did not take pride in it.  The fact is, all people are sinners.  Phil confessed that he gave plenty of evidence for that, but more importantly, he repented of it.  If you did not know that before, you should know it now.  Even though he could not fix the past, he did repent of it.
     Now, I don’t know if your memories of your father and grandfather are fond memories or not.  But what matters most of all is this: What did God think of him?  That is all that matters for any of us.  If the whole world thinks you are fantastic or if the whole world thinks you are a failure, it finally does not matter.  God’s judgment is not based on what anyone else thinks of you—whether good or bad.  St. Paul told us what God’s judgment of Phil is.  While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8) 
     Our Lord Jesus Christ did not wait until we were good enough.  He came to suffer and die precisely because we are not good people.  Sins are rebellion against God.  God cannot brush them aside like they don’t matter.  For every snide word, for every heartless deed, for every perverted thought, and for the very sin that dwells in our hearts, there is a price to pay.  The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)  The price has to be paid.
     Therefore, Jesus paid the price.  You and I cannot pay for our sins, not even for one.  So, Jesus took it all.  God became man and suffered on behalf of all mankind.  He took on the weight of our guilt and the curse for our sins.  The accursed death has been died.  The full price has been paid.  Your crucified Lord was pulled down from his cross and laid in a grave.  But the grave could not hold him.  Jesus rose from the dead and overcame the power of death.  Sin and death had done their worst to Jesus, but now Jesus lives!  He had died for the ungodly and for sinners, but he lives to tell sinners that their sins are truly forgiven.  His death was the sufficient payment to appease the wrath of God.  So God the Father is reconciled to you, and you are reconciled to him.  You do not need to fear him, for he does not despise you.  That is Phil’s judgment: Phil has been reconciled to God.  His soul has not been banished to hell.  He has gone to dwell with his Lord and Savior.  He has peace.
     But just as the death of Jesus is not the end of the story, so the death of Phil Obradovich is not the end of the story either.  God has not created us to be mere souls or spirits.  God created you as body and soul people.  It is what he has always intended you to be.  Likewise, when God came to earth to save us, he did not come as a spirit.  He became a body and soul man.  That flesh and blood Savior went to the cross, and then to the grave.  And when Jesus rose from his grave, he was no mere spirit.  Body and soul, Jesus rose gloriously from death.  He even invited his apostles to touch his body and to inspect the wounds that were inflicted on him to save them.
     Death has done to Phil Obradovich what death will do to all of us—earth to earth, ashes to ashes, and dust to dust.  But this is not the end of the story.  Phil has been reconciled to God.  That means God shall restore all things for him.  The body which is committed to the ground today does not remain dust and ashes.  Phil Obradivoch has been baptized into Jesus.  That means he is united to Jesus in his life, his death, and his resurrection.  Phil was united to Jesus in Jesus’ life, which means that Jesus’ holy obedience covers up every flaw and failing of Phil.  God sees him as his own beloved and blameless son.  That is why he is an heir of eternal life.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10)  Phil has been reconciled to God. 
     Secondly, Phil’s baptism also has united him to Jesus’ death.  When Phil was baptized, God put to death the sinner and raised him up a new creation.  God regarded Phil as a saint.  Now, Phil confessed that he was no saint.  He did not want to be judged based on his merits.  But he had a Savior who pleaded for him.  That Savior covered Phil with his own innocent blood and credited Phil with his own perfect merits.  And Phil rejoiced that he got to feast on the body and blood of Jesus.  For through Holy Communion, Jesus continued to cleanse him of sin and keep him united to Jesus.  Phil has been reconciled to God. 
     Thirdly, Phil’s baptism united him to Jesus’ resurrection.  Just as Jesus died and rose to live again, so it will be for Phil.  The grave does not own him, Jesus does.  At the last day, God will raise up all the dead for judgment.  Of course, Phil has already heard his judgment: Forgiven, reconciled to God.  But Phil will not merely be a saint in status.  Jesus will raise him up so that he will look like one and live like one.  Our Lord Jesus Christ will raise up Phil, just as he will for Beverly, and he will give them a perfect, glorious, incorruptible, imperishable body so that they will be what God had always created them to be—body and soul, holy and blameless, beloved children of God who will dwell in a flawless Paradise and enjoy a peaceful life in God’s glorious kingdom forever.  Phil has been reconciled to God. 
     Dear friends, these are not wishful, happy thoughts to get us through a tough time.  Death and pain are real things.  These bodies and souls we have are real things.  But these are also real things: the love of God which is revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and reconciliation to God which was won through Jesus’ death and resurrection.  God calls us to repent of our sins and to cast all of our hopes upon Jesus.  Through his word and sacraments, Jesus reconciles us to God and gives us real salvation.  This is the only hope for sinners.  For, God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)  But now Christ has risen.  All who believe and are baptized into him shall be saved by him.  This was Phil’s hope, and he will not be ashamed in it.  These ashes shall rise and live, just as surely as Jesus lives and reigns.  God and sinners have been reconciled.  Sins are forgiven.  Death is conquered.  And life everlasting is yours through Jesus Christ.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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