Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sermon -- Funeral of Walter Gordon Trapp (July 26, 1932 – February 16, 2015)

NOTE:  This sermon was preached at St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church, Plymouth, MI where Walter Trapp was a long time member.  St. Peter's pastor, Rev. Paul Schaefer, was on vacation and was regrettably unable to be present.


Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.

In the name + of Jesus.

     I was told that this verse was Walter Trapp’s confirmation verse.  My personal contact with Walt was pretty limited, but the people I have spoken to over the past week or so have been unanimous in their praise for Walt’s faithfulness to the Lord.  His credentials include such things as Sunday School teacher, choir member, church council member, and founder of Huron Valley Lutheran High School.  Those are just his church activities.  He was also a loving husband, devoted father, loyal soldier, baseball coach, and diligent worker.  Such a resume would make anyone confident about his faithfulness.
     When I had a chance to visit with Walt about a week ago, I asked him if anything was on his mind.  He said, “Yeah.  Death!”  I suppose anyone would have been thinking about death in those final moments—especially when you know that those are your final moments.  In those final moments, the devil can be hard at work to make you doubt your own place in the kingdom of God.  The Accuser accuses to the very end.  He does not have to make anything up, either.  He simply reminds you of the things you should have done which you didn’t, or the things you shouldn’t have done but you did.  When Walt was thinking of death, such plagues of guilt could easily have come to mind.
     Now, we have our verse to consider in the light of these things.  Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)  If Walt had focused on his own faithfulness, he would have been petrified.  Sure, he could have listed the good things he had done, but Satan would have reminded him of any bad things.  He does not need to make up sins against us.  He just accuses us of what we know to be true.
     Therefore, our hope and comfort are not in how good or noble or faithful we have been.  As fond as you are of Walt, as many accomplishments of his you can recite, and as many blessings as God gave you through him, we are saved neither by our own fondness or faithfulness.  Walter Trapp strove to be faithful, but he did not rest his faith on the part of the verse that commanded, “Be faithful.”  Rather, Walter Trapp trusted in the part of the verse which was Jesus’ promise to him: “I will give you the crown of life.”
     The reason Jesus can make such a promise is because the crown of life is his to give.  Jesus does not make empty promises.  Jesus had come to deliver Walt Trapp from all his sin.  Jesus did not come to earth flaunting a glorious crown.  Jesus assumed a crown of thorns for sinners.  Even though Jesus was without sin, he was vehemently accused and humbly accepted every charge of guilt that was laid upon him.  Even though he is the immortal God, Jesus laid down his life for us who deserve to die.  Even though the wages of sin is death and it is we who have earned our place in the grave, our righteous and innocent Lord died and was buried in a tomb.  But Jesus’ burial did not end in decay.  It ended in a resurrection to glorious and everlasting life.  Jesus has paid for sin, overthrown Satan, and conquered death.  Jesus has won the victory, and nothing and no one can take that away from him.  That is why he has the crown of life.  It is his, and so it is his to give.
     When Walter Trapp was baptized, Jesus personally marked Walt as his own.  He gave Walt all of these promises.  In other words, he gave Walter Trapp the crown of life.  Sins cannot condemn him; they are forgiven.  Satan cannot accuse him; Jesus’ words overrule anything Satan tries to say.  Not even death can truly harm Walter Trapp.  It may hold him for a moment, but Jesus has conquered death.  Jesus has not lost Walter at all—not to sin, not to Satan, and not to the grave.  Remember: Jesus is the victor.  Jesus possesses the crown of life.  He promised it to Walter when he was baptized, and Jesus does not make empty promises.
     Now, that crown does not appear just yet.  That victory does not even seem real.  Walt’s life and health and body got worse and weaker as these last few years passed.  And finally, Walt died.  But you must understand that the Lord Jesus has better plans for Walt.  You see, this body was mortal.  It was marked by sin.  It was susceptible to pain and disease and weakness and finally death. 
     But the Father who created us to be living body and soul people desires that we always be living body and soul people.  And the Son who became our flesh and blood Savior has redeemed our flesh and blood so that we do not belong to hell but to him.  And the Holy Spirit who has dwelt in Walt from the day of his baptism has not failed him now.  Not even death separates him from the love of God.  This Triune God into whom Walt was baptized will raise him up from his grave.  St. Paul reminds us in his great resurrection chapter, 1 Corinthians 15, “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.  But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.  …  The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power…  And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 42-43, 49)
    Walter Trapp is no ghost.  He is a body and soul man who was pleased to serve his Lord for his 82 years.  He will be raised from the dead and will be a body and soul man who will be pleased to serve the Lord—without pain, without fear, without problems, without tears, and without end. 
    The Lord will give Walter Trapp the crown of life.  It is the victorious crown of one who has conquered even death to live forever.  In the meantime, Walt’s soul already enjoys the peace of heaven.  Oh, and guess what!  Walt is in choir again.  He gets to sing with the choirs of angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.  Oh, and guess what!  Walt is taking holy communion again.  He gets to celebrate the wedding feast of the Lamb, not for a moment but forever.  Oh, and guess what!  Walt no longer will have to depart in peace.  He is already at everlasting peace; for the Lord has given him the crown of life.

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