A Lutheran Says What?

Sermons and random thoughts on God, the world and the intersection of the two

Never Afraid to Love Sermon for Frank Elwart July 21, 2021

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We celebrated the life and baptismal journey of Frank Joseph Elwart on Saturday, July 17, 2021
The texts were: Psalm 121, Romans 8: 31-35, 37-39, 1 John 4: 7-19

Frank Joseph Elwart was born on September 3, 1939 to Frank and Josephine Elwart in Chicago, IL, his kind of town. He was so proud of being from Chicago! He loved to tell stories of living in Chicago, and well if we’re honest, Frank just loved to tell stories! And he was a gifted story teller who told it like it was, he never sugar coated anything and yet always had you laughing. That is truly a talent. And you always knew where you stood with Frank. I loved that about him right away! Anyone who starts teasing me from the moment we meet, is my kind of person. Frank was a person who didn’t take himself too seriously, didn’t try to put on a façade, a person who embrace who he was and will fully embrace who you are, imperfections and all. One of Franks requests for his memorial service is that it told the truth of his life. He didn’t want anyone standing up and pontificating on how perfectly wonderful he was all the time. He had a word for that, and I won’t repeat it here, but come see me during the reception.
Frank understood that he wasn’t perfect, that you’re not perfect, and life isn’t perfect. Since he understood this, he didn’t try to push a square peg into a round hole and I think it’s what made him so joyful. He had let go of falsehoods of perfection that most of us, or me anyway, hold onto and make ourselves miserable trying to attain. He didn’t seem to harbor much fear about anything either. Even the morning before he died, he and I were sitting and chatting, he was jovial and yes, regaling me with stories. He knew his death was coming, maybe not how soon, but he wasn’t afraid. He wasn’t looking for a perfect ending, just an honest one. Frank was confident not in his own abilities, but in God’s. Frank knew that God’s perfect love was enough for him, it would be enough for Robin, Jeff, Kim and Anne, grandchildren and greatgrandchildren in their grief and it’s enough for us all.

A perfect life might be what we all dream about and strive to attain in some way. And we all have different visions and perspectives on what perfection might be like for us. But the writer of 1 John wants the people in the community to know what truly makes for a perfect life: living, abiding, in the love of God through Jesus Christ with each other. This love is the love that Frank lived his whole life, it’s love that sustains us and promises to never leave us. God understands that we do occasionally fear, and it’s ok to fear, and yet God says don’t allow fear to overcome love and hold you captive. Frank never let fear hold him captive; he always let love lead him. He might have been afraid a time or two, but he lived deeply in a love that cast his fear where it belonged, not in control. He trusted in God to watch his going out and coming in. Frank loved fully without fear, whether that was his family, his friends, his church, or his beloved sports teams.

Frank abided in this perfect love, love that now makes him perfectly whole in the life of God. Frank now claims his baptismal promise that God’s love grasps him now and forever and grasps each of us too, all the time. We abide in this love that Jesus perfected in being human, in suffering, and in death. Love that is honest about what matters, love that demands more from us, love that brings joy; love that we share with one another. Love that can’t be conquered by fear, death, division or the world. Love that always comes to us, again and again. This love never ends, and so our love for Frank and his love of us, never ends. This is the promise that each day we proclaim, not perfectly, but boldly. We love, because God first loved us. Amen.

 

A Keen Eye A Sermon for Richard Weber August 14, 2020

Richard’s service was held on the west lawn of OSLC on August 14. It can be viewed on our YouTube Channel Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.

The texts were:
Psalm 121
Psalm 46
John 14: 1-7

Grace and peace to you from God the maker of heaven and earth, Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth and the life and the Holy Spirit, who makes us one, amen.

Richard Herrmann Weber, born in Chicago, Illinois on October 7, 1947 to Heinrich and Sofie Weber and big brother Hank, was a man who had a keen eye for many things throughout his life. He saw the normal ups and downs of childhood and youth, the joy and sorrows that come from relationships, and the peaks and valleys of adulthood and career. Rich would see what was important and then go do it. Rich’s educational accomplishments, including degrees in social work, education and a PHD in clinical psychology, led to his vocational life of service in the Air Force and then in the Utah State Dept of Corrections. In these experiences, Rich saw a diversity of people and situations through his vocational choices and saw how he could accompany people on their journeys. Rich had an eye for how his presence with people mattered and Rich’s ability to see what was truly important, to see beyond the current situation to the bigger picture was a rare gift. Rich’s gift of insight is exemplified in a few ways, such as he had an eye for well-tailored and nice clothing. He could put together an outfit and tended to be quite dapper. And his good eye was fortuitous, as one day while with a friend, he noticed Marti as she sat by the pool where she was living. The friend, as I’m told, was a bit, shall we say, ungentlemanly and Rich saw that. He apologized to Marti for his friend, and Marti could see that this Rich fellow was different than others. And the rest we say is a beautiful 38 plus year history.
I know from my conversations with Rich, that what he treasured most was seeing his family, his children, Ashley and Justin and his grandchildren Bradley and Maxwell. For Rich, his family was his favorite vision.

Rich loved viewing God’s creation too. The family chose psalm 121 and 46 today because of Rich’s deep love for nature, for animals and everything that God created. Rich had an eye for the hand and the love of his creator in the natural world around him, and this setting today out here on our west lawn where we sit under the trees in view of the Wasatch front is testimony to Rich’s vision. Rich’s faith and trust in God was evident and anyone who knew Rich not only saw this faith and trust but saw God in Rich too. Jesus in our Gospel reading is clear that we have all seen God because we have seen Jesus and so our hearts don’t need to be troubled. Rich saw Jesus in the people around him, in his environment and in all aspects of his surroundings. When Rich’s heart would from time to time be troubled, whether it was concern for his family, or his own health challenges or issues in our society and world, Rich also spoke of where he saw Jesus, in his family, in his OSLC family and friends.

Jesus states in our gospel that seeing is trusting. Jesus knows the importance for us of the concrete reminders of God’s presence with us. The writer of psalm 46, the basis for Martin Luther’s famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, one of Rich’s favorites that we’ll hear in a moment, calls out that God is our refuge and our strength and our very help in times of trouble. And in Psalm 121, we can trust that when we look at the hills as Rich did, and we see what Rich saw: the handiwork of our creator God, who never sleeps but will keep watch over us and protect us when life is difficult. Essentially, God keeps an eye on us. Jesus knew these psalms too and calls us to see God’s presence all around us, and especially in one another. We know that God’s protection and care doesn’t mean that we aren’t spared from suffering and hardships but that we are never alone in those situations. We know that not only do we see God but God sees us. Rich trusted and knew that the promise is that God had a loving eye on him and us all, always. And we are to see the world how God sees the world, through the lens of love. This was a comfort for Rich and it is a comfort for us who now mourn Rich’s death and absence from our lives. In the coming weeks, months and years, we will see the promises of God through Jesus in each other, as we together we go forward. We rest in the comfort that God has an eye on our tears, our broken hearts and holds us just the way we are.
 And just as we saw Jesus in our brother in Christ, Rich, other people will see Jesus in us. We can witness to the love, grace and mercy of God who is our keeper, our refuge, who has prepared a room, a forever home for us and for all, who keeps our life right here, right now and in eternity through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is the promise that Rich now claims and that is the promise for us today. We honor the love and witness of Rich’s faith, and show that same love and witness to others. We can keep an eye on each other as Christ commands us.

Like Rich, we have an eye for the promises of God all around us, we see Rich’s legacy of love and faith that he generously shared with us, we see that this love never ends and we see the hope that God  pours out to us each day. We trust, as Rich did, that God does keep an eye on us, loves us and that “The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.” Thanks be to God.