Funeral of Paul W. Wendelin

In Memoriam +Paul W. Wendelin 1930-2016 +
May 21, 2016 A+D
Matthew 11:28

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

Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” was one of Luther’s favorite passages. He quotes it a lot. The passage sums up what Christ offers to sinners. He offers Himself. He is rest for the weary, health for the sick, and forgiveness for sinners.

Paul was weary. His body was failing. Whose isn’t? The truth is we are all racing toward death and none of us gets better. We live in a culture terrified of death, obsessed with health, prone to fad diets and charlatans and ever questing for a magic pill. Paul’s body betrayed him. It threatened his dignity. It refused to do what he asked of it. Not just in the last 2 weeks of his earthly life, but in the last 60 of 86 and not more.

“Come to Me, ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Some of that rest is rest from pain, rest from labor, rest from sickeness.

If Paul wearied of the bachelor life, he never let on to me. He did have a special widow friend we lost a year ago. I know that hurt. So did other deaths. He was weary of outliving people that he loved.

“Come to Me, ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Part of that rest is relief from sorrow, from mourning.

Paul was weary also of the terrible crimes of man. Like everyone over 15 he was concerned about the direction of the world. He wasn’t a post-modern, but he had the sense to know that modernism had failed. The world has not progressed and gotten better. The ideals of his youth, the hope of democracy, and the great American Dream have failed. The world is not a safer place with fewer dictators and less genocide. Poverty hasn’t ended. Crime is on the rise. The middle class is being destroyed. Sin in the form of lust and greed and malice is evident wherever we look and Paul found much discouragement in the evening news.

“Come to Me, ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

That rest includes rest from injustice, missed opportunities, and wasted efforts toward the good of all.

Paul also had his own sins to face – the wearying array of not living up to his own standards let alone God’s standards. His sins seemed rather small from the outside.  What harm could gentle Paul do to his neighbor? None, it seemed.

In my hearing he worried about sins of omission, that is what he wasn’t doing, what he was afraid to do, and he lived with some regret about past failures to act. We should dismiss the weight of his conscience because he sins seem small to us. That is arrogant. He was eccentric not perfect and his sins, like his loneliness and fears, even if they were different than yours, were real. He knew better than most of us that the wages of sin, no matter how small the sin, is death. He knew the doubts in his heart, the jealousies and grudges that he harbored, and the secret fears that he had. They wearied him and unlike his other weariness this came from within and could not be blamed on anyone else. This weariness carried accusation and death.

“Come to Me, ye who are labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Paul was weary. So he came to Jesus for rest – not just rest from pain and labor and injustice, but rest even from himself, from the Law’s accusations, from his guilt and shame and regret, from the need to be good or take care of others or to try hard. Jesus says, “Come to Me, ye who are weary, and I will give you rest.”

The idea of rest is theologically significant. The words Sabbath, the Hebrew word for Saturday, means to cease or to rest. Only the God of Christianity gives a command to stop, to cease from labor, to rest. Only the God of Christianity, the God who gave His Son for the life of the world, demands that we worship Him not by doing but by receiving. The Sabbath day worship was a foreshadowing of eternal life. It was fulfilled by Christ. He finished the new creation on the 6th day, on Friday, by accepting the Law’s punishments for our sins unto death. Then He rested in the tomb on the 7th day, on Saturday, for the final Sabbath. When He rose on Sunday it was the dawning of the new creation and days stopped counting. He is now the new Sabbath, the place of rest for the weary, for He has given His life as a ransom and atonement to take away the sins of the world and receive sinners.

Paul came for that rest. He came to Jesus. He didn’t sit in his room and wait for Jesus. He didn’t imagine that he could find Jesus on the fishing pond. Even his music wasn’t enough, even when it was, as it usually was, sacred music. Paul wanted the rest that comes from being where Jesus has promised to be. Jesus is everywhere even in the fire, but if you put your hand in the fire you will not be healed. You will be burnt. “Come to Me,” says Jesus. So Paul came to the places where Jesus had promised to be for him, where Jesus had promised to be his God and his rest. He came to Church. There he heard the Scriptures, in word and song, he was continually and newly absolved, he ate and drank the risen Body and Blood of Jesus in the Holy Communion, he joined his prayer to his brothers and sisters, he renewed his baptism by repentance and new birth, and he enjoyed the mutual consolation and conversation of the brethren – and, oh boy, did he enjoy the conversing part!

Paul was a model Christian, an example of the faith that has been handed to us, not because he seemed nice, because his sins seemed small, but because he sought rest in Christ where Christ had promised to give it. In this Paul lived well in this he died well. He leaves no great legacy on earth, but precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. May He grant us all the grace to follow Paul through this life and into the next and to remain ever where Jesus promises to be.

“Come to Me, ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

 

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

 

 

NOT USED:

I Walk in Danger All the Way is a simple hymn. It is almost a child’s hymn, a lullaby, yet, without being trite or cutesy, it confesses the danger we are surrounded by, our nearly inevitable death, and at the same time our complete safety in Christ.

The first three stanzas are law. The first is simply I walk in danger all the way. I am surrounded by danger. It is all around me, all the time. Satan has marked me. He is watching me. He hates me and is hunting me. So I watch and pray in accord with Christ’s command.

The second stanza continues the theme: “I pass through trials all the way.” Sins and ills and adversity are contending to destroy me. On my own, I know not where to flee. Then the third stanza names the real enemy. “Death pursues me all the way. Nowhere I rest securely.” Day or night he can take me, young or old, ready or not, there is no escape. Barring Our Lord’s return, we will all die, as Paul has died.

Then we get to the Gospel. The fourth stanza begins: “I walk with angels all the way. They shield me and befriend me. All Satan’s pow’r is held at bay when heavenly hosts attend me; they are my sure defense, all fear and sorrow, hence! Unharmed by foes, do what they may, I walk with angels all the way.” This is a direct address to the first stanza. Angels are sent to protect us against demonic dangers for the sake of Christ.

Then the fifth: “I walk with Jesus all the way. His guidance never fails me. Within His wounds I find a stay when Satan’s power assails me; And by His footsteps led, My path I safely tread. No evil leads my soul astray. I walk with Jesus all the way.” This answers the second stanza. Jesus frees us from our sins. He delivers us from temptation and trials, and brings us safely home.

Finally the sixth: “My walk is heavenward all the way; Await, my soul, the morrow, When God’s good healing shall allay all suffering, sin, and sorrow. Then, worldly pomp, begone! To heaven I now press on. For all the world I would not stay, My walk is heavenward all the way.”

This directly address the 3rd stanza, the ultimate enemy. Yes, we die, as Paul has died, but it is not in vain and it is not the end. Though he surely loved you, for all the world, Paul would not stay but was ready, eager to go to his reward, eager for the rest that he had been promised.

Death is unnatural. We weren’t meant to die. We were created to live. We only die because of sin. So the antidote to death is forgiveness. Where this is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. Paul had that forgiveness. He was baptized into Christ. He heard the Word of Christ in the Scriptures. He received Christ’s risen Body and Blood and He confessed Christ. He was forgiven, yet he died.

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