In Memoriam + Juan David Castaneda 1987-2007+
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Juan David loved cars. They were all the things that he was not in his last year, powerful, strong, and free. His desire was to be out of those hospital walls, on the road, to feel the engine’s vibration under his feet, the wind in his hair, and to race across this country. But it was not to be. He came up like a flower and was cut down, denied his fast cars, marriage, his own children and house. Today we bury his future as much as his past. We bury what he might have been and we are the poorer for it. He was a gentle soul, with a quiet smile, a soft touch and now we must carry on without him. His laughter will not sound among us again, and our sorrow will not soon be removed.
But there is mercy here. For while we are sad, Juan is not. He has come early to his reward. He suffered much but has also been spared much. He will never be fired from a job. He will never have his heart broken by a girl or his children. He will never endure the shame of having a car repossessed. Most significantly, he will never bury his own children. His sadness and his pain, great as they were, have now come to an end. God has brought Juan into his nearer presence, to the place where He will make him whole in body and soul, to the place of enduring beauty, joy, and peace. You are sad and you miss him. But Juan is not sad. He is with Jesus. He is happy and he is free: no hospitals, no thin gowns, no Ivs, no bruises, no infections, no prejudice, no poverty, no cancer, no pain, no walls. Juan is powerful, strong, and free. He is with Jesus, right where He wanted to be. He is happy and full and good at last.
The ways of God are not our ways, nor are His thoughts our thoughts. Cancer and death are evil. Juan, by the grace of God in Christ, was good. Many evil people seem to flourish in this world, while Juan was called to suffer and to die. It is not fair, and it is not right. But God is good, and His mercy endures forever. We do not know why God asked Juan to suffer so, or why Genoveva and Daniel must suffer so now. But we do know that God chastens those whom He loves and He keeps us close to Himself through suffering. Jesus carried a cross and died young. Juan has gone the way of God, the way of Jesus. God would not allow him to be corrupted by this world, to become distracted by cars or girls or money. He loved him too much for that. He kept Juan aware of his need for grace, ever close to the promise of Holy Baptism, dependent upon help from heaven. Juan was not allowed to make the mistake of thinking he could make it on his own. In this, he was wise in the ways of God, and that wisdom has been rewarded.
Therefore we do not mourn as those who have no hope. You are sad and deeply hurt, but you have hope. For Juan is not dead. Jesus lives, and so does Juan. He cannot come back to you, but you can go to him. You can follow him to heaven. If you believe in Jesus Christ, if you trust in the forgiving love of His sacrifice on the cross, if you wait upon His grace, you too will go to God. You cannot make it on your own. But Jesus died also for you. You can go to Juan. You can see him again, hold him and kiss him and hear him and be with him again. You can be with Jesus.
The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord. He is good. His mercy endures forever. He knows what He is doing. His Son did not die in vain and did not stay dead. Jesus rose. Juan did not die in vain either. He was a blessing to all those who knew him. Now he has shown us the way to heaven, the way of submitting to God’s will and trusting in God’s goodness. Juan will rise. His soul now lives in heaven, but on the last day God will raise his body and perfect it. He is not dead, he only sleeps. He is with Jesus. May God in His mercy make us all so free and bring us to the same fate.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Pastor David Petersen