Amen. Amen. The Sermon for the Funeral of Pastor Paul B. McCain
We were served a rich feast of the Word of God and comforted with the powerful Gospel of Christ during my father’s funeral yesterday. Here is the sermon presented by Pastor David Reed. I’ve provided the text below and also supply the Word file here as well: Download amen_amen_dads_funeral_sermon.doc
Burial of the Christian Dead
Sermon for the funeral of Rev. Paul B. McCain
Tuesday, July 10, 2007 Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Saginaw, Michigan
Amen, Amen (Revelation 7:9-17)
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
And they cried out in a loud voice:
"Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."
All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:
"Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!"
Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes– who are they, and where did they come from?"
I answered, "Sir, you know."
And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore,
"they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
Beloved in Christ; friends, saints of God here in the family of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Pastor Korte, Pastor Buckhahn, colleagues in teaching ministry who have so long been the right hand for the office of the ministry (among whom Pastor McCain served also many years as a Lutheran teacher), and brother pastors in service to Christ as co-workers in the Kingdom —but especially you, dear Jean, and your fine family; Paul Timothy and Lynn with your children, Paul, John, and Mary, and Philip and Brenda and also your children, Jennifer and Philip—all of you, your grandfather’s pride and joy. Peace to you all in the beautiful name of Jesus Christ, the resurrected One.
“Amen.” Is it not usually the last word? Amen. For Scripture it is equally often the first. Amen. Thousands of times we have uttered it: this Amen. Ten thousands of times it is sung. The cry "Amen" is pure acclamation. It’s echoes will surely not end: because Amen is sheer affirmation. Amen. Time and time again it flanks great confessions. It punctuates and confirms. In heaven, “Amen” is the couplet which links praise upon praise. It says; This is sure, settled and steadfast. Amen and amen. "Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!"
We are here to sing an "Amen" today, an affirmation of what is utterly sound and unconditionally true. Paul Burdette McCain is today firmly and surely in the eternal presence and light of Christ Jesus, our Lord. He is with Christ in heaven, before the throne, and before the Lamb. Amen!
I’m afraid I haven’t a clue from these words of St. John where heaven is exactly, but I do know this: any part of the Father’s house is home to his children. Heaven is home, and Paul is home. Amen!
Jean, Phil, and Paul, and all your family; all the barricades for Paul have come down. All the former constraints laid upon your dad—they are now disabled. The fearful frontier is behind. This earth has given up its custody, and all its boundaries are broken. All the impediments have been removed, every one of them, and there is no upper limit to our “amens.”
Our understanding from these words of the Revelation is that heaven’s own census of saints and angels has overflowed beyond all counting. The hymn of God’s praise also knows no limits, no boundaries, an endless adoration of the God who has gathered from every corner of the earth His redeemed people through Jesus Christ. And not only the host of heaven and their limitless praise, but time too has slipped its bounds for God’s glory, wisdom, strength and honor, are ages upon ages, ever and forever. The veil and precinct of our senses and the limitations of earth no longer obstruct Paul’s sight or cripple his service. He is forever with our God where he has wished and longed to be.
None of us can really know the kind of affliction that Pastor McCain went through, particularly in the last weeks of his life. But by the grace of God and through the Spirit of Christ Jesus he endured to the end, and the glory he has already known just since Friday is of greater caliber and of vast dimensions more than all that suffering put together. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Thankfully all that distress was to last only for a time. Now, according to God’s own promise there will never again be hunger, thirst, parched fever, or sorrow, and most of all, no more blame or condemnation, no more sin and dying. And because of that, some have said perhaps this then is the tenderest little sentence in the whole Bible, "The Lamb will be their shepherd … and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
God in Christ Jesus is our great Savior, the Deliverer of his people. Don’t think for a moment that death is the victor today or that Paul is just fortunate to escape. Paul didn’t escape. He conquered! Salvation is conquest, not retreat. God doesn’t just finally spare us more trouble and suffering. He brings us triumphantly through it.
Ours as Christians, you see, is nothing short of victory. The white robe and palms in this heavenly picture are signs of the mastery and triumph which is ours through Christ who vanquished cross and crucifixion in Easter jubilation. It is God by His resurrected Son who brings his children through their trials and distresses, and it’s His glory which they now share. Robed in white they are without fault before the throne of God. The struggle is over. The conflict ended. The victory won. The barricades of separation brought about by the sin and confusion of earth is done away in Christ. Even the barrier caused by the diversity of tongues has ceased in the universal "Amen." And in the immediate presence of God and the Lamb, life’s poor distinctions of class or color or age or success disappear forever. Paul is home, and with the church triumphant he joins in triumphant "Amen."
That’s where Paul is now, in the pure presence of our Lord. You’ll no longer find him struggling here in this shamed and contemptible world. You won’t find him in his tomb. His remains await the glorious day of restoration when incorruptible and recreated flesh will be reunited with soul and spirit in the resurrection. But you won’t find Paul here any longer. You won’t find him in confrontation with temptation, and you most certainly will not find him among the dead. "Why," the angels asked the women on Easter morning, "do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here." Such is true not only of the Savior but of the saved.
It’s not a comfort, you know, to say Paul is still here with us. We aren’t among the many who endeavor to comfort themselves with sentiment that at least a loved one still lives on in our memory or is still here with us—if only in spirit. Nonsense. Paul is in paradise! We are still here, and our comfort is that Jesus is still here with us and that Pastor Paul McCain is not the last, but only the latest of God’s own children to be carried home.
The boundaries are down. He is not confined to your memory. Paul is not going to live on just as long as somebody remembers him, because it won’t be long before that memory is lost in this world. Those of us who know and love him will soon follow when the perishable is left behind. So you and I don’t have to fish around for some maudlin or emotional crutch. We have the immaculate consolation of our Lord. We have the Amen Himself, Christ, the Life.
The entire company of heaven with their faces before the throne cry, "Amen…Amen." St. John really gives us marvelous sight into the consummate rejoicing and new life of enraptured adoration in that life of perpetual worship. Pastor McCain is living testimony that God’s people, through Christ, endure to the end with rejoicing. His faith was never debilitated as the body became weaker. His trust became stronger because the center and source, the sacredness and substance of his life since the day of his baptism has always been the Lamb. It is the Lamb to whom our salvation belongs. It is the Lamb we adore and praise today. It is the Lamb of God to whom we are gathered. It is the Lamb who shepherded the children in Paul’s classroom over those many years he served as a teacher of the faith. It is the Lamb who was distributed to God’s people as Pastor Paul McCain brought Word and Sacrament to the saints through the office of the Holy Ministry. It is the Lamb who must and will forever receive our thanksgiving and service. The atoning sacrifice of the Lamb, the Lord Jesus, availed for Paul, as it does for all of us too. The cleansing excellence of our Savior’s grace purifies all who by faith have washed their robes in His blood.
Understand that St. John’s aim in sharing with us this revelation of heaven was that we might have unyielding courage in the face of a tribulation which is still raging in this world below. We are in the minority, you know—we Christians. Most funerals are lifeless observances shrouded with grief that knows no hope. But not this one! Sure, we know what sorrow is. We miss him. And the dry rattle of Satan’s death band threatens to stir our anxieties. Grown men do cry. We’re aware of our own weaknesses. Paul wasn’t the only unsteady one among us, and if his tremblings and illness taught us anything it is that as sinful people we have our limits, and they are usually pretty obvious. For us, the great trial is not yet over. The new heaven and the new earth are not quite yet in view. It is not just the McCain family now– but the whole Church of God itself is still a divided one, part on earth and part in heaven (yet never truly divided for we are one body in Christ). But let us be supremely thankful to our Lord Jesus that we are permitted to see and believe the blessedness we know through Christ. Ours is the life begun and secured here in the Gospel of Jesus Christ which will ripen into its full bloom in another world.
We say, "Amen" today; not a signal for leaving off, not the announcement that you can now go back to things of greater interest than worship and heaven gazing. Not the end of a book which says there is no more to come, but the great Amen which is one of the names of our Savior Himself. It signifies that He can be trusted, and the meaning is always the same: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
God’s promises are always yes and amen in Jesus Christ. And if He is "The Amen" of our prayers and service as He was and is the Amen of Paul’s life, then He will make real that which only our God, the truly gracious God can do …. spread his tent over his children, shepherd his sheep home to the fold, and wipe away every tear from our eyes.
And when at length life’s journey is done, and the shadows of our earthly days deepen into night, when our hope and trust is in Him who is "The Amen," then amid the shadows and the night we shall see him coming to us according to his Word, and so he would come; and our last word shall be, "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus, that we too (with Paul) shall your glory see."
Thine the amen, Thine the praise, Alleluias angels raise ….
Thine the banquet, then the praise Then the justice of Thy ways
Thine the glory, Thine the story, Then the welcome to the least
Then the wonder all increasing at Thy feast at Thy feast.
Thine the glory in the night No more dying only light
Thine the rive,r Thine the tree Then the Lamb eternally
Then the holy holy holy Celebration jubilee
Thine the splendor, Thine the brightness only Thee only Thee.
- Excerpted from LSB 680 Brokering / Schalk
Amen. Amen. So it is. So it shall be. Amen. Amen.
Rev. David H. Reed
Grace Lutheran Church, Auburn, Michigan