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Aspiring Future Pastors: Here is How You Preach a Funeral Sermon

November 9th, 2009
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I’ve heard it said over the years that “Lutherans do not give eulogies” at funerals. Baloney! Of course they do, but it is how they do it that sets apart a genuine Christian funeral sermon from one of those syrupy-sweat, empty eulogies the world is used to, and desires and craves. Here’s a post for seminarians reading this blog site. You want to learn how to preach a funeral sermon? Just read Pastor Weedon’s funeral sermons. Tremendous. Keep in mind Pastor Weedon knows very well the person about whom he is preaching in sermons like this. He has been their father in Christ for many years. He knows his sheep, and knows Whose voice his sheep have heard through the years. He would be the first to tell you that you would never want to preach with such assurance of a person’s salvation unless you, as a pastor, were clear in you own mind about their public confession. So, enjoy this sermon. Do yourself and your future hearers a favor: do not turn a funeral sermon into an abstract dissertation on the doctrine of death, or heaven, or otherwise. Preach to the hurting hearts, and point those hearts to the Healing Physician, Christ Jesus, the Crucified and Risen One, the One who conquered death, for us, by His death, and wins life, for us, through His life. If they are not teaching you to preach this way at funerals, then I suggest you learn from faithful pastors like Pastor Weedon.Why? Because he knows how to preach a deeply personal, practical, meaningful, Christ-centered sermon at the death of one of the Lord’s saints. And you can, and will, by God’s grace, do the same thing!

[Job 19:23-27; Romans 8:31-39; Matthew 6:7-15]

Dear Clara, Donna and Robert, Joyce and Daniel, Lynn, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, family and friends of Roy Henkhaus, there are ultimately only two paths in life. Either you live your life praying: “Thy will be done” and so know the peace of God or you live your life praying: “My will be done” and so in constant fretting and anxiety. I do not need to tell you which way Roy lived, do I? His rather unshakable calm witnesses all by itself to the path he pursued.

His godly parents set him upon that path on the day when he was baptized at the ripe age of 12 days old. His parents brought him to old St. Paul’s and the water was poured over him in der namen des Vaters und des Sohns und des Heiligen Geistes. Amen! That day he was born anew into God’s family, his sins forgiven for his whole life long, the promise of eternal life given to him, and he was put on the path of those who learn to deny their own wills and to pray that God’s good and gracious will be done in their lives, in the lives of their family and friends, and of this world.

He walked that path through many joys and many sorrows. Of the joys, certainly of the brightest for him was that amazing Clara Lienemann agreed to go with him on that first date – and ever after he was happy to show his lucky $2 bill and share the story. It was always in his wallet – one of the most romantic gestures I could imagine. He rejoiced that in praying for God’s will to be done, God provided him with a wife and companion to walk the way and share with him all the ups and down. And well did the vacancy pastor here at St. Paul at the time of your marriage, Clara, remind you both of the Our Father and teach you that this prayer would guide your marriage in the ways of the Lord, so that together you learned to deny your own wills and to pray for God’s good and gracious will to be done – even when you pray that prayer with tears.

And tears there were a plenty. The tragic and sad loss of brother Allen and later of Harry and Earl; the unspeakable sadness of Terry’s untimely death; the horrific thanksgiving morning when news came of Jennifer’s accident. The sorrows mount in this life, and you either face them with praying “Thy will be done” and so finally come to peace, or you lose all peace as you rage that your will wasn’t done, that your plans were shattered, your hopes and dreams destroyed. Roy walked the way of peace. It wasn’t about his plans or dreams; it was about the Lord’s will and purposes.

But it wasn’t all sorrow – the Lord’s ways never are. There was also joy unspeakable. For Roy, YOU were his unspeakable joy – his wife, his children and grandchildren and great grandchildren -each of you he counted an undeserved and wondrous blessing from God. And so the peace that you could see on his face – even when his face had streams of tears running down it. In the end, his tears were for you, for he hated to leave you, but he knew that it wasn’t a forever farewell. It was only “till we see each other again.”

You see, he knew what old Job confessed. That we have a Redeemer. That in the end He WILL stand again upon this earth. That though our flesh is destroyed, yet in that flesh we shall see God whom our very eyes shall behold and not another. It’s a day when all that has been wrong is set right. To believe and hope for that day and its arrival is live in peace – and when a child of God prays: “Thy will be done” as in the Lord’s Prayer he is praying to see that day of Resurrection.

But there is another factor in walking that way, and that is remembering that there is nothing, absolutely nothing you will ever face in this world that can deprive you of the love God has shown you in Jesus Christ. No one, I don’t believe, can come to pray “thy will be done” until they’ve realized that no matter how painful the crosses the Lord may see fit to send us, they all come from One who loves us more deeply than words can ever begin to tell, a God who is determined that the life we’ve tasted in His Son is a life we shall never lose, a God whose ultimate will for us is that we share His own eternal blessedness.

It was in the confidence of that love that Roy could and did pray the Our Father and it is in the confidence of that love that he was granted the fullness of what he prayed for his whole life from that moment when the pastor laid hands on him and prayed Vater unser der du bist im Hmmel until that moment when his eyes were closed to this age and he saw God’s kingdom – all the saints and the angels, his brothers, his son, his granddaughter, his parents – all the saints gathered around the throne, and all praising the holy name and asking that God’s good, gracious and perfect will continue to be done on earth as they taste it even now in heaven. The moment when he was at last delivered finally from all the evils of this age, and now he waits with them the even greater glory of resurrection morning.

But for you who still are on pilgrimage, from whose eyes the tears have not yet been wiped away, how better can you honor and remember your Roy than by becoming one with him in his praying the Our Father, especially asking that God’s will be done in your life, not your own will, not your own plans, not your own ways, but His will and His will alone, the will of Him who has loved you in His Son with an everlasting love and promised you through His Son’s death on your behalf a share in that life which death will never be able to take from you? Amen.

Roy H. Henkhaus, age 85, of Hamel, died at 9:25 p.m., on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2009, at Hitz Memorial Home in Alhambra. He was born on May 27, 1924, in Alhambra, the son of the late Edward E. and Sophie A. Henke Henkhaus. He married Clara L. Lienemann on May 2, 1948, at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel. She survives.

Along with his wife, he is survived by two daughters: Donna K. and husband Robert Zerrusen of Vandalia and Joyce A. and husband Daniel Newby of Glen Carbon; daughter-in-law: Lynn Henkhaus of Edwardsville; grandchildren: Eric and wife Tonya Rodgers, Todd and wife Dena Willeford, Daisy and husband Greg Zykan, Angela Henkhaus, Megan Newby and Brooks Newby; great grandchildren: Madalyn Rodgers, Parker Rodgers, Gage Zykan, Luke Zykan and Hayden Willeford; a brother: Ted and wife Velma Henkhaus of Alhambra; sister: Ruth Kelley of Alhambra; and sisters-in-law: Irma Henkhaus of Hamel and Verna Henkhaus of Staunton.

Along with his parents, he is preceded in death by a son: Terry Lee Henkhaus, who preceded on Aug. 24, 1985; brothers: Earl Henkhaus, Harry Henkhaus, who preceded April, 1987, and Allen Henkhaus, who preceded in 1948; brother-in-law: Samuel Kelley; and grandchild: Jennifer Willeford, who preceded on Nov., 1993.

Roy was born in Alhambra Township on the family farm. He attended West School, St. Paul Lutheran School and Suhre School. He worked as a farm hand and entered the U.S. Army from 1946-1947. After his service he worked at US Radiator in Edwardsville and then drove a truck in St. Louis for American Car and Foundry. He became a full-time farmer and retired in 1992, selling the farm and equipment and moving into Hamel. His memberships include St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel, former member of the Madison County Farm Bureau and Farm Bureau Senior Club.

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Categories: Sermons
  1. November 9th, 2009 at 16:43 | #1

    A year at Hamel was the best homiletics instruction I ever received, particularly in preaching for funerals. I couldn’t have written this sermon (for example) without listening to Weedon’s sermons:

    http://chaz-lehmann.livejournal.com/765981.html

    All my funeral homilies have been influenced by listening to Weedon.

  2. A Poor Maggot Sack
    November 9th, 2009 at 18:10 | #2

    You mention “public confession.” What about someone’s “private confession?”

    McCain response: Thanks for the comment. Can you elaborate? I don’t understand your question.

  3. Bad Ice
    November 9th, 2009 at 19:23 | #3

    I appreciate that kind of funeral sermon.

    I wonder if Weedon reads the obit. I gave it up since it sounded really weird to say “J Doe is survived by her sister Annabelle(and Annabelle’s special Bill) Are Annabelle and Bill engaged? Living together? Just friends for the mentioning? Is Bill a pet?

    Plus that most people have read the obit in the paper and prior to the service.

  4. November 10th, 2009 at 14:07 | #4

    Pr. Weedon does read the obit at the end of the homily. I haven’t adopted that practice.

  5. Susan Robbins
    November 11th, 2009 at 10:54 | #5

    Doesn’t the ‘public confession’ refer not to the confession of sins (as in private confession), but to one’s public confession of the faith? And that confession made not only through faithful attendance to the preaching of the word, participation in the liturgy, and partaking of the sacraments, but of one’s life lived within that confession: in one’s vocation, as husband, father, church member, laborer, etc.? (That is, wherever one finds oneself within the world)

    McCain response: Spot-on correct, Susan.

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