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A Funeral Sermon for Bob Carlson. August 13, 2022

August 29, 2022

I was blessed to preach and preside at the funeral of Bob Carlson on Saturday, August 13, 2022. You can view the service and the bulletin. Rest eternal grant Bob, O Lord; and let light perpetual shine upon him.

Barbara, Bob, Bill, Brian; family and friends; sisters and brothers in Christ, grace be unto you and peace in the name God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

  1. Starting on that September day 89 years ago, Bob was blessed to see a great many things during his life. Accustomed to the big city of Chicago, the sights of small-town Northfield must have been a wonder. But if Carleton seemed like a different world, it was nothing compared to Japan, where Bob would have seen the sun-dappled Pacific from the air, and where he met so many people who would shape his life for years to come. Bob’s loving gaze found a match in Barbara’s eyes, and together they looked in wonder as four sons were born into this world; together, through tear-stained eyes, they said farewell to Brad, taken from them far too soon. As the years passed, Bob saw his children grow and, eventually, witnessed the arrival of grandchildren. He saw goodness knows how may Blackhawks and Cubs games. And he saw, always with Barbara, sitting right here, this space, week after week. Bob’s attendance at worship was faithful, if not downright stubborn during the last few years leading up to the pandemic. If Bob and Barbara could make it, they would, even with health challenges. And Sunday morning worship from Grace became must-see TV after they moved to Indiana, providing a much-needed connection to their family of faith. Bob saw a lot over 89 years. Today we mourn because Bob has been taken from our sight. But today we also rejoice, for the veil has been removed from Bob’s sight. Today, Bob clearly sees the salvation of the Lord.
  2. Luke tells us of another man who’d seen a great many things, save for the one needful thing. But Simeon hoped it wouldn’t be long; indeed, the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would see the arrival of the Lord’s Messiah before he died. I wonder what Simeon expected the Messiah to look like. A soldier? A scholar? A wild-eyed prophet? Instead, the Messiah arrives in the shape of a little bundle, a forty-day-old baby, brought to the Temple to be presented to the Lord. Whatever he thought he would see, Simeon recognizes Jesus for who he is right away. Without so much as a by-your-leave, he takes the baby from the parents. Cradling the salvation of the whole world in his arms, he praises now: “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation.” Whatever else we see along the way, we find peace when we behold Jesus, the Messiah we so desperately need in this sinful, dying world. Through Christ shines forth a light of glory and revelation for all people.
  3. Bob’s parents, not so unlike Joseph and Mary so long ago, brought Bob into the Lord’s presence. In the waters of baptism, Bob was claimed by God as his own. These waters would shape Bob for a lifetime of service, from the Boy Scouts of America to the United States Navy and beyond, Bob lived a life that saw beyond his own comforts and needs to the needs of those around him. I still remember the first significant conversation I had with Bob. Seven years ago, after giving me a week or two to settle in, Bob called and made an appointment. Yes, he wanted to introduce himself, but Bob didn’t want to talk about Bob. He wanted to talk about SAFER, an organization about whose work he was passionate and in which he was faithfully involved. Studying the Bible with incarcerated persons, Bob cared deeply about what happened to them when they were no longer incarcerated. Reentry is not easier however, and there are a great many obstacles and challenges along the way. Bob wanted to make sure that his new pastor was aware of this important ministry and how Grace had supported it in the past. By that point, Bob could have been taking life easy, enjoying the fruits of his labor in retirement. Instead, he used his time and treasure in service of others because that’s the person God shaped Bob to be.
  4. With Bob taken from our sight, we mourn. We grieve. That’s how it should be. But we also rejoice that after a lifetime of service, Bob now sees the Lord. By the grace that cancels his sins and yours, by the death that overcomes his death and yours, Bob has been redeemed. Having already died to sin and death in the waters of baptism, this death is now not the end, but rather the gateway to eternal life. And we, in our grief, are given visible signs of our Savior’s presence. In bread and wine, we cradle Jesus in our hands and receive his life-giving promise into our lives. Supported by one another, we continue to walk. Yes, for us in this life, faith is still the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. But we have seen enough to keep going, enough to know that God has more in store for us. That we, too, shall one day rise from death, eyes blinking in the light and glory of the Kingdom of God. Let us, like Bob and all the saints before us, look to God and live lives of service, until we, too, depart in peace in the presence of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Amen.

And now may that peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, this day and forever. Amen.

From → Sermons

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