Home > Funerals > All The World is God’s Own Field. Funeral Sermon Jan. 27, 2018. 1 Corinthians 15:20; John 20:1-18

All The World is God’s Own Field. Funeral Sermon Jan. 27, 2018. 1 Corinthians 15:20; John 20:1-18


rembrandt jesus resurrection gardener magdalene.PNGIn Memoriam + Harold Dhuse

St. Peter Lutheran Church

1 Corinthians 15:12-26, John 20:1-18

January 27, 2018

“All the World is God’s Own Field”

Iesu Iuva

 

Roger, Karyl,

Ryan, Alec, Kara,

Darlene, and all of Harold’s family,

His friends,

Members of his church, St. Peter:

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

God’s Word for our comfort this morning comes from the reading from the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians: But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  (1 Cor. 15:20)

 

In the name of + Jesus.

 

All the world is God’s own field, Fruit unto His praise to yield;

Wheat and tares together sown,  Unto joy or sorrow grown.

First the blade and then the ear,  Then the full corn shall appear.

Lord of harvest, grant that we  Wholesome grain and pure may be.  (LSB 892 st. 2)

 

It’s probably pedantic to quibble with Mr. Harvey about the day on which God made the first farmer, but I think it’s right to say it was earlier than the 8th day.  The very first man, Adam, was a farmer.

…Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into His nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature…The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.  (Gen. 2:7)

 

At the very least he was a caretaker of the garden of Eden.  And the second Adam, through whom the human race was reborn, was also a caretaker of a garden, a farmer.

 

[Mary] turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you seeking?”  Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”  (John 20:14-15)

 

Jesus was not the caretaker of the garden where his tomb was.  But He was raising a harvest, and still is.  He is the planter and the tender of His crop.  But the Bible also refers to Him as part of the harvest:

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. (1 Cor. 15:20-21)  He is the firstfruits of the harvest God is raising.

 

God the Father is raising a harvest—raising the dead, raising our bodies to be like Christ’s glorious body.  Jesus is the firstfruits of this harvest.

 

Harold, like most farmers, was not, I don’t think, very interested in poetic talk, symbolism, but in realities.  This probably had something to do with farming; you either have a crop at the end of the year or you don’t. And you will not have a crop if you don’t work.

 

God, while He appears to appreciate poetry and beauty for its own sake, is also interested in realities.  When He said, “You will surely die,” this was not a metaphor.  When He proclaims the resurrection of the dead, He doesn’t mean this in a spiritual sense, but a literal, physical resurrection of the body.

 

This is offensive to human reason and wisdom, just like the account of the creation of the world and of human beings is offensive, just like the resurrection of Jesus in flesh and bone is offensive.

 

Paul doesn’t attempt to make this easier for our reason; the Corinthians struggled with the idea of the resurrection of the body.  They were Greeks, and Greek philosophy taught that the body is a prison for the soul, which they said was a spark of the divine mind or reason.  When a person died, the soul was set free from the body to reunite with God.

 

That is what people believe today, more or less.  Paul says, No.  Human souls are not part of God.  They are created by God.  And both human souls and bodies are alienated from God by sin.  When body and soul separate in death, the soul does not automatically reunite with God.  The souls of righteous people go to the Lord to rest; the souls of the wicked to the place of torment, apart from Him. And both wait for the last day, for the resurrection when their souls and their risen bodies will be reunited and hear the final judgment pronounced by Jesus.  Then the righteous will enter the joy of the Lord in a new heavens and a new earth; the wicked will be cast into the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

 

We don’t simply return to God when we die, as if there were no judgment.  God will judge between the righteous and the wicked.  But God is not raising up a crop for eternal death.  The crop He is raising is a harvest of sons of God who are like Jesus.

 

Adam and Eve did not immediately die when they sinned.  They continued to live, but now in an earth that was cursed.  Adam’s work as a farmer was made painful.  But Adam and Eve had hope, because before they had heard God’s curse, they heard His promise, His comfort, about the coming seed of a woman, who would take the curse away.

 

Harold experienced what God said to Adam.  He lived by “the sweat of his brow.”  He got up in the morning at 4 am and worked till dinner.  Then often after dinner.  He knew what it was to work hard and see your best efforts result in thorns and thistles.  But he worked anyway.

 

Then he worked at his church too—countless hours he gave to this place, and these people.  He probably didn’t think about this consciously, but his hard work was for the good of others, who came to this church and heard God’s Word.  That is what God does.  He works, and his work benefits others.  And Harold did this willingly.  He didn’t grumble about it.

 

He was a farmer, and he understood that no matter how great your ideas may be, nothing will be done without labor.  And if you don’t labor your kids don’t eat.  If you don’t labor in the church, people suffer too.

 

But there are things our labor can’t do.  Our labor, if God blesses it, can raise a crop from the ground to nourish this temporal life.

 

But it can’t bring the dead back.  It can’t take away sins.

 

But God the Father is raising a harvest—raising the dead, raising our bodies to be like Christ’s glorious body.  Jesus is the firstfruits of this harvest.

 

This is work that God alone does.  Only He can bring the dead back, raise them to life in body and soul

 

When the church in Corinth doubted the third article of the creed “I believe in the resurrection of the body,” Paul reminded them of the 2nd article: “The third day He rose again from the dead.”  Jesus is a man just like us.  He truly died, and He rose again.  To not believe in the resurrection of Christians is to not believe in the resurrection of Jesus.  It’s to overturn the whole Christian faith, which rests on Jesus’ resurrection.  If we don’t rise from the dead, Jesus didn’t rise either, because He was one of us.

 

Jesus does the work of raising the harvest of God.  He raises up human beings out of death into eternal life; out of our fallen, broken, corrupt image into the image of God the Father, into His own image.  He raises up sons of Adam to be sons of God.

 

He did this by the hard labor of becoming truly man and suffering for our sins against God, dying on the cross.  He shared our curse, our death.  Then on the 3rd day He rose again from the dead.

 

Paul says that Jesus is the firstfruits of the dead.  The firstfruits was the offering made to God of the first portion of the harvest.  He stands before the Father for us as a pledge to us of our resurrection.  He is the first human to emerge from death and stand before His throne as a righteous man with God’s approval.

 

The person who believes in Jesus, that God raised Him from the dead, that He alone has freed us from our sins and death, is “in Christ” as Paul says, and has a share in the resurrection of the righteous to eternal life.

 

But this is another thing that no amount of work can accomplish—for us to believe in Jesus.  Everything in us is against faith in God’s Word.  We are not good soil which God’s seed can grow, apart from a miracle.

 

He must also work in us so that we believe in Christ and not in our own work.  It is a work of God when a person believes the Creed we say all the time—a work that only God can do, just like resurrection, Creation, the forgiveness of sins.

 

Yet God wants to do this work in us.  So He sows His seed that grows up to eternal life.  He has His Word preached, like a farmer in the old days casting his seed onto the fields he has plowed.  The same Word that created the world, that proclaims pardon and forgiveness from Him, that will one day cause the dead to come out of their tombs.  His Word miraculously creates faith in us.  It makes us believe that we are actually sinners against God and that we cannot free ourselves; and it makes us believe in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who was made man in the womb of the virgin, who truly suffered and died for our sins, and was raised on the third day to be our righteousness before God.  His Word is like a kernel of corn that contains within it the plant that will later appear and bear many ears of corn with many kernels.  The kernel of corn contains the power to bring forth the full grown cornstalk; God’s Word contains within it the new man in the image of Jesus who will rise from the dead on the last day.

 

This hard work is not our work but God’s.  And he did it for Harold and in Harold.  On March 9th, 1924, God joined His life-giving Word to ordinary water, let it be poured out on Harold, and Harold became Christ’s.  Jesus planted the seed of His Word in Harold’s heart.  He nourished this divine seed so that it grew up and bore fruit, Sunday after Sunday, like a gardener watering a seed.  No one may have seen it growing except God and we will not see it full grown until the last day.  But God who began this great work and saw it through to the end of Harold’s life will surely bring it to completion before our eyes.

 

It’s interesting how Harold listed among the works of his life the time he spent caring for the cemetery, tracking down the records of names that had been lost.  A lot of people might wonder why this was worth the effort.  The city apparently doesn’t consider it high on its list of priorities, because nearly every springtime that cemetery is underwater.  This was not probably what anyone will remember Harold for.  People stopped being buried in our cemetery sometime in the 1950’s or 60’s.  Fewer and fewer remember the names on the gravestones there.

 

Harold was the caretaker of that cemetery.  I don’t know how much he thought about what it meant for him to do that.  Harold was focused on doing the work that needed to be done, not writing poems and making sermons.

 

Yet Harold was like Jesus, or like Adam.  He was the gardener there, the caretaker.  Mary mistook Jesus for the caretaker.  But He is a gardener and a caretaker.  He gardens and cares for human beings and raises up from us a harvest for eternal life.  In caring for that cemetery, Harold was doing Christ’s work—remembering and honoring the saints who have died, whose bodies will be raised immortal.  Even when the world has forgotten Christians who have departed, Jesus remembers each one.  He tends and cares for the departed saints because they are His crop, His harvest. Their bodies, like seeds that have been planted, after they have decayed, will rise up imperishable, incorruptible, full of the glory of God.

 

Nobody may remember the folks buried at that cemetery for very much longer.  But Jesus remembers them.  He has made their death holy.  He is the firstfruits, but coming soon after is the harvest to eternal life.  Then that cemetery that has been mostly forgotten will be the garden of the Lord, as Is. 61 says, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.  From that almost-forgotten graveyard the sons of God will emerge, and He will gather them into His house.

 

Harold is part of that planting of the Lord.  He will join them when death is swallowed up in victory, when the earth gives birth to its dead at the return of the Lord.  And the Lord Jesus, whom Mary in her grief mistook for the gardener, will watch over and tend this body, because it is holy.  He has set it apart for Himself to share in His glory.

 

The Gospel reading said that when Mary Magdalene was at the tomb, she kept looking in after Peter and John left.  She saw two angels, and yet was so grief-stricken she didn’t know that she was seeing angels.  Then she turned around and saw Jesus, and thought He was just the gardener.  “Why are you weeping?  Whom are you seeking?”  Mary didn’t realize that what she wanted to see but could not see had happened.  Her greatest grief had been turned to joy and she didn’t know it.  Jesus had risen from the dead, but all she saw was a tomb with grave clothes, and the caretaker intruding on her grief.

 

It was always the Lord who was caring for you, taking care of you, through your dad, through your mother, through the food you ate, the air you breathed, through the teachers who taught you, the pastors who told you your sins were forgiven.  Every good gift is from the Father of lights, even though He usually gives to us through intermediaries.  We don’t see Him, but He cares for us, whether we believe Him or not.

 

Harold has gone to rest.  He’s been taken away from calamity.  We can’t begrudge him rest.  And as much as he enjoyed working, I am certain that he is not sorry to enter into His Savior’s rest.

 

Harold rests, but your caretaker is still with you, the one who called you by name when you were baptized.  Mary recognized Him when He called her name.  He also calls you by name; He knows you by name, as He knows the names of each one of those who sleep in Christ, awaiting the resurrection.  We can trust Him to take care of us, awake or asleep, in life or in death, in darkness and in light.  We can trust Him not to fail us.  He is the firstfruits, and we who are joined to Him in baptism will follow Him through death into His resurrection.

 

Even so, Lord, quickly come  To Thy final harvest home;

Gather Thou Thy people in,  Free from sorrow, free from sin,

There, forever purified, In Thy garner to abide:

Come with all Thine angels, come;  Raise the glorious harvest home.

 

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

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