In Memoriam + Dwayne Jahlas
St John's Ev LC, Victor, IA
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
God urges us to come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy in time of need. It is now our time of need. We have lost a loved one. We cannot yet go where he has gone. We must carry on in this life / without him. There are no easy answers or solutions. Some things must simply be endured.
And so we look to our Lord for the strength to endure. Our Lord does not disappoint; Dwayne's Confirmation verse is 1 Corinthians 10:13, it is printed on the front of your bulletin. It says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
We are tempted with many things at the death of a loved one. One temptation is to think that our loved one who died in the faith is dead. He is not, for in Christ, being Baptized, death has lost its sting, death is defeated. Because Jesus lives, +Dwayne lives, too.
Another temptation is to despair, and think of all the 'should-of's and 'could-of's. Dearly beloved, our Lord said: “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” He did not say they will not mourn, but He did say, “they shall be comforted.” This comfort begins now, but reality is that our comfort is yet full. We have comfort, but we also have mourning. We are still sad. We cannot change the past. We cannot undo mistakes. We cannot win back lost opportunities. +Dwayne is gone. It is too late to mend broken fences. Things that should not have gone unsaid must remain unsaid. He is gone, and we are still stuck here. In this case, it is our time of need. And what we need is mercy and grace.
But take comfort in this, / that it is not +Dwayne's time of need. He needs nothing. At long last, he is fully satisfied. He is comforted. He has no sadness and no mourning, and he holds no grudges. He does not weep for us. For he has finally found what only here in this life is hidden. He has found the Holy One, Jesus. And so, just as Jesus is holy, so Dwayne is perfectly holy.
And this is not a surprise. You knew this would happen, you knew he would one day leave this life and all its sin and sorry. You knew that heaven awaited him. / Heaven waits no longer. Dwayne has made it. His journey was the same as any Christian. For the Lord began this good and perfect work in him while he was yet in his mother Ruth's womb. There, God began to form him into the man that Dwayne was meant to be, who God had destined him to be, for just as he was born into this world, God would soon after (that very day in fact) give Dwayne the second birth, the heavenly birth. Dwayne was baptized. But that was not the end either. The Lord would continue to form Dwayne into the man he would become through the care and instruction from his parents and relatives and congregation. Some years later, Dwayne would receive the same life-giving body and blood of Jesus that died for him on the cross / in the Lord's Supper.
Now the point in taking you through all this / is that I hope you see something (or rather, someone) in +Dwayne's story. I hope you see yourself. To one degree or another (whether you are his mother, or relative, or friend, or fellow member of the Body of Christ), you all have been involved in forming Dwayne into the man that the Lord destined him to be.
But who is that man that +Dwayne was destined to be? Jesus. Throughout these past years, the Lord has been forming Dwayne into perfect man, that is, the One perfect Man, Jesus. Jesus is the key. He is the first-born among many brothers. In baptism, Dwayne was made to be one of those brothers of Jesus. And as He grew and was instructed in the faith and continued to receive the very body and blood of Jesus, Dwayne was formed more and more into the likeness of his elder brother. You shared in that. You prayed for him, you brought him to church, you encouraged him, you served him in any number of ways. Thank you.
And know this: all that work that you did for Dwayne, has now paid off, for he has met his end, which is to say that he is done with death and sin and is now perfect as his heavenly father is perfect. He is now where he belongs, where he has always belonged. He is home. Not only is he reunited with his earthly father, but is forever in the presence of his heavenly Father, who now loves him and cares for him far beyond what we could ever do.
The truth is (as you know) / The heavenly Father always loved him. He always wanted what was best for him. He always intervened and protected him. He never forgot or abandoned him, though at times, for his own good or for the good of the Kingdom, He did ask him to suffer and endure. But now that is ended. And now +Dwayne knows God's love and plan better than ever before. Now he knows perfectly what he has been baptized into: the life of Jesus Christ crucified and raised. Now his comfort is full and his peace is without end.
Though +Dwayne is not sad and does not weep for us, neither has he forgotten us. Indeed, with all the saints in glory, he still prays for us. For we are still in our time of need. We still need comfort. So he prays that we would receive even now the grace and mercy that he fully knows so that we would someday join him where he is.
And here's the thing, dearly beloved: Jesus Christ is not only who Dwayne was meant to become, but we, too, who have been called by the Gospel and are in the Church, we, too, grow up into Him who is our Head, even the same Jesus Christ, who is also our Lord. He hung upon that throne of grace, nails in His hands and feet, bleeding to be your God, too; dying to be your Friend, too; blessing you with His very life to spare you also from the tortures and pains of Hell. As He has spared +Dwayne, so He offers you that same safety through His Word and Sacraments. He offers these to you so that we may come to your funeral and hear this same story, the story of every Christian; not the story of one who is dead, but of one who is perfectly alive.
But even that / is not the end, for our elder brother Jesus will come again. And to those who believe in Him, who have been united to His death in Baptism, including you and Dwayne, God will also unite to His bodily resurrection.
This is the comfort that the Lord provides now in our mourning. You will reunite with Dwayne. You will see him again. And when you do, it will be glorious, far better than any interaction you could have here in this world.
Let this comfort you in your mourning and encourage you in your hope for the same destiny. For the Word of God is living and powerful. God does not lie. He did not die in vain. He loves Dwayne. He also loves you. He is faithful. He is good. And He will help you endure all.
In +Jesus´ Name. Amen.