Sermon for the Funeral of Phillip G. Gerk, Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, September 29, AD 2020

Daniel 12:1-3; Luke 10:17-20

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Two of the readings for today describe names being written – one in the book, and one in heaven. These are one in the same. Those whose names are written in heaven, in the book of life, are those who are baptized and believe in Christ. Being baptized, they have died with Christ already, and therefore will also rise with Christ on the last day. This is true for all who trust in Christ’s promises, and today especially we remember this is true for Phill.
Today is also the day the church commemorates St. Michael the archangel and all angels. Not to worship them, but to thank God for the work He does through angels, as we read in the scriptures. Angels are servants of God, messengers and warriors who fulfill God’s will for our good. Now, angels are not human beings who have died and gone to heaven. Phill is not an angel now. Even better, Phill’s soul is safe with Christ now, and on the last day he will rise from the dead with a new, glorified body.
We read about it in the passage from Daniel, “at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” Those who believe in Christ, whose names are written in the book, shall be delivered from death. On the last day all will rise from the dead, but those who are wise, who trust in Christ will live forever, shining like the brightness of the sky.
How wonderful to hear that those who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake! Not only that they will awake, but now they only sleep! As St. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians, “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:15). Jesus died. We, who believe Jesus died and rose, know that we then will never truly die. We only sleep! In Christ, Phill sleeps now, and one day he will awaken. So will all who trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus. And he will shine like the brightness of the sky.
For the sky is not bright on its own. It reflects the brightness generated by the sun. As the sky is brightened by the sun, so the Christian life is one reflecting the righteousness of Christ. Naturally, we are like the darkened sky, no light or stars at all, good for no one, void of purpose. We are all born in sin, inherited from our parents, and cannot seek God or do anything good no matter how great it may seem to be. This is the problem of sin in the world, all work is toil and leads deeper into our own debt. But there is good news – Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived the perfect life and died on the cross to pay our debt. All our sin was put on him, and he has redeemed, paid for us and for all our work. We know this is true because after dying, Christ rose from the dead on the third day. This was Phill’s trust and hope as well.
So as Christians, our work is not in vain. All our good works have been given by God and have eternal effect. So we can rejoice that as Phill served in his earthly callings, he was serving God, doing things which were eternally important. As he worked on those great projects, Harold Washington Library, Millennium Park, he was working for God, serving those who would use those buildings for generations to come. And even when those buildings crumble, his works, redeemed by Christ, remain as testimonies to the goodness of God. Even more, his work and love as a husband, father and grandfather, raising and providing for nine children, supporting and praying for his many grandchildren, was also eternally beneficial. Even more, as the love of God reflected through him influences future generations as well.
It is good to remember the good that God worked through Phill. God’s kingdom comes when Christ breaks and hinders all the plans of the devil which would oppose God’s name and will. When Christians follow God in their vocations, they are helping his kingdom come. Yet most importantly, Christians are still sinners too, and need to continually repent and seek forgiveness. Phill knew this as he came to church regularly, hearing God’s law telling him to repent and the gospel of the forgiveness of sins. Phill received Christ’s body and blood to strengthen and preserve him in body and soul. Here he participated in that work of Christ that made Satan truly “fall like lightning.” In the preaching of Christ and his gospel comes victory over Satan and his demonic hordes.
Phill trusted in Christ’s death and resurrection and so he now sleeps. He with all others will rise on the final day. Yet not all who rise will have eternal life. Those who do not trust in Christ will rise to everlasting shame and contempt. Therefore, believe in Christ. You have sinned against God, but Christ has died for your sins. Turn from sin and believe in Him only for your salvation.  

We who have been baptized have already begun our resurrection, and we cling to God’s word and promises until our final day, in the hope of that resurrection becoming full and complete. Satan fell in one second under the victory of the cross of Jesus Christ. On that final day, Christ and the angels will defeat Satan, death, and sin for good. There will be no more sorrow or pain, and Christ will wipe tears from all faces. We mourn now, but not without hope. So we rejoice that the name Phillip George Gerk is written in heaven, next to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the apostles, and all who believe and confess the name of Jesus in life and death. Amen.

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