Service of Prayer at the Death of Robert Allen Dubuque

John 10:27-29


            In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

“On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand” (“My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less,” LSB 575, Refrain).  All other ground is sinking sand.  There is no ground within Bob on which to stand, on which to place our hope of his salvation.  I can say that without even knowing him, because I know it about myself.  No, we must speak with the psalmist: “There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation [O Yahweh]; there is no health in my bones because of my sin” (Psalm 38:3, ESV).  When life is good and death is hidden or far off, we are apt to forget this truth about ourselves.  But, O death!  It brings everything else into sharp focus.  How frail is my flesh!  How fleeting is your life!  There is nothing good about death.  Yes, God can bring good out of death; He makes it the last portal between us and Him.  But death itself?  There is nothing good in death.  You are right to mourn.  You are right to shed tears.  Death is not your friend.  It was not Bob’s friend.  Mourn also because of your sin, which will one day lay you low.  Death is the enemy.  It is your enemy, just as much as it was Bob’s. If death is the enemy, who is your friend?  It is Jesus Christ, the friend of sinners.  “Here is hope for all who grieve: Jesus sinners doth receive” (“Jesus Sinners Doth Receive,” LSB 609, st. 1).  Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29, ESV).  I do not know whether Bob kept his promises, but I know that the Lord God of heaven and earth keeps His promises.  “For all the promises of God find their Yes in [Jesus]” (2 Corinthians 1:20, ESV).  I do not know if Bob was faithful to his friends and family, but I know that Jesus Christ is faithful.  “[I]f we are faithless, he remains faithful-for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13, ESV).  I do not know if Bob was overcome by temptation, but I know that the Son of God who became a son of man overcame all temptation.  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, ESV).  I do not know if sin conquered Bob, but I know that there is One who shared the flesh of sinners and put sin to death on the cross.  “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, ESV)!  “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive with [Jesus], having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14, ESV).

Bob was not able to keep himself in the grace of God.  Neither are you.  Neither am I.  But there is One who can.  No one is able to snatch us out of His hand!  Jesus says, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”  I didn’t know Bob, but I know God, and it was God who put His holy Name on Bob in baptism.  When Bob was baptized, Jesus said to him, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1, ESV).  Whatever else you may know about Bob, know this: He was claimed.  He was not his own.  He was bought with a price, as sure as Christ was crucified and as sure as that water was splashed on him.  No one can snatch Bob out of the hand of the God who created him and redeemed him.  “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, ESV).  Bob may have rejected the promises of God for himself.  I don’t know.  But God never revoked His promises to Bob in Jesus Christ.  Because if God revoked His promise to Bob, then He has revoked His promise to you as well.  If you focus on Bob’s sin, if you focus on your sin, you will despair.  Because all of us have “turned aside; together [we] have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:3, ESV).  To look at the extent to which your flesh has been infected by sin, you might be tempted to ask, “Who then can be saved” (Matthew 19:25, ESV)?  But do not look at yourself.  Do not look at Bob.  Look at your crucified Savior.  “With man [being saved] is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26, ESV).  “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.  When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’  ‘O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?’  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”  (1 Corinthians 15:53-56, ESV).  “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26, ESV).  And the resurrection of the body is the promise to which faith clings.  So it is for all to whom God has given faith in His Son.  May it be for Bob, and may it be for you.  To all those who have been baptized and believe, Jesus says, “No one can snatch you out of my hand.”  O Lord, have mercy on us.  O Christ, have mercy on us.  O Lord, have mercy on us.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

— Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 10/3/07


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