Funeral sermon for Clifford R. Kanetzke

John 10:27-30 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
There are a great deal of sounds that are associated with the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. There are the coins clinking in Judas’ money purse after he betrayed Jesus. There is the rooster crowing signaling Peter’s denial. There are the sounds of the soldiers’ tramping feet as they carry Jesus toward the cross.
In the upper room we hear the humble sound of water splashing as Jesus washes His disciples’ dirty feet. On Friday afternoon, we hear the disturbing sound of a hammer pounding nails through Jesus’ divine flesh and blood.
Perhaps the most chilling sound of the entire Holy Week is heard all day Saturday. Silence. For the Son of God is still dead. He has not moved. His corpse is in the grave.
But everything changes at dawn on Sunday morning! That’s when we hear the sound of the angel rolling the stone away from Jesus’ garden tomb. The tomb is open for the women, the disciples, and the whole world to look into. The grave is empty. Jesus is gone. He is alive!
These are the sounds that are associated with Jesus’ passion, crucifixion and resurrection.
There are also a great deal of sounds that are associated with the life of the Christian. By God’s grace, Cliff heard these sounds throughout His life. On May 2, 1926, Cliff heard the splashing of water over his head as he was baptized into God’s family. The Lord heard Cliff’s voice as Cliff before this altar on May 12, 1940, as he made his confirmation vows that he would remain faithful to the Lord until death. Nine years later, Cliff once again stood before this same altar as his and Lois’ voices joined together in making their marriage vows on September 10, 1949.
If you knew Cliff well, you knew that he was always busy. Always working. Always involved in something. Whether it was raising his children. Or caring for his huge garden or serving in the army in World War II or working 41 years at Modine Manufacturing. Then, after he retired, he kept himself busy volunteering at Racine Lutheran High School, our Wisconsin Lutheran grade school and Shoreland Lutheran High School where his granddaughters attended, or the serving at the All Saints Cancer Center.
Cliff threw himself into everything he did. What is amazing is that though Cliff was never very talkative, he was often voted president of the organizations he joined. Serving on the board at Racine Lutheran; serving as Church Council president here at Epiphany, etc.
What made Cliff a wonderful father and grandfather, a hard worker, a dedicated volunteer, and a true leader is that he was a great listener.
What truly made Cliff everything that he was as a father, grandfather, worker, volunteer, and leader was that He listened to Jesus Christ, His Good Shepherd. For 88 of his 89 years, Cliff was here at Epiphany. He listened closely as the voice of Jesus came through the mouth of Cliff’s pastor. That voice reminded Cliff on a weekly basis that he was a sinner who deserved God’s wrath. As wonderful as Cliff was, he knew deep in his heart the sins that made him a deplorable and damnable sinner before His holy God. He heard his pastor’s voice asking him to confess his sins to God our Father. Then Cliff joined his voice with all the other sinner/saints at Epiphany to confess: “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
When Cliff was no longer able to come to church for worship, I visited with him for devotions and Holy Communion in his condo. After confessing his sins, Cliff’s eyes watered just slightly as he then heard the voice of his Shepherd through his pastor announcing forgiveness: “God our heavenly Father, has been merciful to us and has given his only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Therefore, as a called servant of Christ and by his authority, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Those slight tears were tears of repentance combined with tears of joy. Cliff knew from little on that his forgiveness and salvation were tied to his Savior’s death and resurrection. He loved hearing his Savior’s voice confronting him with God’s harsh Law and comforting him with God’s sweet Gospel.
Cliff was here every Sunday for worship – for decades, sitting in the sixth pew from the front on the west side of the church. Then coming up for communion – Bob and Sally receiving the common cup, Jill receiving individual cup, and Cliff receiving the common cup. Then the family returning to the sixth pew to kneel in prayer. Cliff’s favorite thing was to be in church. In fact, when he moved into the Primrose Retirement Community, he was asked what his favorite thing to do was – Bingo, cards, movies, etc. Cliff said, “Attend church.”
It is here in church where Cliff was reminded that because of Adam and Eve’s original sin in the Garden of Eden, the punishment of sin and death had been brought upon countless generations of their children. God spoke His curse upon His once immortal humanity: “For dust you and to dust you will return.”
All of us as Christians hope to die as Cliff died – in his sleep. However, he still died. We are left feeling the effects of God’s curse upon our father, grandfather, and friend. For the family that was gathered in Cliff’s room on Thursday morning, we didn’t really notice, but Cliff had stopped breathing and his heart had stopped beating. Then the machines were turned off and there was silence.
It was just silence … but it was unpleasant. It was unsettling. It was upsetting.
That’s what Jesus’ disciples and followers felt as they heard the stone being rolled in front of Jesus’ tomb on that dark Friday afternoon 2,000 years ago. Their friend was crucified. Their rabbi had been killed. Their Savior was dead. It was all so final. There was no hope any more. It must have seemed as if death had won. As if the devil had defeated Jesus. As if God’s curse was stronger than God’s promise.
In their fear and dread, none of them were really listening. For Jesus had told them numerous times that He had to go to Jerusalem to be betrayed, crucified, and resurrected. If they had really been listening, they would have been at the tomb at sunrise on Sunday morning. Then they would have heard the superlative sound of the rolling stone. The angel rolled back the stone – not to let the Lord of life out, but to show the women, the disciples, and the world that the Lord was already gone.
The sound of the rolling stone has echoed through the ages! That is the sound of victory! The sound of life resurrected! The grave is open. It is empty. Listen to the sound of the angel’s voice assure you of exactly what happened: “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here.”
Death used to be in control. But no longer. Jesus’ death means that death has died. The curse of death upon the first Adam has been removed by fulfilling promise in the second Adam. God’s promise is greater than His curse. Christ’s victory has extracted the venom from the ancient serpent’s sting.
The rolling away of the stone revealing the empty tomb has changed everything. By taking upon Himself the curse of sin and the sting of death, the dying process loses its fear for us. Now the comforting words of the Twenty-third Psalm and the Lord’s Prayer were on Cliff’s dying lips. Now the tears that are shed for Cliff are tears of sorrow, but not tears of despair. For we know that after Cliff took his last breath on earth on Thursday morning, he took his first breath of heaven the very next moment. We believe with all confidence that Cliff fell asleep in the Lord so he could wake up in glory everlasting.
Not because Cliff was a good leader or wonderful parent or great example … but because he believed in his crucified and resurrected Savior.
Because you and I share this same resurrection faith, we can rejoice this evening in defiance against our mourning. Because that garden tombstone was rolled away, we can have the same confidence that Cliff had when we lay down our head upon our deathbed. Because we believe in Christ’s promise, “Because I live, you also will live,” we know that we will one day be gathered with Cliff and Lois and all the living saints around God’s throne in heaven.
When we Christians bury our dead, it is as if we are laying a baby down to sleep and the casket becomes nothing more than a second cradle. This dying in Christ is the joy reserved only for the Christian!
Christians are blessed to hear the sounds of faith throughout our lives. Cliff could hear the sound of God’s “Amazing Grace,” every time he walked into his church. He could hear the sound of being a Christian soldier marching on to war on the battlefield, at home or at work. Last Thursday, Cliff heard the sound of being welcomed home, for he was no longer a stranger here, heaven had become his new home.
This all became possible because for 89 years, Cliff was blessed to be listening to the sound of the Good Shepherd’s voice.

As you and I continue to listen to the Good Shepherd’s voice, we know that the sounds of death are replaced with the sounds of life. The sound of the sirens on the freeway will be replaced by the sound of the angels’ trumpet call. The sound of silence in the room will be replaced with the song of the saints. The sound of mourning at the graveside will be replaced with the sound of eternal laughter. For the sound of the stone rolling away from the Easter tomb has reverberated through time and eternity. It not only opened the entrance to the tomb of Jesus, but also opened the gates to God’s heaven. Amen. 


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