Funeral Sermon - Norman Willmann
download this mp3
Right-click on the link above and choose "Save Link As"
to download this audio.

Delivered By
Pr. David Fleener
Delivered On
October 4, 2018 at 3:15 PM
Central Passage
John 20:19-31
Funeral of Norman Willmann

Pr. David Fleener

Sermon: October 4, 2018 – Funeral of Norman Willmann

Genesis 2:4b-9, 15; 2 Corinthians 4:7-10, 16-18; John 20:19-31


            Dear friends and family of Norman, grace and peace to you from God our Father, who gives our lives purpose, from Jesus, God’s Son, who renews the inner person within us each day, and from the Holy Spirit, who gives us saving faith. Amen.


            It’s impossible to describe a life in three words. But that’s just what I asked Julie, Larry, Marjorie, and Emily to do that day at the funeral home. I never got the chance to meet Norman, so I needed some sense of what kind of man he was.


            And the sense I got was that Norman was a man who loved to do. He was a doer and those things had to be done right. He loved to garden. He loved to be active. And when his body started to fail on him, or as Paul would say, his body was breaking down on the outside, his life changed drastically. No longer could he work like he once did. He began to wonder about the purpose of this life; to entertain the possibility that there was more to this life than what we could see or do.


            The book of Genesis tells us that God initially created human beings to be farmers and caretakers of the earth. We were made to care for God’s creation. And that was certainly what Norman did in his garden. I’m sure that there were glimpses, however brief, of Eden there.


            When Norman was no longer as physically active as he once was, it sounds like he turned to seeking the unseen behind the seen. Norman was a chemical engineer, which means that he was steeped in scientific processes; what could be seen, demonstrated, and proven. But later in life, he wondered about the unseen. He wondered about that which could not be proved in an ordinary sense.


            And the faith we hold as Christians is such a thing. While the Christian faith can be (and is!) demonstrated and lived out, it cannot be proven in a scientific sense. Otherwise it would not be faith. It would be simple knowledge. Even the disciples and Thomas, with the crucified and risen Christ before their eyes, make a leap of faith. They make the leap that what they are seeing is not a hallucination. Thomas, by faith, sees that this man gesturing to him with destroyed hands and wounded side is Jesus. That this is the man they ate with, learned from, walked and talked with, and deserted before his arrest and crucifixion.


            But such a leap of faith is, fortunately, not something that they did on their own. Nor is it something we do on our own; indeed, it is something that we cannot do on our own. That faith is given by God and held by the whole church, not just one individual. Thomas himself speaks Spirit-filled words when he makes the confession, “My Lord and my God.” Norman surely learned this from these words of Martin Luther in his catechism class here at Zion, so many years ago. On the third article of the Apostles’ Creed, Luther wrote:


I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy, and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith. Daily in this Christian church the Holy Spirit abundantly forgives all sins – mine and those of all believers. On the last day the Holy Spirit will raise me and all the dead and will give to me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true.


We cannot believe on our own. And we cannot hold faith on our own. But by the grace of God, the whole church does. The whole church keeps the faith because Jesus, in John chapter 14, said that the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, would always be with us to keep us in the truth. And Norman is included in that number of the faithful. By his baptism. By the public affirmation he made of his faith long ago. Even by his faith in later years that there was more to this life than meets the eye. By the grace of God alone, Norman is part of that number of God’s people who rest in the Lord, until, as Luther says, the Holy Spirit will raise him and all of us up to share in the life that has no end.


And in the meantime, we celebrate Norman’s life. The obituary said to wear colorful clothing. I’m afraid that this black collar shirt and green stole is about as colorful I get as a pastor! But when I look out and see you, I can see how he impacted your life. The joy he brought you. His enlivening spirit, certainly a gift of God. God comfort you with these memories of Norman, and most of all, comfort you with the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life. This hope, thank God, is not reliant on any of us. It is the enduring gift of God to the whole church, Norman included. Amen.


© 2018, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.