Funeral sermon: Charles Walker
Delivered By
Pr. David Fleener
Delivered On
June 13, 2018 at 10:15 AM
Central Passage
Mark 4:26-32
Funeral of Charles Walker

Pr. David Fleener

Sermon: Funeral of Charles Walker – June 13, 2018

Genesis 2:15-24; Psalm 128; Mark 4:26-32


              Dear friends, grace, peace, and comfort be yours from God our Father and from Jesus, who sows the Kingdom of God within each of us. Amen.


              Where do you start with Charles Walker? Which part of his extraordinary life do you highlight in a five-minute sermon? Do you begin with the fact that Charles was born, lived, and died in the same house? Do we talk about his lifelong vocation as a farmer and the dramatic, rapid changes he witnessed in agriculture over the decades? Do we talk about his incredible 71-year marriage to Betty Vallad, their children and grandchildren, and the joys and griefs they both experienced? Do we talk about the number of times he escaped death or serious injury, like the time he was deathly ill as a young boy, (which Charles would say led to the birth of his “replacement” brother Lawrence) or the time he fell into a pit in a grain bin and emerged with barely a scratch (which of course he kept secret from his wife!). Do we talk about his candor – the fact that if he felt strongly about something, he would let you know about it in a respectful way (at least from this pastor’s point-of-view)? Do we talk about his kindness and generosity, and his love of God, life, and the farm?


              Every story of his extraordinary life points back to the date when God adopted Charles as his own child – Christmas Day, 1921, when an infant not two months old was plunged into the waters of holy baptism by the hands of Pastor Minnemann, in this very congregation. We look back on that day because a miracle happened – a miracle that we could only see in the ways through which God worked in Charles’ life. Charles was united to Christ in Christ’s death, and received a holy, unbreakable promise – that just as he was united with Christ in Christ’s death, he would be one day united with Christ in his resurrection. An infant went through this “big death”, receiving the promise that he would one day be clothed in the “big life”.


              It was there, at that font, that God planted the seed of faith within Charles – a seed that grew of its own accord. Like in the parable we heard Jesus tell, for all the things farmers do, the work of the seed in sprouting is something it does itself. Now – I am not a farmer, so whenever I talk about farming, I take the risk of saying something dumb. But at that risk, it seems to me that farmers can only control some conditions in which a seed will sprout – fertilizer, Ph level, and drainage, to name a few. No one can force the seed to sprout – it has to sprout of itself. For all the work involved in farming then, sprouting and growth is literally an act of God. (This, coincidentally, is one of the reasons Charles told me he believed so strongly in God – for all the things he could control, there were many that he could not. He keenly felt his dependence on God’s providence.)


              So it is with the faith God plants within us. God plants the seed of faith within us, just as farmers plant seed in their fields. And though we may work to water, plow, and fertilize the soil of our hearts, it is God who ultimately does all of that anyway – and who brings the seed of our faith to a rich harvest we can scarcely imagine. The faith that Charles had, the faith that Charles lived, and the faith that Charles showed each of us was a faith that was planted by God, fertilized by God, given the growth by God, and finally brought to a full harvest.


              And today, though we grieve the end of Charles’ life in this mortal realm with us, we celebrate his great homecoming – a homecoming that over the last few months he wanted passionately. We celebrate his homecoming to God and to the holy presence of God, where he rests along with Betty, his mother Ella, his father William, his brother Lloyd, his son-in-law Doug, and his daughter Margo. In John’s Gospel, Jesus promises his disciples that he will bring all of them to himself. That promise was fulfilled for him last Friday.


              And Jesus promises that it will be fulfilled for us as well. For nothing can stop God’s faith, love, and hope from sprouting in our hearts and ultimately bearing a rich harvest – a harvest fit for eternal life. Thanks be to God. Amen.


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