Text: “[As] it is written, “[No] eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9–16).
Life, as they say, is what happens when you’re making other plans. Or, to put it slightly differently, if you want to make God laugh just tell Him your plans. Those particular sayings never came up in my conversations with Doug, but that certainly seems to have been his experience. One of his recurring comments during those conversations has been, “I never would have imagined that this is where I would end up.”
Make no mistake, he treasured dearly what he had. There was so much that he was profoundly grateful for: the funeral home, his family, the love and care from you, Kathy, over these past years. No, this was not the bitter old man who feels like he has nothing. There was much that he treasured.
At the same time, there were plans he had that didn’t work out as he hoped. There were the struggles he’s had over the past few years, especially the health issues. There were the things he was no longer able to be or do. The community gatherings that used to take place there at the funeral home. All the meals he cooked for one group of people after another. There were other things he imagined for himself through the years that were not to be.
Doug never would have imagined that this is where he would end up. But God did. He knew and He planned for it so that He would be there for every twist and turn. Every success and failure. In fact, Our Heavenly Father has been preparing for this day for thousands of years—in fact, from the foundation of the world. And, as always, His plan was perfect. Absolutely nothing was forgotten.
We are far from what God intended for us. He gave us a paradise. A perfect creation, in perfect order. And it is human sin that brought famine, war, pestilence, disease into this world. And yet His mercy would not allow us to suffer the just punishment for our sins. And so, according to His plan, in exactly the proper time, the Son of God stepped forth into this world to bear the world’s sin and be our savior.
He did the Father’s will perfectly. Not a single thing was forgotten; nothing was left undone. Step by step, the plan was carried out until He was able to say from the cross: “It is finished.” Because of that plan, perfectly made and perfectly carried out, “[No] eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Doug was a sinner. Some of the wounds he suffered were self-inflicted. Some of his sins were fairly visible, rather easy to list. But I hope you got to see his faith, as well. In the end, faith isn’t about being able to say “I’m a good person.” None of us are ever able to say that. A clear conscience, as they say, is the sign of a bad memory. Faith, in the end, is trust that the cross is for you. That the beatings and floggings, that the mockery and the crown of thorns, that all the suffering and dying was for you. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, the only sinless one took upon Himself your sin to give you the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. That was the promise that Doug clung to.
The main way I’ve gotten to know Doug was by bringing him Holy Communion. I hope you had opportunities on other occasions to see how much that gift of God meant to him. We’re taught that, to be prepared to receive Holy Communion, it’s necessary to acknowledge that you’re a sinner and trust that God does, in fact, actually give the forgiveness of sins through that holy meal. Doug received the very body and blood of Jesus Christ and, with it, eternal life and salvation. I had the honor of saying to Doug, as other pastors have before me: “Now this body and this blood strengthen and preserve you, steadfast in the one true faith, to life everlasting. Depart in peace.”
When I say, ‘I had the honor,’ I’m not just being polite. As Lutherans, we don’t put a great deal of emphasis on emotions in worship. That feeling of an encounter with God isn’t nearly as important as His promise that He is, actually, here, coming to us in His Word and Sacraments. Whether we feel it or not, we know God is there giving us His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. And yes, sometimes we go too far in downplaying emotions. When we consider what God is giving us every time we come to this communion rail, we shouldn’t just kneel, we should be forced to our knees in amazement at who it is that comes to meet us here. We should receive it with trembling hands, in awe and wonder at what has been placed into them. We should walk away with tears in our eyes that sinners like you and I have been fed with the bread of heaven—the very body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And I was reminded of that every time I was honored to be able to bring Doug that gift. That was the sort of gratitude, the sort of awe and wonder, that I saw from Doug. He knew what a precious gift His Lord was giving him. He knew it was the Son of God Himself who came to meet him there in the sacrament. Doug knew what it had cost Him to purchase the gifts that Doug was receiving and He treasured it. I hope you’ve had the chance to see Doug’s faith yourself.
The last time I saw Doug, down in Ann Arbor, one of the last things he and I did was sing the hymn that we just sang this afternoon: “Just as I Am, Without One Plea But That Thy Blood Was Shed for Me.” That was certainly his confidence and his peace at the end. Through the promises made to Doug in his baptism, through the power of the Word, through the body and blood of Christ, Doug was prepared. Whether he succeeded in walking with God in this life or he wandered far from Him, God’s grace was there. God was there, working out His plan of salvation. And, finally, last Thursday, the eternal Son of God stepped forth into this world once again to gather him home. God’s perfect plan was brought to completion in Doug’s life in God’s proper time.
Doug couldn’t have imagined where he would end up. And we can hardly blame him, because life is what happens when you’re making other plans. But today we rejoice that Doug has been blessed by his Heavenly Father and that no eye has seen nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for Doug. May God grant the same to each of us by faith in His Son. Amen.