The Funeral of Alvin A. Schroll
Proverbs 3:5-6; Lamentations 3:22-26, 31-33; John 11:21-27
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
“I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; you heard [me say], ‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help!’ You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!’” (Lamentations 3:55-57).
It was a theme, so it seems from my perspective, of Alvin’s life—and so also of yours, Dorothy—to constantly have both a reason to cry out to God for help and a reason to rejoice.
Your life together, sixty-seven years, is an amazing story, and ever since I met you, ever since I first visited Alvin in the nursing home, or hospital, or your home, I was amazed both at what has happened to you and how you’ve handled it.
I don’t say these things to shock or to dwell in pain; I say these things because this was the type of man Alvin was.
Serving in the Army, he was stationed in Alaska—that was before Alaska was a state, which is to say, before Alaska had roads, right?
While there, a volcano erupted a few dozen miles away, dust and ash blocking out all light.
It was also in Alaska where your infant twins went to be with Jesus.
As dark as day is made by an erupting volcano, that was darker.
“Trust in the Lord will all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Not easy and not always downhill, but straight.
In the midst of tragedy, you cried out to God and endured: faithfully, patiently. “’The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I hope in him’” (Lamentations 3:24).
Alvin soldiered on.
And Dorothy, so did you.
After Alaska, was Japan—where the monsoon hit.
After Japan was Germany, but in between was the stop in Guam. You stopped in Guam because an engine on the plane kept giving out (above shark-infested waters, right?).
In Germany you lived, for a time, with Hitler’s secretary—not really, but it may as well have been. No heat, snow on your bed in the mornings, and cold, cold baths.
Those were the good days.
But “the Lord will not cast off forever…though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men” (Lamentations 3:31-33).
Dorothy, you and Alvin have had many reasons to cry out to God for help.
I’d like to take some time to reflect on some of the ways God has provided that help.
Probably the first time Alvin cried out to God for help was at his baptism, when his family brought him to Jesus, for Jesus to save him.
“’I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; you heard
, ‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help!’ You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!’” (Lamentations 3:55-57).
In the last few weeks, when I would talk with Alvin, he knew what was happening, and he wasn’t afraid.
He didn’t like what was happening to him. His mind was still there—he’d still let you know what he thought—but in Holy Baptism, Alvin cried out to God for help, and in Holy Baptism, God said to Alvin, “Do not fear.”
Alvin leaned not on his own understanding.
The Lord was his portion.
He waited quietly for the salvation of the Lord, and on Friday, February 1st, salvation found him—he went to be with Jesus.
Born May 6th, 1932, he married Dorothy May 17th, 1951 and served over twenty-two years in the U.S. Army.
He’s survived by his wife, Dorothy, his daughters Susan and Debra, son Gary, nine grandchildren, sixteen great-grandchildren, a sister, Marge, brothers Don and Bill, and several nieces and nephews.
Preceding him in death were his parents, twins Alvin and Allen, his son Allen, great-granddaughter Olivia, and his sister Doris.
Now, all that said, we all have reason to cry out to God for help.
“I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit…” But let’s be honest—it doesn’t always feel like God has heard our plea, and it certainly doesn’t always feel like God has come near to us, to help us.
There are terrors we’d rather not name.
Terrors we’d rather not think about.
But I want you to know of the help that God has provided—the words that He has spoken—the love that He has shown.
In Jesus Christ our Lord, God our gracious and caring Heavenly Father has provided for each and every one of us, for each and every person of all times and places, essentially saying to us all: “Do not fear.”
Did you notice how the second stanza to “Jesus Loves Me” had us sing it? “Jesus loves me! / He who died / Heaven’s gates to open wide. / He has washed away my sin, / Lets His little child come in” (LSB 588:2).
Some versions of this hymn say “will” instead of “has” but, of course, what Jesus “has” done is washed away our sin.
That’s what His crucifixion and death “has” done.
That’s what His resurrection “has” done.
That’s what His victory over sin, death, and satan “has” done—He “has” washed away my sin. Your sin. All sin.
In one moment, on one day, our gracious God and Father took all sin and buried it in the flesh of Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.
In burying sin, God buried His Son.
But on the Third Day, only Jesus is raised.
Sin stays buried, Jesus is raised to life, so “Behold the Lamb of God who takest away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
It’s taken away.
It’s washed away.
Yours. Mine. Alvin’s. All.
Believe this—and it is as though God has spoken to you the same words He spoke to Alvin: “Do not fear.”
Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world, and you will have everlasting life.
God has washed away and forgiven your sin. All sin.
When you cry out to God for help, he has made your path straight.
He may not make it easy. He may not make it downhill.
It may be uphill, both ways, in the snow—like it was in Alaska.
God may give you a straight path that intersects with a monsoon.
He may give you Hitler’s secretary as a landlord, and there might very well be sharks in the water.
But He has not abandoned you. You are not alone.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is [the Lord’s] faithfulness. ’The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him’” (Lamentations 3:22-24).
“For the Lord will not cast off forever…though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of man” (Lamentations 3:31-33).
I think most people are familiar with the story of Lazarus from St. John’s account of the gospel.
That’s where Jesus says the most comforting words: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).
We know what that means.
“Though [Alvin] die, yet shall he live.”
We believe and confess the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.
We know that we’ll see Alvin again.
Though we die, yet shall we live, with him and with Jesus.
We know what joy there’ll be in the feast prepared for him and for us—when Alvin will eat again as he once did.
That’s what Jesus’ words tell us.
Alvin’s words—and his life, and his actions—tell us what he believed.
He lived and loved and served and worked—crying out to God for help—and, in the midst of many terrors, being helped by God.
His last words in my hearing were of his family.
His last words were of those he loved and missed, that he hasn’t seen for so long, but would very soon see again.
His last words confessed His faith in Jesus the Christ, the Son of God who is coming into the world.
If you would see Alvin again—Brother, Dad, Grandpa—if you would see him again—believe in the Lord Jesus Christ who says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).
Cry out to God for help.
He has washed away your sins, saying, “Do not fear.”
In the midst of all our terrors, that is a cause and a reason to rejoice.
Dorothy—the Lord is with you.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen!