At the Funeral of Edward Smith, 2018
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
Edward LeRoy Smith, born Wednesday, September 5th, 1934 died Friday morning, November 23, 2018, in Carlinville, IL.
He was eighty-four years old.
He was born to Kenneth and Ruth Smith.
He married Donna on August 22, 1953, in South Carolina.
Ed joined the Army at the age of 17, serving in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. He then worked as an Army Advisor to the National Guard and served in the Army for 20 years.
He was a member of this congregation, Trinity Lutheran Church.
He was a member of the American Legion and VFW in Lincoln, IL.
He enjoyed reading, fishing, and collecting.
Ed was a great husband, father, and son.
And if you catch my meaning, not just a great one but a good one.
He was preceded in death by his parents and is survived by his wife, Donna, his daughters, Sandra and Sheryl, his son, Ed (their families) and 9 grandchildren, and 7 great grandchildren.
Donna—Sandra—Sheryl—Ed—to you all—grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I met Ed in the last months of 2016.
Thinking myself not a talkative person, I was on the look out for topics for conversation that might be interesting to him and General “Mad Dog” Mattis was appointed Secretary of Defense.
I remember asking Ed what his opinion of General Mattis was, and his response was perfect.
He said in the military, you don’t have opinions of your generals, you have expectations.
I think that’s a good response.
More importantly, I think that’s a faithful response.
His words then told me what I’ve learned by meeting you all since—Ed was a good man.
As a follower of men, he heard and obeyed. He received and trusted. He struggled, but he endured.
Whether soldier or disciple, there’s not a better quality in a man.
As a leader of men, he endeavored to live up to the expectations put on him—by himself and by others.
As a husband and father, a grandfather and friend, when he felt like he let you down, you could tell.
Donna, in conversation with you over the last two years, and over the last few days, seeing your family care for you and for him as they have, I’ve remarked that you and Ed did real good.
And for the last two years, and over the last few days, you’ve responded, tongue-in-cheek, “Yes I have.”
He didn’t abandon you, but I’m sure, at times, it felt like he did.
Even today—he hasn’t abandoned you, but today or soon it may feel like he has.
Just as in all of the sixty-five years of your marriage, when he would go off and you would follow after, you will follow after him again.
But—just as in all of the sixty-five years of your marriage, when he goes off, you have to wait a bit before you follow him.
He hasn’t abandoned you. You will go to him.
More importantly, Donna, God hasn’t abandoned you. And you will go to Him.
As often as you can, Donna, avail yourself of the opportunity to come to church—or to have church come to you—where Jesus comes to us by His Word proclaimed, bringing heaven—and Ed—with Him.
Now, I’ve said that when Ed let you down, you could tell.
The worst frustrations I saw in him in the last two years were when he couldn’t get his point across, his words out.
He didn’t see that as my failure to understand, he saw that as his failure to say things simply enough for me to understand.
He was glad that church came to him in our visits, but he lamented what he saw as his failure to live up to expectations.
In the time that I had with him, I knew him to be a good man. You knew him better than I did.
But as good a man as there can be, we’re still here today.
You don’t need to be reminded of why we’re here, but perhaps Ed’s words about generals can help us all for tomorrow.
The truth is—the truth staring us in the eyes—some have it better and some have it worse—some live full lives, surrounded by family, love, and wealth—some scrape by or try to—some live a hundred years while others don’t live a hundred days—this truth causes us to have opinions about God while we should have expectations.
What opinions of God do you have?
Is He kind?
When you think you’ve been abandoned, that doesn’t feel like kindness.
Is He just, right, and fair?
When others have so much and you so little, or when others get by on so little but you, with so much, can’t make it—that doesn’t feel just or right or fair.
When have you blamed God? When have you accused God of wrong? When have you spoken, as if to the Eternal God Himself, saying, “I’d’ve done it differently”?
We have opinions about everything we believe is beneath us—politics, sports, when to put up the Christmas tree, and God, when we’re mad at Him.
We don’t have opinions about the things we consider above us—gravity, the dishwasher when it empties itself everyday before I get home (I don’t know how it does it), and God—when He’s just saved us from harm.
We don’t have opinions about the things above us.
For those, we have expectations.
If you forget that God transcends us—that He’s above us in that way—that He is good and that He (and not us) defines what good is, if you forget that, you won’t expect good from Him, and you’ll form the opinion that God isn’t good.
If you forget that God is loving, you won’t recognize His love in Christ, that He loved you first. You’ll form the opinion that God isn’t loving.
But even if you forget God, He remembers you.
First of all, that’s what you can expect from God.
He remembers you.
He hasn’t abandoned you.
Grief isn’t a punishment.
He does not desire to shame you but to give you honor and glory and joy and peace.
He remembers you, He desires to give you those things, because He’s paid the price for our failures, He’s made the sweet swap of our sin for His Son.
Lay aside all pride, all arrogance, all of your reasonableness, and believe in the God who created your body, redeemed your body in Christ, and desires to sanctify your body by the Word.
He remembers you.
You can also expect God to forgive.
It’s a fact, He’s already forgiven the entire world. That’s what the crucifixion and death of Jesus earned: Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
But He wants you to believe that personally.
When you do, whenever you do, what God accomplished for the world belongs to you specifically.
You can expect God to forgive you today, because He’s forgiven you in Christ yesterday, and promises to forgive all those who believe in Jesus forever.
You can expect forgiveness, and you can be certain that you have it.
You can also expect a great deal more.
Today, in a way, we say goodbye.
But it’s not truly goodbye.
We confess the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
So Christians call death sleep. Slumber. Rest.
To be taken from evil. Delivered from evil.
Death is to depart and be with Christ. To depart in peace. To depart and be gathered to your people.
To pass from death to life.
And, ultimately, to gain.
We may not always feel that way, but it is always true.
The tomb of Christ is empty, but the graves of our friends are full.
That truth may cause us to form all manner of opinions, but don’t forget—never forget—remind yourself of this every day—that you can expect from God many things.
He has not abandoned you. He remembers you.
He desires not your shame but your glory.
And to see it through, He forgives you, and promises to raise the dead to life everlasting just as Jesus was raised.
A good man taught me not to have opinions about generals—about God.
He taught me to have expectations.
Better than a great man, he was a good one.
But better than a good one, he was a faithful one.
Edward LeRoy Smith, born Wednesday, September 5th, 1934 died Friday morning, November 23, 2018.
Eighty-four years, two months, eighteen days alive on earth. Alive in Christ forever.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!