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Delivered By
Pr. David Fleener
Delivered On
December 12, 2018 at 11:15 AM
Funeral - Jim Rinker

Pr. David Fleener

Sermon: Funeral of Jim Rinker – December 12, 2018

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; 2nd Corinthians 4:6-12, 16-18; John 12:23-26


            Dear family and friends of Jim: Grace and peace be with you from God our Father, and from Jesus the Christ, who united us together in love in baptism and who died and rose again to bring us new life. Amen.


            I have had the honor of being the pastor for many members of the Rinker family and their spouses over the past eight years. And Jim, like his brother Clifford, embodied many traits of the “gentleman farmer”, as it was so well put in his obituary, which went beyond his well-known love for antique tractors. He was gentle. He was kind. He treated his pastor well! And he was faithful. Even in these last few years, when his body totally betrayed him, he and Betty made an extra effort to worship here on Sunday morning.


            Jim certainly would have resonated with the Apostle Paul’s words in 2nd Corinthians today. Paul described the body and human life in this realm as a “clay jar”. A clay jar, of course, is fragile. One mishandle can shatter the whole thing.


            And though the clay jar of Jim’s earthly life suffered many mishandles, many drops, from cancer to open-heart surgery, he was a rather tough example of a usually delicate vessel. Time and time again, he recovered enough to return to his farm and his church. Time and time again, he came back to us.


            But as it turns out, the clay jar itself of Jim’s earthly life is not the most important thing we remember today. No, today we remember the treasure that it contained. And the treasure that Jim’s life contained was the love he showed us, the love he lived, rooted in the love of Jesus Christ for him.


            Many years ago, that love was poured into Jim’s heart through his baptism into the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. On the same day he made public affirmation of his faith before this congregation, on June 5, 1949, he was submerged in the waters of baptism and united with Christ and everything that Christ is. He was united with Christ in Christ’s complete, perfect humanity. He was united with Christ in Christ’s suffering and death. And he is also united with Christ in the Resurrection to eternal life. On this side of death, we still wait for the Resurrection. But for Jim, who is outside our ordinary understanding of time and space, Resurrection has already happened. For Jim, the Resurrection to eternal life is a present moment, not a future one. That is because in God’s presence, all of time touches eternity. All of time is present. All of time is now. And because Jim is united with the communion of saints, both with us still in our earthly pilgrimage and with those who now rest, including his parents, his brother Clifford, and his brother-in-law Charles, he is united with God and with the love of Christ that he was first given so many years ago.


            And that love continues on, even beyond the grave. In today’s Gospel, Jesus, using a metaphor which is not quite biologically accurate but theologically spot-on, speaks of the radical transformation of God’s love and life in the image of a seed. The seed is planted in the earth, where it undergoes a radical transformation into a life we otherwise cannot see. It “dies”, so to speak, so that it can flourish into new life. That is exactly what happened with Jesus; the ministry of a first-century Jewish teacher and faith healer was revealed to be the ministry of God himself through Jesus’ death and resurrection. And something similar is true with Jim. Jim’s life has been sown into the earth. And the life that Jim and the rest of those united with Christ will enjoy is a life beyond imagination. A life where, as the book of Revelation puts it, mourning, crying, and pain will be no more. Where death will be no more. Where God will live with his people forever. That is the sure and certain hope we are given today, even in the midst of our grief.


            God grant you the assurance that death is not the end – not for Jim nor for anyone united with Christ – but that death is simply the pathway to eternal life. To Resurrection. To a life beyond our wildest dreams. Amen.


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