Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
Funeral of Dale “Bruce” Gray – January 5, 2017
Text: Isaiah 40:27-31
Dale Bruce Gray had a long and rich life of 87 years. He had a long life of marriage to Alice, married for 65 years and 5 days. Bruce had a long life of faith, baptized and confirmed as an adult in February 1954 in this very congregation. He had a rich life in this congregation, raising his boys and working on many projects through the years including the building of this sanctuary and work on the parsonage.
This long and rich life was a gift from His God, who purchased and won Him from the cross and adopted Bruce as His own child through faith. The Lord says this about His children:
29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
The Lord gives power to the faint, and increases the strength of those who have no might. We might say that it was unfair that such a man as Bruce was riddled by such poor health these last several years. If the Lord is doing what He says here, it seems like His servants should be healthy and vibrant. They shouldn’t have to go on this rollercoaster of being in and out of the hospital every few months.
We get led astray, however, when we measure the Lord by what we observe in His servants—whether by the condition of someone’s body or by how much they did in their life. What matters above all—and the reason we are gathered here—is not the man Bruce, but Bruce’s God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
“The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”
It’s true that we have strength in ourselves, a strength of mind and body. Every person has a measure of strength that comes from being alive, whether or not they call on the Lord. With that strength, we achieve many things during our lifetime. But that strength wears out, gets riddled with disease, forgets things, grows old, and dies.
But when are baptized and believe in the Name of Jesus, we put on His strength—the strength of the “everlasting God who does not faint or grow weary.” It is He who created heaven and earth, who created us and first breathed into our nostrils the breath of life, who knit us together in our mother’s womb, and who daily provides all we need for this body and life. This is the God who gives power to the faint and renews the strength of those who wait for Him.
It’s a strength that is given to God’s children through faith, no matter what the changes and chances of this life bring, whether poor or strong health, a great or a feeble mind.
It’s an unwearied strength because it comes from our God. We have it by the faith God has given us. It’s about this strength that St. Paul wrote in Romans 8, “38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” All of these seem pretty powerful. But why are they incapable of destroying us? They are not able to wrench us away from the Lord because He gives us His strength. He is the God who overcame all things by the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. It’s with that strength that God preserves His children in their Baptism throughout this life. And with that strength, all who are in Christ will have the strength to rise from their graves and live with the Lord in eternity.
The day Bruce passed, Alice asked me how is she going to live without Bruce. The strength to do it will come from the God who was Bruce’s strength and hers. Do not be afraid and do not despair; the Lord is the everlasting God and He renews your strength, through every trial, even unto eternal life. Amen.
 Romans 8:38-39