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Funeral of Lyle Doerr November 13, 2023
Psalm 29:10-11 Pastor Ryan Wolfe
“Lyle serves the LORD in strength and peace”
(Reading of the Christian Obituary)
Dear friends and family, it’s obvious from that obituary and from even a short conversation with Lyle, that service was one of the most important parts of his life. Whether it was in the military, at church, or to his family – Lyle served. I think Lyle and Dorothy were one of the first couples I visited when I moved to Lake Elmo last year, and I remember connecting with them about military and church since both are part of my family background too. Don’t ask me to tell you what all the military terms mean but I loved listening to Lyle and Dorothy talk about the years they shared. God certainly blessed them, and blessed many of us through them.
For many people funerals are a time to remember the way that God blessed us in different ways through the person who is now gone from us. And that would be easy to do for Lyle. But today it’s not what Lyle gave to us in service that matters the most. It’s what God gave to him that brings us peace and comfort. The gift of faith. The gift of forgiveness. The gift of strength. The gift of peace. I chose Psalm 29:10-11 for our message today because it speaks of service, but it clearly tells us that our service comes from God’s blessing. “The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever. The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.”
Today we see the inevitable weakness of all mankind. No matter how strong we are, physically, emotionally, or in character – death is stronger than us. No matter what our strength, we find ourselves looking for more. As we are once again faced with the inevitability of death we want to see life. And by God’s grace that is exactly what we find as we consider these words and Lyle’s life.
If you had a Bible to look up the rest of Psalm 29 you’d see that it is about strength. In the first ten verses King David compares the power of God with the power of a great thunderstorm. A God who has the power to roar like the thunder, to uproot trees, and destroy whatever he would want to. The LORD is truly “the King forever.” But in the last verse David turns the meaning of that power on its head when he tells us just what God does with it. “The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.” God doesn’t use his power to just wipe away whatever displeases him. He uses it to bless his people.
Many if not most of you know Lyle better than I do. But I know he suffered the same trials we all face living in our sinful world. Lyle had teenagers once, and just maybe life wasn’t perfect all that time. He lived long enough to see close friends pass away. He told me himself he didn’t always appreciate every order he received from his army superiors. But through all of it, Lyle served. Not just his family and his nation, but his Lord. In those times when he wondered how he would get whatever challenge was at hand Lyle knew where he could go to find the strength he needed. Not his own, but God’s. Lyle trusted him to carry the load. In that way, Lyle is an example of faith to all of us. How many times don’t we wonder if we will have the strength to get by? Maybe today is one of those moments for you. How do you move on when your husband, father, grandfather, friend is no longer here? Where do you find the strength to continue on? Look where Lyle found his strength to serve. Trust that the Lord, the King forever, gives the strength of his arm to care for us. To bring us peace in our time of need.
And realize that as great as peace in suffering is, God gives us an even greater peace in Christ. As we think of the life of our Savior Jesus we see just how strong God is for us. God does more than just give us strength to endure earthly struggles. He displayed his strength in winning our battle against sin. “While we were still sinners,” Scripture says, Jesus came into the world and carried our load for us. The sins that we daily fall into, sins of doubt and distraction and selfishness – all of those things were too heavy for us to bear. We can’t stand up under them, much less throw them off. Sin drags us away from God and toward an end in hell we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies.
But God gave his strength to his people. Jesus lived perfectly in our place, so that he could give us the credit of righteousness we need as our ticket into heaven. In perfect strength Jesus endured pain and suffering as he was forsaken by the Father on the cross so that we don’t have to be forsaken for eternity. That’s real strength, and knowing God’s strength for us is what gives us strength for God. Where did Lyle find his determination and humility to serve? Not in himself, but in his Savior. Lyle’s confirmation verse (and his mother’s too actually) was Luke 11:28. “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” From an early age, Lyle knew how God had served him and the victory Jesus won for him. And he was blessed to receive that gospel in Word and in sacrament again and again as long as he lived. In fact, I celebrated Lord’s Supper with Lyle and Dorothy just two weeks before he passed. And the family and I shared Scripture’s comfort and prayer just hours before his last breath. God’s strength for him was the peace that Lyle knew his whole life. And now he knows it fully forever.
Believers have peace because the strength and work of Jesus didn’t end on the cross. Jesus’ service to humanity didn’t end in death, but in life. For a moment on Good Friday it looked to all the world that Satan had won. The Son of God was dead. The one who came to conquer sin and death had instead been overcome. But then, three days later, God changed everything. In the most glorious morning in history the Savior rose from the dead. His power over death was confirmed. His work was proved complete. It is Easter that gives us the blessing of God’s peace.
Lyle knew that Jesus’ resurrection was only the beginning. Jesus was the first to rise to glory but he is not the last. His resurrection is a promise to us that even though our bodies die, we don’t. He tells us, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” This is the peace that God gives to his people. Not the absence of death, but final victory over it. Today it’s natural to mourn for Lyle as he is no longer with us. But we believers don’t mourn like the rest of the world that has no hope. We know that Lyle is right now with the Lord in heaven, just as the Lord was always with him on earth.
And so today we recognize the goodness of what God has done for Lyle. He gave him the gift of a Savior. He gave him the gift of faith to trust in him. He gave him earthly strength to endure through every trial. He gave him blessings and peace in life. And now God’s given the final gift of peace and rest. As we consider Lyle’s strength, his service, his life may God lead us to find it in the same place he did. “The LORD is enthroned as King forever.” And he blesses his people with strength and peace. To Him be the glory indeed. Amen.