My Grandpa died Sunday, November 22. I flew home Monday the 23rd to be there for the viewing and funeral. My Dad's Dad, Grandpa was a career missionary. He spent thirty years in India, seven in Sri Lanka, and one in Guam. In his retirement he was active in his church, serving as a pastor to senior citizens among various other ministries, including a writing ministry through which he published two books, The Call of Net and Johnnie's Little Potato. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Helen, along with four adult children, six grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. I had the privilege of saying a few words at his funeral. I felt impressed upon to share the distinctly Christian concept of grief and hope in the face of death. Here's what I read:

As a Children’s Pastor, I like things that are easy to remember. The great truths of Scripture are easier to remember in groups. And, as Trinitarian Christians, of course we like things to be grouped in threes. So, when I ask the kiddos who the three persons are in the One True God I want them to answer: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If I ask “What is the threefold office of Jesus Christ?” The answer, hopefully, is “Prophet, Priest, and King.” When we ask, “Who are the three great enemies that Christ has conquered?” The answer is “Sin, Death, and the Devil.”

Today we are witnesses at the funeral of an amazing life, a heroic life. A life saturated with the Graces of Christian virtue. When attending Christian funerals we are reminded that we do not grieve like others who have no hope. For Christians, our grief is mingled, even eclipsed at times by a profound hope––our loved one is with the Lord. This hope brings joy, and allows us to celebrate the fact that our loved one is no longer suffering, that he is in the presence of the Savior, that the sacrifices of his life are being rewarded in glory, and that his death will, someday, be undone when Christ returns and raises the dead.

But the Christian does still grieve. Not as one who has no hope, but grieve they do, nonetheless. Why? Because Death is one of the three great enemies. It reminds us that all is not well in the world. That Man, created out of the ground to rule over the ground should die, and be placed back under the ground he was created to tend is an unspeakable tragedy––one of the consequences of humans rebelling against our benevolent King––the Creator of the Universe, the world, and of Human beings. God warned our first parents in the Garden “the day you eat of it you shall surely die.” Here, a twofold separation is threatened: spiritual death––that is, a separation in the harmonious relationship between humans and God––making enemies out of intimate friends; And physical death, the tearing apart of our bodies and our souls. So, as Christians, we do not speak of death in friendly terms. Death is not our buddy. Death is not our pal. Death is not salvation, or release from the “prison cell” of the human body. Indeed, it is offensive to refer to our physical bodies, which our Creator called, “very good” as a “prison cell.” No, death, if we are to speak distinctly Christianly is one of the three Great Enemies. Paul says in his famous resurrection passage in 1 Corinthians chapter 15:

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Grandpa has succumbed to death--a great enemy. But the reason we do not despair in our grief is that our Savior and our God, Jesus Christ, conquered death. Spiritual death, by providing reconciliation with God by taking the punishment for our rebellion on the cross. And physical death by coming back to life. His resurrection body proves that he can and will resurrect the dead when he returns: physically, materially, hair, toenails, all of it will come back to life. Not saggy, not frumpy, but glorious, and beautiful.

So we may grieve. We hate death. Death is our enemy. We miss Grandpa. His seat is empty, and it makes us sad. Our grief is appropriate. But we do not despair in our grief. Because Grandpa is with the Lord, and because Grandpa’s body will one day be reunited with his soul and he will come back to life, as a beautiful immortal, physical Grandpa. This is Resurrection Hope. This is Christian Hope.

Grandpa exuded hope––he was so incredibly optimistic. Always whistling, always thankful, rarely, if ever, complaining. This hope fueled an incredibly generous life of self-sacrifice for the sake of advancing the Gospel. Going to his house meant entering into a world of hope.
Grandpa & Grandma’s house, especially as a young child was a bit magical. Grandpa’s enthusiasm and love for us was expressed in all kinds of creative adventures. He had a workshop next to his study down in the basement. This workshop was crammed full of all kinds of tools he would use to create special times for us. From making enormous kites with personalized reeling spools to handcrafting a chess set––He made things for us, and we were captivated by his creativity.

Going to his house also meant getting a glimpse of what made Grandpa tick. No, I’m not talking about his undying love for licorice, jelly beans, cherry pie, and all manor of sweet treats. No, I’m talking about his hopeful love for the Savior. During the cold months you could set your clock by the sounds of crumpled newspaper, the gentle thud of firewood and the scrape of an iron poker as he built his fire in his wood burning stove. Then you’d see him in his chair by the fire reading the Scriptures. In the evenings before bed we always had family worship which consisted of a Bible story, prayers, and songs. So from an early age, he instilled an idea of consistent and disciplined practices that expressed a love for the Savior––a love he very much wanted his grandchildren to embrace. Never weird, never pushy, just fun, optimistic, creative love for us, and for His Lord.

Later, in my own life, as I considered a long move down to Texas, contemplating his life gave me courage. For Grandpa, the call of the Gospel meant steaming away on a ship, leaving close family for five years at a time without airplanes, email, or affordable telephone to shrink the distance. His calling also meant saying goodbye to his children for significant periods of time as they went off to boarding school. Comparing our move to Texas, (a mere thousand miles away––and with all the conveniences of air travel, email, cell phones, and now Skype) to his journey to India helped me to gain an appropriate perspective on what it means to follow one’s calling for the sake of the Gospel. He lived a beautiful life of courageous sacrifice. I want to be like him. I want my son to be like him. I would call John Henry Blosser a good man, worthy of honor, and acclaim. But his consistent, humble spirit, would always deflect such accolades to the Savior he loved, not in a manor smacking of false humility, but in gentleness and authenticity. I love him and I miss him. I look forward with confident hope that I will see him again, whole and glorious, and hopefully with a kite in hand and a playful grin on his face.