Sermon: A House that Love Built

Funeral of Ron Aase
April 26, 2023
Svoboda Funeral Home, Schuyler, NE

Readings: Lamentations 3:21-25, 55-57, Psalm 46, John 14:1-6a

I never actually had the chance to meet Ron or to get to know him in person. So before I started preparing this service, or writing this sermon, I wanted to try to get some sense of who Ron was. I wanted to do my best to do his funeral justice. So last week, I ended up driving over to Monroe to sit down and talk with Bessie for a bit – out in the house that they had lived in together for over four decades. As it turns out, going out to that house is probably the single best way to really get to know Ron. 

There are signs of Ron’s presence all over that house. Bessie and I sat at the kitchen table and she showed me all these photos of Ron and of some of his projects. She showed me a candid shot of Ron sitting at that very table, snapped with her new phone. She showed me a picture of him sacked out in his favorite spot on the couch. And she showed me some amazing before and after photos of trucks and tractors that Ron had painstakingly restored. 

But more than anything else, there was a kind of refrain that kept repeating itself all throughout the conversation, which was, “Oh, Ron made that,” or, “Oh yeah, Ron did that too.” Bessie kept pointing things out as we talked, all over the house: ceiling tiles, floors, wall treatments, a remodeled bathroom including plumbing, an entire garage, a back deck – project after project. She talked about how much work and effort Ron had put into all these improvements on their house – and how he was (in her words) “cussin’ the whole time.” (haha) It’s a house that is just full from top to bottom of Ron’s handiwork. 

Sitting in that house, you can get a sense of the man that Bessie described to me – a man who could never sit still. He was just always on the go. He was always tinkering with some project or another – always taking something apart, or putting something back together, always bringing something old and broken back to life, or building something new altogether. You get the sense of Ron as someone who had a sense of curiosity about the world – always wanting to see how things worked – and a passion for making things with his own two hands. And when you look at the projects themselves, you can see the great attention to detail in them. You can get a sense of the care and pride that he took in the work that he did.

Looking at this legacy that Ron leaves behind, a life of creating and building and restoring, I can see a clear reflection of the God in whose image Ron was made. Ron’s life and legacy remind us all that God is the great Creator who made everything that is. We live in a whole universe that is full from top to bottom of God’s handiwork. And that handiwork shone out brightly in the skill and confidence and creativity that Ron brought to everything he did. 

But even more than this, when I was sitting there in that house, what struck me most deeply about all the work that Ron had done was what a profound labor of love it was. There is so much love poured into that house. I think of the photos Bessie showed me of stack after stack after stack of firewood that she and Ron chopped and split together over the decades, side by side – firewood they burned in their little wood stove – it was a labor of love that literally warmed their home from the inside out. It wasn’t exactly the garden of Eden, let alone an entire universe, but like the God who made him, Ron set out to build a little world for the people he loved to live in comfort and safety. And that legacy lives on, not only in the things that Ron made, but in the people for whom he made them. 

In Ron’s life and work, we can see the reflection of a God full of creative and redeeming love for the world. We see the reflection of God who made this world for God’s own beloved children to live in. And, like God’s beloved son Ron, it is kind of funny to think of God as someone too full of energy to ever sit still, to imagine God going about all the work of creation and “cussin’ the whole time.” But I like to think it’s true.

We hear about the house that God built in the passage we read from the Gospel of John. Here we find Jesus speaking with his disciples on the last night of his life. They have just finished eating their last meal together, and the disciples have begun to be afraid and anxious. The shadow of the cross looms large over this scene; they are all painfully aware that death will soon separate them from their beloved Teacher and friend. But Jesus speaks to reassure them, telling them, “Where I am, you will be also.” And he tells them that, in God’s house, there are many rooms, many dwelling-places. There is space enough for all God’s beloved children, and Jesus himself goes to prepare a place for them. 

We are all God’s beloved children – because God loves everyone that God has made. The work of creation and and re-creation that God has done is for us. Jesus loves his disciples in the midst of their fear and anxiety, and God loves us now in the midst of grief and separation and loss. And from these places of darkness and pain, God raises us and redeems us and restores us to life. Even when our bodies are broken and our lives come to their end, “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, and God’s mercies never come to an end.” 

We are the work of God’s hands. And the hands of the Creator who lovingly formed us from the dust of the earth are the same hands that will receive us in death – the same hands that now receive our brother Ron. And these are also the hands that have promised to one day raise us to new life with Christ. “Therefore,” as the psalmist writes, “we will not fear, though the earth be moved, though the mountains shake in the depths of the sea.” Though we are shaken by the loss of the ones we love most, we can trust in the hands of God to hold us fast.

We put our faith in the promise that Christ has gone to prepare a place for each one of us. And we wait with hope and expectation for that day when all of us, together with our brother Ron, will dwell in the house that God built – forever. 

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