Look What He Built
Dear Family and Friends: I imagine many of your memories connected to Lane are connected with his ability to build things. He worked with metal, with wood, with wire, with plaster, with whatever it took to build. I've overheard people say of Mr. Lane: "He could build anything." "He was great with his hands." "He was in every nook and cranny of the church working on something." Even in his fading days, people were talking about building with him. Even while in the hospital and quite sick, Mr. Lane told me he had things he still wanted to do. Right up till the day before he died Mr. Lane, caught in between heaven and earth, was talking about building this, needing this tool, and having to get up and go to work.
But Mr. Lane's building days are through, and all that you have left are the things he built. I'm quite sure there are things in this church you can point to and say, "Lane built that." There are things in your homes and many more in your minds that will always say to you, "Lane built this." Of course, Mr. Lane didn't just build things during his life. He built a marriage, a family, a life with friends. These too will last longer than he did, and that's what hurts. What Lane built is not the same without him.
Well, I've got a surprise for you. Though Mr. Lane did build a lot, though he built a lot for the Lord, all along it was really the Lord who was building for Lane. When the Lord brought Mr. Lane into this world some sixty-nine years ago, it's not like the Lord didn't know that he wasn't going to last. It's not like the Lord Jesus thought Mr. Lane could live forever in the body He built for him in his mother's womb.
No, Lane's Lord Jesus knew that like all people Lane was born in sin, and therefore born into a tent that would one day fold up. So the Lord Jesus Baptized Lane into the eternal Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As a child, the Lord put His Name on Lane marking Him for all time and eternity as His own. He identified Lane as one who when he breathed his last, his soul return to God who gave it.
But not only did the Lord make provisions for Mr. Lane's soul to come straight to him once his earthly tent wore out. He made provisions for his body too. Throughout Mr. Lane's earthly life, even while his tent was badly faded and wearing away rapidly, his Lord Jesus gave him His eternal Body and Blood which prepared Mr. Lane's mortal body to be raised from the grave one day to life everlasting. The Lord was busy building for Mr. Lane even when Mr. Lane was no longer able to build for Him.
But how can this be? Here I am talking about how all though Mr. Lane's life the Lord Jesus has been at work building an eternal home for him in heaven, and you all know that Mr. Lane was not perfect. You all know that he was a sinner. You all know that not only didn't he do anything worthy of an eternal room in the Father's house, he did things worthy of a room much lower and hotter.
Does it surprise you that I said that? Mr. Lane wouldn't be surprised; in fact, Mr. Lane would want me to tell you that. I'm not saying anything that is not true. Furthermore, I'm not saying anything that Mr. Lane didn't know. When I preached to him God's Law, he nodded his head in agreement. He was a poor, miserable, sinner having no hope of salvation based on what his hands had built or could build. But that's not all I preached to him. I didn't only speak to Mr. Lane of God's Law; I also spoke to him of God's grace. And when I preached to Him God's free grace in Christ, the fact that all of his many sins were laid on Jesus who paid for every last single one of them, tears of joy would form in his eyes.
Ah it was just too wonderful. It was just too wonderful that long before Mr. Lane was confirmed, baptized, or even born, God was at work saving this man. Long before there was a Texas, a country, long before there was even a world, God made the decision to save this man whose passing we mourn. God elected to send His only begotten Son into flesh and blood just to build Mr. Lane an eternal home in heaven. God elected to save Mr. Lane not because he believed, not because he didn't sin, not because he built things for the church, but simply and only because of His grace in Christ. There wasn't any merit or worthiness in Mr. Lane, but there was in the holy life and innocent suffering of death of Jesus Christ. And for Jesus' sake God had a room all ready for Lane on Wednesday.
Oh, but all that seems so pie-in-the-sky. Didn't you see how Mr. Lane suffered in the last month? Didn't you see how he walked out of his house to go to the hospital one week only to be carried back into it after 3 weeks? Didn't you see how he wasted away day after day? There didn't seem to be very much house building or everlasting life going on then. And all that helpless suffering sure seemed to point to a payback for sinning.
I would think that most of you here, being family and friends of Lane, have some familiarity with building. I'm quite sure with Lane or by yourself you have renovated a house, a room, a piece of furniture. What's the first phase of such a project? The tearing down of the old. In fact, during that phase, it often looks like nothing will ever be able to built there again.
This is what those of you who saw him this past year and particularly this past month saw. God was at work tearing down. He went into Mr. Lane's life by means of disease and dying and started tearing down. It didn't look nice; it wasn't pleasing to see. But what tearing down phase is? Nope everything must go. So you go in there with heavy sledge hammers, crowbars, and shovels. Dust goes everywhere, wood breaks, and bricks crack. But all of this is only the prelude, all of this is only preparatory for getting in there and building something better and more beautiful than before.
What about the apparent wrath and judgment going on? Don't people in the tearing down stage often look mad and judgmental? But how are you suppose to look when you're tearing something down? Is there a nice, sweet way to do that? No, there isn't. Besides, you don't look just at the tearing down phase; you look all the way to the rebuilding phase. So, don't focus on God in the tearing down phase. If you do, you will conclude the wrong thing. You want to look all the way to the finished product.
The Lord is not at all done with Mr. Lane's tent now that He has torn it down. All the banging, ripping and tearing that Mr. Lane went through for the past month was not just so we could fold the tent up and put it in the ground. No, the Lord has plans for Mr. Lane, soul AND body. These legs are not done carrying and climbing; these arms are not done sawing and pounding; these hands are not done building and crafting. Our God didn't take on flesh and blood only to lose Mr. Lane's flesh and blood to ashes and dust. He took on flesh and blood at Christmas time, to redeem Mr. Lane's flesh and blood. Mr. Lane was redeemed. His Baptism says so. The Body and Blood of Christ that he ate and drank say so too.
Look forward to the time when Mr. Lane's soul, safe and secure with Jesus right now, will be reunited with a perfect, rebuilt body ready for any project. And if you thought Mr. Lane could build before when he was in his frail tent, wait till you see what he can do "in his house not made with hands eternal in the heavens." Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin Texas
December 11, 1999
Funeral of Mr. Lane Riedel
2 Corinthians 5: 1-8