“Now the Song of Praise Begun” a funeral sermon for Earl Simoneau

Preached 10/03/2015

The Hymn: The Strife is O’er, The Battle Done, ELW #366

The strife is ov’er the battle done; now is the victor’s triumph won! Now let the song of praise begun. Alleluia.

A reading from John’s Revelation:

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,

‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’

And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, singing,

‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honour
and power and might
be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.’

 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?’ I said to him, ‘Sir, you are the one that knows.’ Then he said to me, ‘These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

For this reason they are before the throne of God,
   and worship him day and night within his temple,
   and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.

They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
   the sun will not strike them,
   nor any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd,
   and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’

(Revelation 7:9-17)


What else can we say about Earl that has yet to be said?

Earl.3Earl was a very faithful man in every regard – to his family; throughout his career; and to his church community; this community; the people of St. Paul.

Pastor Lutz gave him an award for being his “right hand man” – and I can see why: Earl was wise, dependable, helpful, and kind. The kind of person you knew would see things through and go an extra mile, and do it with a joyful and happy heart.

In these last days many have told me how he was the one who greeted them when they were new around here. Earl asked them to get involved in something, and Earl encouraged them through growing friendships.

It was who he was. If his parents were still alive – I’d thank them – they did a good job with this one. I wish I had an award to give him like Pastor Lutz did. A lifetime achievement award maybe (although he would hate that kind of attention).

Maybe we could just say he was Mr. St. Paul and leave it at that. That’s who Earl was for a lot of us – and he always will be. We continue to discover all the many little things Earl did for all of us here as a congregation.

Pastor Lutz called Earl – a saint – and that is exactly who he was.


But I don’t want to talk about Earl’s many achievements or the many relationships he fostered (as beautiful as they were and are); you showing up here today is proof enough of that.

I want to speak of his faith, and in particular his faith at the end.

Earl.2Earl went through the Great Ordeal. The Great Tribulation. He suffered and he fought hard, and we should not back away from saying it. Yet he exhibited an amazing balance of remarkable patience and unwavering persistence, that not only drew all those who loved him closer but also revealed an inner strength that was not his own – the promise of God in Christ that he clung to with both hands no matter what new setback or hurdle or news came his way. I am thankful for that witness.

Sometimes when people read the Revelation of John they read too much into it. They consider the message to be about the end of the world and they look at the world and say, “See! It must be happening. Look at what a mess we are in,” and there is something be said for that.

But John wasn’t writing to tell us the future. He was writing to the churches who were experiencing all sorts of turmoil and loss and uncertainty in the here and now.

The saints and the churches were perishing; and through bold metaphors and carefully painted verbal images John reveals what faith looks like in the present tense – not to leave this earth for a better place – but as heaven meets earth in this valley of tears.

What does it look like when our friends have died and we aren’t sure how to go on without them?

It looks like the saints standing before the throne of God singing God’s praises – like we have now sung in the present tense this morning. Where all the hell an we’ve had to endure, and the suffering we have gone through and the death of Good Friday are met by Jesus Christ Easter morning – and new life beckons; where weeping and crying and pain are no more.

We sang the Easter Hymn as we gather for a funeral –

The strife is o’er, the battle done; now is the victor’s triumph won! Now the song of praise begun

Can you imagine Earl singing those praises now? I can. Through it makes me smile a little. If you ever sat by Earl when he sang the hymns he really only sang one note. And now that single pitch is a base line of praise and thanksgiving as Earl and the saints sing:

Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb! … ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”  (Revelation 7:10, 12)

The Great Ordeal is met with God’s Eternal Reign, and the saints go marching in with Earl in their number. And the hope we have – for we who are still marching on, is that God’s reign meets us here, now, too.

We sing what is certain but is not yet.

Now the song of praise begun

The day Earl and Doris made the decision to go ahead with hospice care I had gone to see Earl. He look troubled. He was quiet. He barely said two words for about 45 minutes when he said, “They came to talk to me about hospice.”

We talked for a little bit about it. The decision was weighing on him. Doris came and we talked further. Then the hospice nurse came and explained the process to them. She explained that Middlesex Hospital was well equipped to keep him there if he wanted, or he could go home, and they could get him set up there where he could be comfortable.

“Is that something you’d like to pursue?” she asked.   He nodded  and the relief in Earl’s face was apparent.

“Now the song of praise begun

After a pause she asked, “Where do you want to be?” Earl answered by pointing up.

Now the song of praise begun

If you were here near the end of the Easter Season when we celebrated the Ascension – I preached a sermon that claimed there is no “up.” Jesus doesn’t go up to heaven to leave us here behind. We are in constant relationship – within our solar system, our galaxy, our galaxy cluster, and a sweeping movement of constant comings and goings where up is not up and down is not down; there is only connectedness.

We are held together by the Risen Christ who rules heaven and earth, preparing a place for us as the way, the truth and the life – that gives us life; here and hereafter.  (John 14:1-6)

That rule is present in the constant movement of relationships in the compassion we have for each other through the Great Ordeal; in the love we share for each person – for all of us are made in the image and likeness of God – and in the mercy we extend to the least of these, because that is the place our risen Jesus promises to show up – and he does; here among us…now.

Earl wasn’t pointing up to discuss interplanetary motion.  He was looking forward to joining the saints in procession around the throne of the Lamb of God.

Now the song of praise begun

Can you hear it? Earl’s single note carries that hymn of praise throughout the universe.

The strife is o’er, the battle done; now is the victor’s triumph won! Now the song of praise begun. Alleluia.

These words greeted me when I heard the news that Earl had died. Not in robust song of heavenly choirs or by gathered congregations – but with a whimper of tears and sadness, but also with a determined certainty – that looked death in the eye and claimed,

“Where O Death is your victory? Where O Death is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)

Earl.1For we have seen the saints gathered around the throne; in the place prepared for us all.

We have heard all the Saints in song.

We have been through the Great Ordeal.

We give thanks for Earl as he joins that chorus.

And we know that Christ is victor over all.

And the all the saints across time and space we sing.

“Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.


About geoff sinibaldo

Follower of Jesus, Husband, Father, Son, Friend, Change Proponent, Goofball, Seeking Faithfulness in the 21st Century
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