Funeral sermon for Richard Waterstram, preached at Our Savior on January 24, 2011. Sermon text: Luke 2:29
Dear family and friends of Richard Waterstram, especially his sister Esther, his sister-in-law Marilyn and all the rest of his family.
Do you remember who spoke the quote in the Bible verse that I just read? Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. It was a man named Simeon. The Bible says he was a righteous and devout man, and he was waiting to see the Savior. God the Holy Spirit had actually promised Simeon that he would see the Savior before he died. And he did. Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into the temple shortly after he was born, and Simeon not only saw him, he held him in his arms and he prayed the words of our text. Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. Simeon was ready to die, because he had finally seen and held his Savior Jesus.
What I love is the way Simeon called himself the Lord’s servant. It’s for that reason that Simeon reminded me a little bit of Dick Waterstram. Above everything else, when I think of Dick, that’s what comes to mind.
I’m sure someone like Esther would have a lot of memories of Dick as a brother, and a lot of you here would have memories of having Dick in your family. Most of you probably remember him as a friend. Somewhere are probably people who remember him from his days in the service or working at Winn-Smith. But for me, other than knowing that he really loved his wife Pat, the main thing I knew about Dick is that he was a servant of the Lord.
From literally the minute I arrived here in Springville, he wanted to do all he could do to help the Lord, his church, and me as his pastor. I mean, he was literally here the second I got to my house and he gave me my key and everything. He drove me around to see where different people in the congregation lived. For most of the time after I moved here, until he got too sick, he was the first person here at every church service. He ushered most of them by himself for years. He would come in and fold bulletins and do mailings. One time I even caught him chipping ice away from my front step. I tried to get him to stop, I told him I was more than happy to do it, but he wanted to keep going. He was a servant of the Lord. And as his breathing worsened and his health declined, the thing he consistently told me that upset him was that he couldn’t help out as much as he used to. He was a servant of the Lord.
And when we all know that, it might seem like maybe God didn’t give him a fair shake. Sure, he’d been sick, his breathing had been awful for years. But it didn’t seem like he was near death. This most recent cancer come-back seemed to take him so quickly, too quickly. Why?
And why had he had to lose his wife so quickly to cancer also? Why did he have to spend so much time serving and caring for her in her last days? Why would God do that to him if he was the Lord’s servant? Didn’t those years of selfless service earn him anything? Why did we all have to lose him so soon?
When we get thoughts like that, we need to dismiss them from our minds. That’s not the way Dick thought. And that’s not what God tells us. You see, Dick wasn’t God’s servant so that he could earn something from God. He was the Lord’s servant because God had done everything for him.
It was about Jesus. Dick served because Jesus had served him. Jesus told us this about himself in the Bible. The son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28) Jesus served Dick, and he served every one of us. He served us by living the perfect life that we could never live. He served us by paying the punishment of hell so we wouldn’t have to. He served us by dying and rising to guarantee us eternal life forever by faith. Dick Waterstram was the Lord’s servant, because he was so thankful for what the Lord had done for him in his Son.
And it’s the same thing the Lord has done for you. One thing I also remember about Dick is that he was always so concerned when someone stopped going to church, or when someone didn’t believe, or when someone had wandered from their faith. That’s the great thing about Dick’s Savior, and my Savior. He’s also your Savior. He calls you back to him. He shows you his cross, and his empty tomb, and he promises that his forgiveness, life, and salvation is just as real for you as it is real right now for our dear brother Dick.
So look to Jesus. Look to the Savior who has taken your sins away and is there to give you life forever. That’s the Savior that Dick has right now. In the Bible, Simeon got to see Jesus, and then he knew it was okay for him to die. It was a little different with Dick Waterstram. Now that he has died in faith, he now sees Jesus. He has the reward that Jesus won for him. And in faith, that is the reward that all of God’s good and faithful servants have in store for them.