Sunday, April 11, 2021

Sermon Saturday, April 10, 2021 - Funeral for Rev. William D. Merrell

Title: For me to live is Christ and to die is gain!
Text: Phil. 1:20-21

Facebook live: For me to live is Christ and to die is gain!

20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Dear friends, family and loved ones of our beloved Pastor, Chaplain, husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, and brother Bill Merrell.

He is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

The joyful Easter proclamation, so recently proclaimed during Easter services in so many churches just a few short days ago, seems appropriate during this time of both joy and grief.

Christ had died on Good Friday and then on Easter Sunday rose from death to life in his glorious resurrection.

In the same way we joy in the certain hope that those who die in Christ and by faith - have the blessed promise - as those who have been predestined, called, justified and glorified – in Christ, also, grieve the loss of dear Bill in our lives; cherishing the memory of his presence among us and knowing the loss we all share, one with another, will be overcome by that glorious reunion in heaven one day for all who believe.

Make no mistake, Bill Merrell was far from a perfect man.

Born in sin, he began life in Massillon Ohio on August 27, 1945. The family moved to Michigan where they made their home becoming members of Our Shepherd Lutheran Church in Birmingham, where Bill was confirmed by Pastor Howard Allwardt. Through Pastor Allwardt’s guidance Bill was encouraged to prepare for the ministry and we are all thankful for the Lord’s call upon Bill’s life to serve his Lord and the Lord’s people.

Another call upon his life was his marriage to the love of his life Nancy, on December 28th 1968. That blessed union was further blessed by our Lord with the births of their dear children Melanie and Marcus, and as their families grew with, grandchildren and great grandchildren alike. What a joy the grandchildren were in Bill’s life!

Bill, graduated from Concordia Seminary St. Louis in 1971 and following ordination served 8 years at Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Granville Ohio before receiving the call to Peace in December of 1980. His service to Peace would continue for the next 32 years until his retirement from fulltime ministry on January 6th 2013.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Many years, many families, baptisms, conformations, weddings, and funerals continued throughout the years. Joy and sorrow, life and death, ups and downs as the lifeblood of ministry and service to his Lord continued.

I came to know Pastor Bill Merrell when I visited with him in 2001 about transferring my family to Peace. God had brought me to Peace with a transfer from St. John in Rochester. I had been pondering going to seminary and the nearness of Peace to my home and the stability of Pastor Merrell was a blessing.

I served on the board of Elders and as President of the congregation for 8 years. But the door to ministry had not opened and I became comfortable and at Peace in Lay-leadership.

As Pastor Merrell and I sat at dinner one Wednesday evening here at church in October of 2009, he asked me, “Russ, could you see me after class?” He had been teaching confirmation and I was leading an adult bible study through 1st Corinthians.

Just after class ended the chairman of the Board of Elders said to me, “Did Pastor tell you he wants to see you after class?” Now I’m starting feel a bit uneasy and just then Officer P.J. Osika, one of the members of our church, walks in in uniform and says, “Pastor around, he wanted to see me?” Now I’m thinking, “He’s got the Elders and the Cops after me! I’m getting arrested!”

No thankfully … just circumstantial evidence. Pastor had heard about the SMP program and asked if I would prayerfully consider entering it and serving here at Peace. I remember telling him “No, I’ve been down that road before and the door keeps closing, I think I’ll pass.”

He said, “Let’s not close the door on the Holy Spirit just yet.” So, I applied, entered the program and now am blessed to have served here at Peace for the last 9 years.

Pastor William D. Merrell is the reason I am a pastor. I know that the Lord is truly the reason but God works through means and Pastor Merrell and this church were the means God used and continues to use.

29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

Christ works through his word and that word was delivered through Pastor William D. Merrell for 41 years in active ministry and over the last 8 years in retirement serving in visitation to the Saints at St. Matthews and as a chaplain for the Waterford Police department.

Some of the great joys I had with Bill were during our campus visits to Fort Wayne for my annual in person classes. Early on in 2010 Bill had gotten a flip phone and while we were in the dorm a text came in from his granddaughter Kylie. Bill lit up and proceeded to reply. [slow texting]

He sent his reply. Bing! Kylie sent a text back.

Bill’s temperament was like Jesus. When the storms of life rage you might find him sleeping in the boat. Calm, even tempered, bearing one another’s burdens Pastor Merrell was a peaceful shepherd in the midst of the storm.

Bill and I attended our Pastor’s circuit meeting last month in person for the first time in a year. He was so happy to be in person with his brother pastor’s He was not in love with zoom or social media and let us all know.

He never had a computer, just his notes and a phone. One day a big black monitor was on his desk with a keyboard and computer on the floor.

Me: I said, “I see you got a computer?”

Bill: “No! It was donated.”

Me: “You going to use it?”

Bill: “I don’t think so.”

A few weeks later it was gone. This was Bill’s computer. [Shut in list]

24 names of members, dates of visits, phone numbers and family contacts. I inherited this list from him and the joy of visitation and comfort God brings to those members who are home bound and shut-in. All but 2 have departed this life for their eternal rest and now Pastor Merrell as well.

St. Luke writes in his gospel in Chapter 2 about Mary and Joseph bringing Jesus to the temple of the Lord to make a sacrifice as the Law required. And while there an old man named Simeon, who as we are told was righteous and devout and waiting for the consolation of Israel, or the comfort and peace of God, and that the Holy Spirit was upon him.

28 he took [the child Jesus] up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,

according to your word;

30 for my eyes have seen your salvation

31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

and for glory to your people Israel.”

Bill knew that same peace!

Death’s sting has been swallowed up in victory by our Lord Jesus Christ and we can have comfort in His blessed work and this blessed Good News that in and through Jesus Christ, God and man have been reconciled.

As we grieve the loss of our dear Bill and think about this frail existence we all inhabit here in this world, we can still have peace.

The words of the apostle John ring true in Chapter 14 of his gospel:

14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Pastor William D. Merrell knew the way of Christ prepared for him.

For me to live is Christ and to die is gain!

You too have this home waiting for you. The blessed Good News that Jesus died for your sins is the wonderful Gospel message you can trust.

Jesus has forgiven your sin and by the power of the Holy Spirit, in you, has given you the faith to believe in His saving work.

That’s a place prepared for you, forgiven in Christ, and an eternity with our Lord and savior Jesus that you can trust.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  


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