The Crown of Life in a stained glass window

 in memory of the First World War, created c. 1919

by Joshua Clarke & Sons, Dublin

Sermon 98




Receiving the Crown of Life

The Funeral Sermon

for Chuck Prescott (1925–2019)


July 13, 2019


John 3:16 is probably the best known Bible verse of all – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

       This verse is known for its love, and rightly so – For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. How good and true that word is about love – and it has been so for generations of believers! But there’s more to that verse than this word about love. There’s also – And will not perish but have everlasting life if you believe. Now that’s a little darker. Perish isn’t as sweet a word as love is. But still they go together – the sweet along with the bitter. You can’t just read – For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son – and then mumble through the rest of it! No, the bitter ending of John 3:16 is also important to the overall verse. You can’t chop the end off!

     What we have here, then, is Luther’s duplex verbum – or the “double word” (Luther’s Works 3:242). Duplex verbum is Latin for the double word – the sweet and the bitter together. Yes, Luther loved the Latin language (“Preface to the Complete Edition of Luther’s Latin Writings” (1545), LW 34:327–38) even though he is mostly remembered for being one of the greatest champions ever of the German language (“I Was Born for My Germans,” pp. 222–29 in Heinz Schilling, Martin Luther: Rebel in an Age of Upheaval, trans. Rona Johnston, 2017). Latin, he still believed, was the “backing stone” to the “hewn facings” of any sturdy building (LW 46:231).

      So how do they go together – this love and perishing? Well, John 11 helps us out. There we learn about Jesus being the resurrection and the life – and that though we die yet shall we live (John 11:25). So eternal life, when granted to believers, doesn’t circumvent death. It just surpasses it once it happens. So even though Chuck died a while back, he’s now alive again (John 14:19). And he’s actually more than alive – he’s blessed with his new life in heaven. John 5 teaches us about that. Christ’s raises all and rules over all in the end – bringing forth both those “who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:29). Thanks be to God that through faith in Jesus, Chuck has been saved from this judgment and the wrath of God (John 3:36). He has received that blessed life instead – which is proclaimed to us all in that first option.

      What an amazing message! And Chuck believed it – that’s why he has not perished but has eternal life! So while we’re sad, Chuck isn’t. I have friends who say they wouldn’t want to live forever in heaven because it would be so boring – the same thing over and over again. But they haven’t heard the full Bible story, have they? The life awaiting us in heaven is anything but boring. It’s, in fact, glorious! All bad things are gone – no sickness or death, no evil or corruption. All tears are wiped away (Revelation 21:4). That keeps everything perpetually interesting! That’s what Chuck has. And in that last glorious book of the New Testament – the Revelation of Saint John the Divine – we’re told that those who have this glorious life are given the “crown of life” (Revelation 2:10)! Won’t that be something!

Now Chuck never told me to be like him. In fact, if he heard me considering this he would laugh! But who couldn’t admire him? Those 93 years of belief – starting in its incipient form right after he was baptized in 1925! (Luther’s Works 76:257–66). Would that I carry my faith forward from infancy to old age as well. Not everyone does, you know. That’s because the baptized can squander their baptism! Luther even thought that many were baptized in vain (LW 29:132, 57:27 – and 7:132, 27:85)! But not Chuck. Magnificent! He miraculously held onto his baptism for 93 years. And then there are those 72 years of marriage to his beloved, Doris! And theirs was no ordinary marriage at all – for they were always batting around the tough issues of the day, and still stayed together as a loving couple. Add to this Chuck’s 71 years as a beloved father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Pretty impressive! His family relied on him – and he delivered over and over again. And how about those 65 years here – as a loyal member of this church! You don’t see that often – people putting so much of their money and effort into their faith – both in the good times and the bad. And then, as one untimely born (1 Corinthians 15:8), Chuck was my friend for 40 years. Through all of the ups and downs of my ministry, he supported me with sage advice – never failing to extend to me the hand of friendship – just as the Bible says true friends are, being “born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). That was Chuck – no fair-weather friend (Alexander Pope, 1730) in any way whatsoever!

      So be like Chuck? I should say so – for who couldn’t admire this loyalty and steadfastness (1 Corinthians 15:58)? So on this day when we pay our last respects to this child of God, let us not only admire Chuck Prescott, but also give thanks to God, that through his faith in the only begotten Son of God, he now has his great reward, his crown of life – eternal blessedness in heaven forever. Amen.


 (printed as preached but with some changes)