Saturday, October 17, 2020

Gary Heckman


            Gerhard “Gary” Heckman


Born:                                                   February 15, 1926
Baptized in Christ:                               February 21, 1926
Confirmed in Christ:                           March 17, 1940
With Christ in Peace:                          March 27, 2020
Committal:                                          March 30, 2020
Celebration of His life in Christ          October 18, 2020

“Blessed are they that die in the Lord”

O God, forsake me not!
Your gracious presence lead me;
Lord, lead Your helpless child;
Your Holy Spirit send me
That I my course may run.
O be my light, my lot,
My staff, my rick, my shield-
O God, forsake me not!

O God, forsake me not!
Lord, I am Yours forever.
O keep me strong in faith
That I may leave You never.
Grant me a blessed end
When my good fight is fought;
Help me in life and death –
O God, forsake me not![1]

 Death is so limited…

It has not crippled love,
It has not shattered hope,
It has not corroded faith,
It has not eaten away peace
   Nor destroyed confidence

It has not killed friendship,
It has not shut out memories,
It has not silenced courage,
It has not invaded the soul,
   Nor reduced eternal life.
It has not quenched the Spirit,
It cannot, has not,
   Nor will not lessen the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ![2]


Almighty and everlasting God, the consolation of the sorrowful and the strength of the weak, may the prayers of those who in any tribulation or distress cry to You graciously come before You, so that in every situation they may recognize and receive Your gracious help, comfort, and peace through Jesus Christ Your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.[3]

Lord Jesus, bless Thy Word, that we may trust in Thee.

It’s been seven months since Gary’s passing. Seven months since he took a walk - From one end of Christ’s kingdom to the other. From grace to glory. When he close his eyes to this world; only to behold Jesus face to face.

It’s been seven months of reflection. On the life of a man who has influenced us all. Gary Heckman was a tremendous inspiration to so many. A man of integrity and character. Gary and Dorothy were married for close to seventy-five years. His family was most important to him; his nuclear family as well as his Friedheim family. 

So what do I recall? As I remember him today. I recall a man of strong convictions.   I remember His quiet confidence in His Lord and Savior. I am reminded of the many conversations we have had over the years. And as his health began to decline; those talks, our discussions, became more serious and ever more intense. And personal.

His concerns did not focus on himself. He knew his destiny. What troubled him was the uncertainty of the future. He had the perspective of time. Ninety-four years to be exact.[4] Yet, he let it all into the Lord’s waiting arms. He commended himself and all of your; his family and friends in the hands of Jesus.

I’m grateful for the chat he had with my mother-in-law. Over thirty years ago. Never forget to remain engaged. You never know how one brief encounter can change so much. Gary Heckman lived his faith daily. He was for us an inspiration – A sermon in shoes.   

On the day of his confirmation, in this very room - March 17, 1940 - these words were spoken over Gary, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”  – 1 John 5:4

The world is full of brokenness, hardship, and trouble. And all too often, so are we. We might pretend it isn't so. We might hide behind luxuries and confidences and self-justifications.

But there we are reminded just of the impact of sin - that the wages of sin is death, and that not all the planning, power, or hand sanitizer in the world can remove that. Pilate washed his hands but still had problems a plenty.

Gary clung to the promises of his Savior. Or was it not the other way around? It was Christ who held fast to Gary as the LORD spoke His promises from the Savior’s lips to Gary’s ear right into his heart. Those who acknowledge that they are without resources in and of themselves - the Lord lifts up, - while others who trust in themselves are eventually cast down. This is the definition of faith.

Consider what you have received from the LORD. By faith, you have been joined to Christ Jesus. And what has Jesus done for you? He has taken away your sin, destroyed death with His own death, ensured that you will rise to life again come the last day - but even more than that - He has given you His own righteousness and His own holiness, so that now you are one with Christ. God your heavenly Father is well pleased with you – for now, for all time, and even on to eternity beyond time itself you are His.

Satan will try to overwhelm you with anything that would distract you from Christ in this life. Maybe it's temptations, or wealth, anxieties or fears. But all of this is just his vain attempts to make you forget what Christ Jesus has won for you, what is yours by faith. You are forgiven in Christ, and in Christ you have life and salvation - that lasts well beyond over any triumphs we achieve in this life and over anything Satan can shovel at you.

So remember what is yours in Christ. It always is yours - for Christ is risen. And the life that you live, just as the life Gary lived, you live by faith.

Jesus said, “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.”  John 16:33 which prompted John to write, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”1 1 John 1:8-10

And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.  It sounds so simple yet it’s so profound - Those who are born of God believe that Jesus is the Christ. This gift was given to Gary in Baptism. In baptism Gary was clothed in Christ. In baptism Jesus gave Gary the gift of faith. And it is faith that clings to the very promises of our heavenly Father which are found in Jesus Christ.

 With the word of God Baptism becomes a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says in Titus, chapter three: “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:5–8)

It is faith that that trusts. It is faith that saves.

The two blind men that followed Jesus and when He came into the house they came to Him and He asked them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They responded, "Yes." Jesus answered, "According to your faith be it done unto you." Matthew 9:29

To the centurion Jesus said, "As you have believed be it done unto you."  Matthew 8:13

To the Syrophoenician woman Jesus said, "O woman, great is your faith, be it done to you even as you desire." Matthew 15:28

To the woman who touched the hem of His garment, He said, "Daughter be of good comfort, your faith has made you whole." Matthew 9:22

This moved Paul to write, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” - Ephesians 2:8-9

What shall be Gary Heckman’s legacy? It’s all summed up in that Word spoken over him 80 years ago: “And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

Almighty and most merciful God, the protector of all who trust in You, strengthen our faith and give us courage to believe that in Your love You will rescue us from all adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen[5]

[1] O God, Forsake Me Not, Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis
Luther’s Seal copyright © Ed Riojas, Higher Things
[2] Unknown source, copyright © Common Domain
[3] op. cit. Lutheran Service Book, Concordia
[4] In Gary Heckman’s lifetime there were sixteen US presidents and eleven pastors serving Zion Friedheim parish
[5] Collect for Proper 12 Series B, Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St, Louis

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