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Saturday, June 14, 2014

06142014 Funeral Sermon James Lee Tubbs

Sermon Audio

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer!!  AMEN!!

Let us pray!  Good and gracious Heavenly Father, as we gather this morning to mourn the death of Lee and be comforted with the Gospel of Your Son and our Savior Jesus Christ, the mark that has been made by Lee upon our lives cannot be measured.  May we as we gather remember that You mark us, not only with the Cross, but with the promise of being with us always.  This promise You have graciously fulfilled in You taking Lee home to be with You in Your kingdom.  May we be comforted by this truth and we ask You to send Your Holy Spirit to surround us with Your love and the salve of the Gospel that You offer to all of mankind, but especially Lee’s family and friends gathered here to say goodbye.  AMEN.

If you ever walked into an implement dealership and went to the shop you knew you had entered a special place.  Whether it was the smell of kerosene from the old days to clean your hands or some of the parts of their grease, the oil stains on the floor from a gasket blowing or a leaking crank shaft, or even along the wall the display of wrenches and tools that were needed for fitting all the nuts and bolts on the tractors, combines or even sprayers.  This was the domain of men who liked to fix things and tinker, it was the happy home of the mechanic.  Lee as we all know was a mechanic and a farmer at heart.  He liked working with his hands, whether leather in later years, tractors and farm equipment or cars to race, or planting crops and raising pigs, cows and other farm animals, but Lee clearly knew and understood moving parts, machinery and what each tool on his bench could do and should be used for in the shop.

Not only did he know how to use each of his tools, but Lee also knew his tools not just by name, but even by their feel in his hands.  Just as a sculptor knows how and when to use a chisel to carve stone, the mechanic that Lee was knew what tool was needed for each piece of machinery that either entered his stall or that he used on the farm.  But it wasn’t just knowing the tool, Lee knew his tools by the mark that was on each tool.  It wasn’t the trademark or brand on the tool that Lee knew of Craftsman or nowadays Fastenal or Snap-On, Lee had marked his tools with either “JT” or “JLT” and they were his tools.  Not only did this mark make the tool his, but it insured that the tool would make it home if it was borrowed.

Today we come to remember and reminisce about Lee, but we need to remember that just like his tools, Lee on Wednesday was returned home to his heavenly home.  You see, Lee when he was 14 years old became marked not with letters or a tool trademark, but with the sign of the Cross upon his brow and over his heart as the sign of becoming a child of God in his baptism.  In, through and by the waters of baptism, Lee was made a new creature by Water and Word intimately connected and God made Lee His own.  Crafted in his mother’s womb, Lee with his baptism not only became identified, but definitely marked by the seal of the Blood of the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.  For the rest of his earthly life, that sign and seal connected him with the Cross of Calvary and Jesus death on that Cross for him.  It was the mark upon Lee that not only formed and shaped his life, but showed who and Whose he truly was and now Lee has been returned to his owners, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Just like God the Father, Who we hear speaking very few words in all of Holy Scripture, Lee was also a man of few words.  As I shared with his family as we prepared for this morning, I came to Goodland in 2010 and Lee was a shell of his former self.  I would visit Lee and Ruby with Holy Communion, sit on their couch and I would try and coax Lee into conversation, I would be successful, if I could get out a quick phrase or short response.  So Thursday, I asked the family to tell me about him.  And it was clear, Lee was even when Bette, Mary Ann and Wilbur were younger a man of few words.  But if Lee spoke, everybody listened.  Whether it was in talking to the kids or grandkids when they were young, ‘I’ll put a knot on your head’ partly in jest or in talking about the farm animals that wouldn’t do what he wanted them to, Lee made his words count and matter.  But one thing was sure and certain, though a man of few words, Lee always was looking out for his family.  And this is the same for our God Whom marked Lee and to Whom Lee has returned to, God always has been looking out for Lee and us and God gave us the scriptures that we have heard this morning as His promise of the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation that has been fulfilled for Lee, but also for us as a means of comfort as we mourn but to show us His love for all of us through the Cross of Jesus Christ.

The love God has for us Lee emulated in his love that he had for his wife and kids.  It was very clear even to the staff at Good Samaritan that ministered unto him, they saw and experienced this love between husband and wife that was so clear.  It may not have seemed that way all of the time, but once, Lee, Wilbur, Ruby, Mary Ann and Bette were moving a fridge.  And Wilbur became caught by his hand by the fridge against a shelf.  Wilbur was trying to protect his parents from being crushed by the fridge and its sliding down the steps onto his parents.  Yet, ironically, it was Lee who didn’t want anything to happen to Wilbur and wanted to prevent any mark or scar on his hand, Lee simply ‘moved’ the fridge to free Wilbur and in essence protect his son.  But this was the nature of the quiet man, Lee really was, not only as a Father, but especially as a husband.

This was not only the mark upon Lee’s life, but how God through the Cross of Jesus Christ and the offer of eternal life was offered to Lee as we heard in Psalm 23.  Jesus Christ ‘prepared’ and made Lee the man that he was and we knew and loved.  Just as in farming, when one planted a field the arm on the planter came down to show where the next row was to be followed for planting, the mark Lee carried as a child of God was clear.  It was not only the restoration found in being a farmer, but also Lee’s love, instilled by God for his family.

Having a large family was something that was natural for Lee and Ruby.  Not in the number of kids, but how important family and family gatherings were to Lee and made him smile.  Whether it was to have his grandkids for the weekend so both he and Ruby could spoil them, to their parents chagrin, or how Lee would exhibit his wry sense of humor with a simple phrase spoken in jest at times of ‘knot head’.  Lee always was making a mark in our memory upon the people that he loved, from teasing as only a grandfather could, to ‘knuckles’ and kisses with grandkids and ‘great grandkids’ to even making his nearest neighbors the Wilkenings one time wonder if World War III had started by all the gunfire while having some target practice in the pasture.  Lee liked to have fun here on the plains of Kansas, where it was flat and you could race cars if you wanted to even loosing to Wilbur one time, but it was very clear Lee loved this land, his family and his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

It was clear Lee and Ruby loved living the life of the pioneer.  From his being born in a sod house to living in one after marriage, both Lee and Ruby were extremely comfortable living on the prairie of Northwest Kansas and making their living from the winter wheat, corn in the fall and all of the livestock, even when he threatened to ‘go get the gun’, because they weren’t doing what they should.    But it was extremely clear from the very beginning that Lee had a mark on him.  It wasn’t the typical mark like tools or machinery, but it was the mark of and from God upon his life.

When God entered Lee’s life, God had a plan and the beginning of that plan was God’s making him a child of God.  And the undeniable truth of Jesus Christ in Lee’s life through thick and thin, the good and the bad, but clearly insuring the promise of salvation offered by Jesus Christ innocent death on Calvary.  Then, just as Psalm 23 said, God then all throughout his life ‘prepared a table’ for Lee and his family, whether in Burlington, Pratt, here in Goodland or even out on the farm Northwest of town.  And God’s ‘goodness and mercy followed’ Lee all of his life.  The most profound way God entered into his life after Lee’s baptism was in a small all-night diner that he entered with his best friend Gary.  In that diner, Lee was marked, by nothing other than a woman.  You see Lee and Gary stopped at that diner and met a young lady that Gary thought was a great catch for him.  After offering her a ride home and being declined, Lee and Gary waited for this young lady til after her shift was over.  When she emerged and found Lee and Gary still waiting, she agreed to the offer of a ride home.  It was then to Gary’s chagrin that he learned that Lee had been marked from the first time she saw him by this young lady named Ruby.

God had clearly marked in His book of life the destiny that has not only been lived by Lee and Ruby for these last 56 years, but has had as its blessing three kids, numerous grandkids and even ‘great-grands’ that were the apple of both Lee and Ruby’s eyes.  The mark of God upon both Lee and Ruby is clear, but it is succinctly epitomized in something that Lee wrote to Ruby on the back of his Senior Picture.
“Ruby, To a swell gal that has been a lot of fun to be with. 
I guess we’ve had fun together.  I have anyway.  Lee”
Simple marks of a pen on the back of a picture at the good and proper time, like Solomon in Ecclesiastes wrote signified a good and proper time for everything.  And especially the love these two had for one another.  But it was a love that continued throughout their lives.  What is not well known is that Lee, a man of few words, marked by His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ loved his betrothed Ruby, not only as a person, but her playing the organ and singing.

Unknown to Ruby, when they lived on the farm, Ruby when she thought she was alone would sit at the organ and play and sing, because she loved music.  Lee would skillfully sneak back to the house when Ruby would play and sit on the porch quietly and listen and be serenaded by his ‘swell gal’.  The music he heard is a perfect bookmark for us this morning of God’s mark and love song in Lee’s life.  Though today we mourn, God marked Lee with the Cross of Christ and today makes good on the promise made in his baptism to bring him home.  It is the proper time of fulfillment, because God has prepared the table and now welcomes Lee into His loving arms.  That love shared by Lee and Ruby with all of us first came from God to Whom we now entrust and return Lee since he was marked by God in his baptism.  May we be comforted by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and may it continue to be the salve that soothes our souls as we listen to Ruby sing one last time for Lee of the salvation offered by Jesus Christ for all of mankind, but especially for Lee, his family and all of us gathered here to say goodbye.  AMEN.

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