We gather here this afternoon to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of Harold Knight. We also gather seeking an eternal perspective for our time of loss.
For help we turn to the Word of God.
Psalm 39:4,5,7,8,12 (NIV) Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. Save me from all my transgressions; do not make me the scorn of fools. Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping. For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were.
2 Cor. 5 Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not made by human hands, Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed we will not be found naked. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.
Let us pray: Our Father, we come to you today in our time of loss because we know that you alone can help us in the way that we need. Help us to remember and celebrate Harold’s life. We give thanks for his service and for his spirit. Help us as we grieve and as we seek perspective on what lies beyond the grave. We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Mr. Harold R. Knight, was born August 17, 1910 in Salem, Iowa, the son of Arthur and Clara Carlson Knight. Harold served in the Civilian Conservation Corps and worked for the state of Illinois Conservation Department for many years in the Rock Island area and later in Oak Lawn, Illinois. He enjoyed being a Game Warden and took pride in keeping the law even if at times it didn’t make people happy.
On June 12, 1965 he married Marnelle Sights Hundley in Oak Lawn, Illinois. Harold and Marnelle met at a gun club in the Oak Lawn area. Marnelle wanted to join the club. The men (including Harold) didn’t think it was such a good idea. Harold, being the single guy, was elected to explain the situation to her. Marnelle was allowed to use the club whenever she desired but she couldn’t be a “member”.
Harold and Marnelle dated for 8 years (on and off). One day Harold was helping Marnelle move out of her apartment and he said, “It’s about time we got married.” I guess you would say that he wasn’t a romantic and he didn’t make quick decisions!
Harold and Marnelle made many good friends in the Chicago area. They enjoyed traveling. In 1974 they retired and in the mid 70’s they moved to LaHarpe. A relative of Marnelle’s was selling their home so Harold and Marnelle purchased it. Harold was a member of the LaHarpe Masonic Lodge #195 and the Scottish Rite in Moline, Illinois.
He is survived by his wife, a resident of the Hancock County Nursing Home and a step-son, Gerald Hundley of Danville, Illinois. He was preceded in death by 1 brother and 2 sisters.
I met Harold shortly after moving to LaHarpe 24 years ago. At the time Harold was the custodian at the Post Office and around that time he also was a custodian at the Methodist Church. The fact that I was from Chicago gave us several things to talk about. . . frequently it was one of the Chicago sports teams.
Harold was an active man. He was active with the Senior Citizens and helped deliver meals for many years. He was always helping someone. Harold had me confused for a little while because it seemed like every time I saw him he had a different woman in the car! I believe there were about 13 different widows around town that he helped at various times. He would fix things in their home, take them to Doctor’s appointments and help in many other ways. Harold was an example of the kind of difference one person could make. Harold brought life, joy, and comfort to many people over the years.
It was quite common to see Harold out in his yard. He was proud of his flowers and took special pride in his roses. It was years before he purchased a riding mower. It seems he was always out cleaning up around the house, weeding the flowers, or cutting the grass. In fact, one of my latest memories was looking out the window of my home office and watching Harold (who at this time could barely walk) dragging a big box of leaves to the street that he had raked up from his yard. He did this several times and then he burned the leaves.
Harold was simply a nice man. He always had a smile, a quick quip, and always seemed to have time to visit. He was a good neighbor and enriched the La Harpe community. We will all miss him.
Death often leaves us empty. We seem to move from feelings of deep sorrow to frightening numbness. In this day of strangely mixed emotions we seek God’s comfort and direction. The word comfort occurs 112 times in the Bible, and Scriptures containing that precious word are among our very favorites. Let me quote some of them for you:
As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you shall be comforted.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me …
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
Today we need God’s comfort. The Creator of life is the One who also brings healing and hope in the time of death. When others are gone, He remains.
This is also a time to address ultimate questions. We don’t like to talk or think about death. It is an uncomfortable topic. However, today we ask the most basic of questions, “Is there life beyond the grave?” If there is, “how do we find it?”
To answer the first question, I do believe there is life beyond the grave. I not only believe that in my soul (because it is the only thing that makes sense) but also (and primarily) because of the teaching of the Bible and the experience of Jesus. The Bible tells us over and over that there is life beyond the grace. Jesus said,
I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will live even though he die and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. [John 11:25-26]
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,f that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. [John 3:16]
The Apostle Paul wrote,
Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. [2 Cor 5:1]
There are many other places in the Bible that talk about eternal life and Heaven.
This is comforting but we have to ask the question, “Is it true?” I think the resurrection of Jesus proves that there is life beyond the grave. He died, He was buried, He came back from the dead three days later. Jesus proved and testified that there is life beyond the grave.
So, how do we get this “life beyond the grave?” The Bible does not tell us that everyone goes to Heaven. In fact, it tells us plainly that NOT everyone will be in Heaven. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus told us that only those who put their trust and confidence in Him will live forever in His Kingdom. Jesus is the only One who can provide what we need in our lives. He is the One who provides a payment for our rebellious living and reveals the way through the “dark valley of the shadow of death.” In other words, Heaven is for those who realize they have no hope to save themselves.
The true believer does not look at his or her goodness. They know that even the best of us cannot earn a place in God’s house. Confidence at the time of death comes from trusting what Christ has done for us by dying in our place on the cross. The person who trusts Christ realizes that this world is not our home. Though we love our lives, this is nothing compared to what God has prepared for us.
In his book on heaven, evangelist D. L. Moody quotes an acquaintance as saying: “When I was a boy, I thought of heaven as a great, shining city, with vast walls and domes and spires, and with nobody in it except white-robed angels, who were strangers to me. By and by my little brother died; and I thought of a great city with walls and domes and spires, and one little fellow that I was acquainted with. He was the only one I knew at that time. Then another brother died; and there were two that I knew. Then my acquaintances began to die; and the flock continually grew. But it was not till I had sent one of my little children to his Heavenly Parent—God—that I began to think I had a little in myself. A second went, a third went; a fourth went; and by that time I had so many acquaintances in heaven, that I did not see any more walls and domes and spires. I began to think of the residents of the celestial city as my friends. And now so many of my acquaintances have gone there, that it sometimes seems to me that I know more people in heaven than I do on earth.”
As we get older, thoughts of Heaven become less theoretical and much more practical. The more loved ones who have died in our lives, the greater the pull of Heaven on our hearts.
Harold Knight was a good man. I honestly don’t know where his faith was placed. I don’t know whether he trusted his own goodness or whether he trusted Christ. I wish I did know. That is something God will sort out. He is the just judge. Today my prayer is that God would grant mercy and grace to my neighbor, Harold.
As we mourn Harold’s loss we must face the fact that we remain. So today I encourage you to do three things. First, take this opportunity to do an inventory of your faith. Are you confident of Heaven? Have you come to that point in your life where you have trusted Jesus as the only one who can save you from your sin and lead you to Heaven? Have you received His gift of salvation and new life? If you haven’t done so, I encourage you to delay no longer. Use this time of sadness as your encouragement to get right with God. If you have placed your trust with Christ, then use this time to think about Heaven. Allow yourself to smile at the possibility that you will see Harold again.
Second, reach out to those around you. Draw on the strength that God provides from others. Be sensitive to the tears and sadness, and lend a shoulder to cry on when necessary. Harold understood that there are many hurting people all around us. If we learned anything from him it should be that caring people do make a difference.
Finally, remember joyfully. Tell your stories about Harold. Remember his flowers, remember him out in the yard, and remember his gentle smile and his playful ways. When you remember in these ways you are not being disrespectful; you are instead honoring Harold’s life. Celebrate what Harold has meant to you. Give thanks to God for the difference Harold made in your life.
In one sense Harold’s journey is over . . . in another sense, it is just beginning. Keeping perspective is our challenge today. Draw close to God. Receive His comfort and put your hope in His life.
Will you pray with me?
Gracious Father, we thank you for the life of Harold Knight. We thank you for his spirit, his service, and all the memories. Harold has touched many of us with his kindness. Please extend your mercy and grace to Harold. Welcome him into your presence through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Please comfort Marnell. Her loss is more profound than we can understand. Grant her joy and comfort in her memories and strength in the time of sadness. Help us also, O Lord, as we take stock of our own lives. Lead us to a true and saving faith. Grant that we might face the future free of fear, and filled with the confidence that comes by faith. We ask these things in the name of our Savior, Jesus. Amen.
f Or his only begotten Son