We gather this morning for the solemn purpose of remembering the life and mourning the death of Rodney R. Burt. His sudden death has left us all a little shaken and empty.
We turn first today to the Word of God.
Rodney’s Bible was marked at Psalm 103. We don’t know if that is just where he was reading or whether this was a favorite passage. Either way, the words are appropriate,
8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.
The apostle Paul wrote these great words,
If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? . . . What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or peril or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us”
Father it is hard to believe that one week ago we would not have dreamed we would be here today. A week ago Rod was active, having fun and seemingly the picture of health. The sudden change in events has swept us off our feet.
We need your help today. Give us the strength to go through this trial. Help us to celebrate Rodney’s life even as we look to find a way to survive his death. In the midst of sadness help us to find hope and strength.
Lead us in our task this day for we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Rodney R. Burt was born June 28, 1961 in LaHarpe, the son of Ronald and Donna Melvin Burt. From a very early age he was nicknamed “Yum Yum” because the first thing he would do when he was handed to someone was bite them!
Rod was a 1979 graduate of LaHarpe High School and served in the U.S. Air Force from 1980 – 1992. He was stationed most of the time in the state of Washington but did have tours in Japan and Alaska
He worked for ADM Grain in Burlington, Iowa as a truck driver. Prior to that job he drove for Barr Nunn. He was a member of the LaHarpe Masonic Lodge #195 and the LaHarpe Union Church. He enjoyed hunting, fishing and playing cards. He was an AVID fan of the Cubs and the Bears.
Rodney was 47 years old when he passed away Monday, November 24, 2008 at his home.
He is survived by one daughter, Elizabeth Rae Burt of Bellingham, Massachusetts,
his father, Ronald Burt of LaHarpe,
his mother, Donna Burt of LaHarpe,
one sister, Rena (Gary) Quigle of LaHarpe
and one brother, Roger Burt of Fallon, Nevada.
He was preceded in death by one sister, Rhonda Quigle, his grandparents and one niece.
As I have talked to people throughout the week about Rodney the same words kept coming up again and again: fun, likable, quiet, beer, loyalty, Democrat, Cubs, Bears, and friend.
Rodney grew up with a number of friends who remained his closest friends all his life. They played Whiffleball, football and anything else there was to do.
Rodney was involved in school. He wasn’t an outstanding athlete but he did participate. He was a lineman on the school football team. I’m told on those runs around the golf course Rodney was usually at or near the end of the pack.
Rod was also on the Chess Team under Mr. Corey. Rodney liked to play chess but it always bugged him that he could never beat Marty. As everybody knew Rod was forever giving people a hard time. Even if you played chess with him he was always trying to get in your head by asking, “Are you sure you want to make that move?”
Rod enjoyed playing games, especially during the holidays with family. He was really good at Trivial Pursuit and enjoyed telling people (especially Brooke) that she was wrong.
Rod loved hanging out with Patches the family dog. In the winter he would sometimes hook him up to his sled and have the dog pull him while he did his paper route.
Rodney loved his siblings (though he would deny it publicly). Everyone knew that you didn’t mess with Rod’s brother or sisters or you would have to mess with him. As kids they had their fights but they always protected and defended each other — especially when it came to a confrontation with mom and dad. It sounds to me like Rhonda and Rodney were always up to something.
Ron remembers the day he noticed most of the half dollars had been taken out of the jug that had Pennies and half dollars in it. He sent the kids upstairs and then called for the oldest, Rhonda. He asked her what happened to the half dollars. Of course she knew nothing. Ron finally gave up with her. He sent her upstairs and brought Rodney down. He started by saying, “You’re busted buddy, your sister gave you up.” Rodney was furious and then told the whole story of how Rhonda was really the thief.
Ron said, “one of the things about Rod is that he would always tell you the truth but only if you asked the right question.” He was not one to volunteer information.
Rod gave everybody nicknames. He called Rena “Ziffel” after Arnold Ziffel the pig on Green Acres. Rod was called Whippel which (depending on who you talk to) either had to do with a place where he liked to camp or the Grocer Mr. Whippel who could never resist squeezing the toilet paper! Rod was also known by some as Red Ears because anytime he got embarrassed his ears would turn beet red. I’ve been told that some of the nicknames he came up with should not be shared in polite company.
Rod loved hanging around his friends. He always gave them a hard time but he was a loyal friend. He would give you all kinds of grief when he saw you, but you always knew he cared about you. He would often invite you over for a beer. If you didn’t drink he’d say, “That’s O.K. you come over and I’ll have a beer!”
Dave Clover remembers the time when they were teenagers. Dave had a car wreck outside of town and his car caught on fire. There were a bunch of people standing around Dave when Rod came running down the hill screaming “No, Clovis, No”. Dave tapped him on the shoulder and Rod gave him a big bear hug and said you SOB you scared the daylights (he used another word) out of me!”
Rod was a compassionate guy. He cared about people. He was the kind of guy that could always lift your spirits. He was quiet and perhaps a little shy. Casual conversation was not his strong suit. You weren’t going to get acquainted with him quickly but once you were his friend; you would remain his friend.
Rod was one of those guys who liked to hunt and fish with the guys but did it more for the company than the sport. Just last Sunday he had several opportunities to get a buck. He took a number of shots but never hit anything. It almost seemed like the deer knew it was safe to walk by Rod!
Rod took good care of his vehicles. He liked to have them clean. He also liked to play cards. He especially liked to play Pitch and Pinochle. Pinochle was the game he played the most in the military. Rod would go up to the Legion Hall and play with the guys there.
No matter what you were doing, it wouldn’t take long before Rod would be talking about the Cubs or the Bears. He was ready to disown Roger (“Digger”) because he didn’t think the Cubs would win the World Series this last year. If you look around Rod’s house you know that he was an AVID Cub and Bear fan. On Sunday afternoons when the Bears were playing, Rod would be at home in front of the television . . . no matter what. Once he went out duck hunting with the guys and brought his transistor radio with him because he wanted to listen to the Cub game! Every so often some of the guys would come to the house and Rod would ask if they wanted to watch a tape (it was of the 1985 Super Bowl the Bears won).
Last year Rod, Rena and Tammy took a road trip to Chicago. Rod decided to drive Grandma’s Pontiac affectionately called the “Hoopty Doopty”. The trip turned into quite the adventure filled with lots of laughter. After the Cub game Rod had his arms full of souvenirs when he remembered that Rena had his wallet. He wasn’t happy. The whole trip home he kept saying “Hoorey Cow!” which was on a t-shirt giving Koske Fukodome, the Cub player from Japan a hard time.
Rod also had an avid interest in politics. If you got him started on politics you might just as well settle in because he was going to talk for awhile. You didn’t have to wonder what political party he supported . . . .he was a Democrat and he felt if you had any sense you would be a Democrat also! Rod knew what he believed and why. He was an avid reader and loved to read all kinds of history books. He was quite a Civil War Buff.
Rod admittedly had a quick temper but he got over it just as quickly. Through the years his temper got him in trouble more than once. Those who knew Rod knew he would soon have his smile back. When he was working on a project you would often hear him say, “Murphy Again”. It was a reference to Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong – will go wrong.” He was a character.
Rod loved his daughter. There was a period when Elizabeth traveled with her dad in the truck. I suspect it is no secret that Rod’s biggest disappointment in life was his divorce. He regretted not being a bigger part of Elizabeth’s life. Rod was always good with kids. He knew how to relate to them. He was sad that he missed much of that opportunity with his own daughter.
Rodney Burt worked hard in life. He served his country faithfully. He was a good friend, a loyal son, a caring brother, a loving dad, and was one of those guys you could always count on. He will be greatly missed.
Many years ago Rhonda wrote down the lyrics to this song made famous by Frankie Lane way back in 1953. They seem appropriate for today.
I believe for every drop of rain that falls a flower grows
I believe that somewhere in the darkest night a candle glows
I believe for everyone who goes astray someone will come to show the way
I believe, I believe
I believe above the storm the smallest prayer will still be heard
I believe that someone in the great somewhere hears every word
Every time I hear a newborn baby cry or touch a leaf or see the sky
Then I know why I believe.
There are a number of reasons for a Funeral Service. The first reason is that it helps us deal with the reality of death. Especially in a situation like this, it is hard for us to grasp the fact that Rod has died. Seeing his body and sitting here talking about him helps make it all a little more real. It’s hard but it is necessary.
Second, a funeral service provides an opportunity to grieve and to find comfort from friends. Loss is hard. It is especially hard when it is someone who seems much too young to die. Grief is a process that must be faced. This is the place to begin that process. Grief only begins here . . . but it must begin. We grieve over things that were said or not said; things we did or didn’t do; we grieve over memories shared and anticipated memories we will never get to share. Grief is natural, fitting, and appropriate.
This is a place where friends gather to grieve together. Tears communicate what words cannot say. A warm hug says “I love you” and “I ache with you” more effectively than any words we can say. The presence of family and friends testifies to the fact that Rodney mattered. His life counted. He will be missed by more than just a few.
The third purpose of a funeral service is to focus on eternal things. As we stand here it is only natural to ask, “Is this all there is?”
You may not know this but Rodney had a strong faith. His Bible was open next to his bed. Just a couple of days before he died he had purchased a picture of the Last Supper and a picture of Jesus. He hadn’t even had the chance to put them up. Rod knew what he believed and was unashamed of his beliefs.
It’s true that Rodney probably didn’t fit your image of a person who had a deep faith. But then most of the people Jesus called in the Bible didn’t fit the image either.
The Bible speaks clearly about life beyond the grave. It tells us that none of us are good enough to earn Heaven. Not a single one of us. It says that this is the reason Jesus came to earth. He came to point us to God and to pay (with His own life) for the sin and rebellion of our lives. The reason he was able to do this was because He was God. His life was a fitting and worthy trade for all the sin you and I had committed.
According to the Bible those people who stop running from God; those who seek Him and are willing to entrust themselves to Jesus . . . they will live even though they die. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man can come to the Father except by men”.
In any political campaign, candidates make all kinds of promises. Often you hear people say, “You must look at his record if you want to know what he really believes”. It’s a pretty good guideline. We can apply this to Christ.
Anyone can say they can make us right with God. Anyone can tell you that if you believe in them, you will live even though you die. The reason I believe what Jesus promises is because of His record. He lived a life that was unlike any other that has ever lived. He did things that were supernatural. He taught things that cut to the core of who we are as human beings. He loved people the rest of the world had already discarded. When He was attacked he did not retaliate. He was brutally killed on trumped up charges yet as He hung on the cross He asked God to forgive those who had put Him there. He was a man like none other.
But there is more. There have been good people who lived on earth (most of the truly good ones were His followers). What makes Jesus worth following is His record. He came back from the dead! He was seen by hundreds of people. He talked to the disciples, He ate with them. He convinced them that they were not hallucinating but were spending time with the Savior of the world. They believed it so much that they too were willing to give their lives rather than deny Him. In my studies I have become convinced that the evidence of His resurrection is solid and compelling. Over the years many sincere scholars have set out to disprove the Resurrection only to become one of His followers.
Jesus promised that those who put their trust and confidence in Him. Those who are willing to follow Him in life will also follow Him in death and resurrection. Jesus said He would prepare a place for us.
I don’t know what Rod’s beliefs were. I wish I did. However what I do know is that if he sincerely trusted Jesus Christ, then he is with Him in Heaven. When he died on Monday morning he moved from
Death and decay to life and wholeness
From questions to answers
From separation to reunion
From wondering if God could love Him to knowing that He does
From a temporary body to an imperishable body
And who knows maybe he has even moved to a place where he can finally do something to help those Cubs.
Whenever someone in the prime of life dies it gives us all a wake-up call. One of the reasons we are here today is to face these eternal issues in our own lives. We tend to put off thinking about such things because we all believe we have “plenty of time”. Today we are reminded that there are no guarantees. Now is the time to ask ourselves if we are willing to believe and follow Jesus. Now is the time for us to examine His record and make our decision. Ultimately, no issue in life is more important than this one.
So I encourage you to tell your stories. Grab a beer and celebrate the life of Rodney Burt. That’s what he would want you to do. Comfort each other. Use this as an opportunity to tell other people how much they mean to you. But I hope you will also dare to take a look behind the curtain of death and dare to ask “What happens when we die?” Deep down inside I think we all know that there must be more than what we experience here on earth. The idea that we live, we die, and then that’s it, makes life pretty meaningless. I encourage you to look for more. I encourage you to start your search with Jesus. Rodney was looking at eternal issues. I encourage you to do so as well.
Now as we depart from this place let us give thanks to God for someone who touched our lives. Thank God for Rodney and
- The many smiles
- The nicknames
- The warm friendship
- His rock solid support
- His sharp mind
- His work ethic
- His absence of ego
- His laid back nature
- His sense of values
- And His die-hard love of the Cubs and Bears
Rodney was a good guy. We can learn from his life . . . and his death.
Father, we want to thank you for Rod’s life. Over the course of the last week we’ve asked You questions and maybe even made some accusations. You know we have said these things because we are hurting. Thank you for blessing us with the life of Rodney Burt. Help us to remember him and to learn from him. Please welcome him into that place you have prepared for Him in accordance with your mercy and your grace.
Help this family as they grieve. Help them to make the necessary adjustments. Draw them close to each other. Surround them with friends who will grieve with them.
Help us also as we face our own mortality. Help us to find the truth about life beyond the grave. Help us to find the truth about You. Use this time of pain to awaken us to your love. I ask this all in the name of Jesus. Amen.