We gather today to remember and celebrate the life of Roger Comstock. We also gather to renew our faith and the resultant hope that comes from that faith.
The Bible tells us familiar words in 2 Corinthians 5. Let me read them in the Message because I think it underscores our hope a little more clearly.
we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not hand-made—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.
In John 11:25-26 it was Jesus who said quite plainly,
Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.
In John 14:19, it is again Jesus who says, “Since I live, you also will live.”
What does all this mean? It means, today we face this day of sadness with hope rather than with despair.
Will you pray with me?
Father, we come to you staggered because of loss. At the same time we are grateful that Roger was not destined to spend many months in a Nursing home or hospital. We find ourselves conflicted between feelings of sadness and gratitude. Help us today to get past the sadness of death and celebrate the richness of a life that was well-lived. Help us also to renew the hope that is ours through Jesus Christ. Amen
Roger D. Comstock was born on June 4, 1930 in La Harpe the son of Ross and Myrtle Gustafson Comstock. On September 23, 1956 he married Martha M. Fowler at the Old Bedford Christian Church, rural Blandinsville, IL.
Roger lived most of his life on the family farm east of La Harpe. He loved farming, raising cattle and hauling grain in his semi. He also worked for SO-IL Service pulling a fertilizer tanker. He died on December 7, 2016.
Roger was a veteran of the United States Army, serving in Korea from 1952-1954. He was a 50 year member of The Ancient Free and Accepted Masons in La Harpe and an active (and at times rambunctious) member of the Union Church of La Harpe.
Survivors include his wife: Martha; two sons: Larry (Julie) Comstock of La Harpe, Dale (Ruth) Comstock of New London, MO; two grandsons: Lathan Comstock of Peoria, IL, Jostan (Ashley) Comstock of Blandinsville, IL; great-granddaughter: Zoiee Comstock; nephew: Steve (Linda) Comstock of La Harpe; and a Great-nephew: Tony Comstock of Quincy, IL.
Roger was preceded in death by his parents and his brother, Rodney Comstock.
Roger was a man of few words. He believed in letting his actions do his talking. If someone didn’t talk to him he would be quite content remaining silent. In fact, he might just fall asleep. Often Roger would sleep in church (and some said he snored).
Roger was a farmer through and through. He loved all aspects of the farm. If you knew him, you also knew he was a Massey Ferguson man (Much to Jostan’s chagrin). He would farm all day and then would take livestock to Peoria in the night. He loved driving a grain semi. Whenever he ended a conversation with Dale he would say, “See you on down the road.” When he finally gave up his last semi he said it was one of the hardest things he had ever done.
Roger believed if you were going to do something you should do it right (which of course was his way). For example, if you put in a fence post you needed to make sure ALL the dirt you took out of the hole went back into (not around) the hole (even though the hole was now smaller).
Roger liked to argue. Much of the time it wasn’t that he was upset or even really cared about the issue he was arguing about. He was arguing just for the fun of it!
He loved to listen to WCAZ. In the morning, you might hear about the weather from a farm east of La Harpe. That was Roger. He would call in with his weather report and never tell anyone his name. Roger would often fall asleep listening to his radio. If someone turned it off or changed the station he would tell you he had been listening to that show!
Roger didn’t like change. He didn’t like change inside the house, on the farm, or anywhere else. He had his usual seat in the church on Sunday morning. Jostan had a very difficult time trying to get Roger to do things a different way or even to throw something away. Roger would always say, “Don’t throw that away, you might need it someday.” He did kind of take this to an extreme. Martha would take bags of old documents that were older than seven years out to be burned. Roger would take those bags and then stored them in one of the farm buildings! The only time you might see Roger even a little agitated was if someone was trying to change something!
Roger was a very patient man. He believed things tended to work themselves out. He was patient until he felt something really needed to get done . . . then he would push until it was done.
Roger was ornery. He would on occasion heckle Rick and me when we were speaking from the platform at the church. It was always some kind of wisecrack. When it came time to take Directory pictures at the church, Roger would not get his picture taken like everyone else. His picture needed to be unique – like sitting in Rick’s chair or standing in my office by the bobbleheads. When Larry brought Julie by the house for the first time she took her shoes off at the door. Roger promptly hid the shoes! He was also a good sport. Once when he was sleeping Lathan and Jostan painted his fingers and toes. Roger wore it proudly until the nail polish wore off.
You see, if you knew Roger, you know that he was first and foremost a family man. He didn’t express love verbally very often but he did show it by the things he did. I remember how faithful Roger was to care for his mother, Myrtle.
It was just a couple of months ago that Roger struggled to come down the stairs of the sanctuary and I observed that he seemed to be struggling more than usual. He asked me to pray for Martha because it was getting more and more difficult for her to get around. He also said I shouldn’t announce this because Martha wouldn’t like it.
Roger loved to have his kids and grandkids help him on the farm. He was so proud of his family. He made a cart so he could take Lathan and Jostan out with him when he went out in the field. He loved talking farming with Jostan. He used to pick him up to take him to drink coffee at the Tastee Freeze. Roger would drink coffee while Jostan ate breakfast. Any conversation centered on farming.
Anytime one of the family had to move . . . Roger was there to help. He believed in practical love. Roger wasn’t a kiss and hug kind of guy. He wasn’t one to get all mushy to say how much he loved you. However, everything he did showed that he loved his family more than anything else.
As I said, Roger had a somewhat wry and often warped sense of humor. He picked out the song that he wanted at his funeral. It’s not your typical funeral song but somehow . . . it seems very appropriate for Roger.
* * * * * * * *
In the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes Solomon wrote,
It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of every man;
the living should take this to heart.
3 Sorrow is better than laughter,
because a sad face is good for the heart.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.
Solomon observed that it is more beneficial to go to a funeral than it is to go to a party. At a party, we amuse ourselves and can sidestep the essential questions of life. Questions like:
- Why are we here?
- What is the purpose of life?
- Is there anything beyond the grave?
- If there isn’t any purpose what is the point? If there is, how do I get there?
At a funeral, these questions stare you right in the face. As we consider the death of someone we love and cherish, we can’t help but ask, “Is this it? Is this all there is?” We want to know, “What is the point of sacrifice, moral living, or even obeying the law if we simply live, die and that is it?
I do not believe this is all there is because of Jesus and what the Bible teaches us. A good place to start is 2 Corinthians 5 in the passage I read earlier. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul wrote,
Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. 43 Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. 44 They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies. (1 Corinthians 15:42–44).
How you view life, and how you view death is determined by your belief or lack thereof in God. Those who say there is no God are left with the unhappy conclusion that man is simply a cosmic accident. There is no ultimate meaning to our existence. We live, we die, and that’s it. It is a very bleak picture.
And even if you say you do believe in God you should ask: Who is this God we should believe in? Is he a god of our imagination or is He a God who has revealed Himself to us?
I believe God has revealed himself to men through the years and this revelation is recorded in the Bible. God has also communicated with us in a special way through Jesus. He was “God become man to dwell among us”. It seems very reasonable to me that the God who created us would want to have a relationship with those He has created. He would want us to know about Him.
Jesus says He is preparing a place for us and He will come and take us to that place when we die. This means Roger Comstock left this world holding the hand of Jesus!
Jesus explained to the disciples that there is only one way to get to Heaven: Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me”. Many rebel at these words. They say they are narrow-minded. But the invitation is not restricted. Jesus invites everyone and anyone to turn to Him as Savior and Lord. However, not everyone will do so.
Let’s be clear. Not everyone goes to Heaven. In fact, it may be safe to say the majority do NOT go to Heaven. There are always those who say, “I want to go the Hell because that’s where all my friends are.” But they severely miss the point. When God’s love is replaced by God’s wrath there will be nothing good about Hell. The bond of friendship which we cherish comes from God . . . it will be gone. The delight we feel at the pleasures of the world comes from God . . . it will be gone. Joyous laughter . . .gone. Taste buds…gone. The joy of children and grandchildren . . . gone. Amusements . . . gone. Friendship . . . gone. There is NOTHING party-like about Hell.
The Bible tells us no one deserves heaven. Imagine you were in debt for several million dollars. It is not a business debt; it is a personal debt. You make a pretty good income and you pay what you can on the debt. Some people may be able to put $50,000 a year on that debt. Some may only be able to pay $1000. But neither one is going to be able to keep up on paying even the interest on that debt because we keep adding to the debt!
The Bible tells us that Jesus came into the world to pay off the debt to God we have incurred. He came to be our substitute. He took the failing grade and penalty that we deserved. In exchange, He gave us His perfect standing before the Lord. His payment covers the sin of our past, present, and future.
How is this possible? How can one man possibly take the place of so many? If you were holding a bunch of hostages, would you trade all those hostages for the President of the United States? I would think you would do so without much thought. Someone might say, isn’t it better to have a bunch of hostages rather than just one? Not if that one is the President. His great value is in the office that he holds.
If you turn that around you can say: how many Secret Service agents would give their life to save the President? How many soldiers and law enforcement officers would do the same? Most of these people would give their lives to protect the President. We may or may not like the man who occupies the office but you would still protect the Office.
On the cross, Jesus as Son of God traded His life for all those held hostage by sin. Because of the value of His position as Son of God He can trade His life for ours. But why would He do it? It’s because He loves us more than we realize.
Jesus is the only way to Heaven because He is the only one who can pay the price of our sinful failures. All the other religions in the world may be well meaning but they are set up to encourage us to pay off our debt by working harder. However, when your debt is as big as ours is, it doesn’t matter how hard you work or how religious you become. You cannot ever erase the debt you continue to accrue.
Jesus said whoever believes in Him will live even though He dies. He doesn’t impose His gift on anyone. We must put our faith in Him. What does it mean to believe in Christ?
According to the Bible, believing in Jesus involves several things: First, it means we recognize that we are lost without Him. We realize that we have failed to meet God’s standards; our lives are a mess. Even the best of us have a spiritual resume that is a train wreck. Until we admit we have a problem, we can’t get help.
Second, we must acknowledge that Jesus is the only One who can save us. It means believing He is God’s Son who died in our place. It means believing He uniquely and truly rose from the dead. His death was sufficient to pay for our sin debt.
Third we must run to Him. We must be willing to bet and build our life on this belief. We must personally surrender to him. We must embrace Him as our King, our Lord, our guide, and our Master. When Jesus called people, we are told they “left everything and followed Him.” Jesus tells us that the true believer is the one who begins to walk with Jesus. In other words, they will begin to change.
Anything less than this kind of belief is just being religious. Religion without trust in Christ, is just another club to which you belong.
Roger did not always go to church but I believe he always believed. He worked constantly and balance was not restored to his life until these last 8-9 years. I believe Roger would want me to assure you that he is not only OK . . . he is set free. He is more alive now than he ever has been before. The pain has given way to joyful energy and health. The struggle has been replaced by dancing. The singing is all on pitch and the frustrations of life have given way to contentment.
So there are three things I hope you take away from here:
First, in this time of sadness I hope you will realize that we grieve, but not as those who have no hope. We know where Roger is. We know he is home with the Lord who guided his life. We believe he has been reunited with faithful family members who have gone before him. Roger is not going to be disappointed by what he finds in Heaven. He will be more alive than he ever has been. Our grief is for our loss . . . not his.
Second, I hope you will be challenged to take a personal inventory of your life. Where do you stand with Jesus Christ? Do you believe this life is all there is? Do you think we are in a mad dash to nothing? If so, I hope you will take this opportunity to think through the implications of what you say you believe. Don’t waste this time at a funeral. Consider the big questions.
Maybe you think you are “good enough” or that you have “earned” your place in God’s Kingdom? Whenever someone says, “I hope I have been good enough for Heaven” I always respond the same way: “I can assure you, based on the Bible, that you aren’t even close to being good enough.” We are ALL broken people who need a Savior to rescue us.
Perhaps you are on the other extreme and you think you are “too far gone.” Jesus said, “Anyone who comes to me I will not cast away.” I invite you to discover forgiveness, new life, and the assurance of Heaven. You can start this process with a simple and sincere prayer. You can pray something like this: “Lord, my life is a mess. I need you. I turn to Jesus as my Savior and I ask you to help me follow Him as my Lord and Master.” If you come truly and sincerely you will be forgiven. It is an amazing promise! By putting your faith and trust in Jesus You will become a child of God and the Lord will make a place for you in His house.
I hope you will make that choice and then spend the rest of your days getting to know Him. Start living the new life that God intended you to live.
Today we mourn the loss of Roger Comstock. However, even as we mourn his death I hope you will remember that he lived. I hope you remember his life:
- Every time you see a semi hauling grain or a truck hauling livestock
- When you think about throwing things out but are afraid you may need it some day
- When someone encourages you to CHANGE!
- When you watch your children and grandchildren.
- When you start to doze in church.
- When you hear someone report the weather from La Harpe.
Roger Comstock was a hard-working, simple man, who loved his family and his work. He tried to live faithfully. We’ll miss him. But, it is our hope that we will see him on down the road.
Our Father, we thank you for the life of Roger Comstock. He spent much of his life “flying beneath the radar” yet he was an example of so many things that we would like to be. Help us to remember, to grieve, and to hope. Renew our faith in the work of Jesus on our behalf. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.