This morning we gather to mourn the loss and also to celebrate the colorful life of Ronald Burt. As we do so, we seek comfort in our loss through grabbing hold of that hope of life that comes through Jesus Christ.
The Bible has much to say about strength in times of loss. In Psalm 46 we read,
God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come
and the mountains crumble into the sea.
The Psalmist reminds us that God stands at our side in even the most difficult of times.
In John 11:17-26 we read about Jesus going to a funeral.
17 When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. 18 Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, 19 and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. 20 When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”
23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”
25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”
The promise of Jesus is sure: there is life beyond the grave for those who have truly put their trust in Him. That is our hope. This is what we hold on to.
Let’s pray together,
Our Father, we come to you seeking comfort in our time of loss; perspective in our time of confusion and lostness; seeking hope in a time that can just as easily lead to discouragement. Help us to find you this day.
Help us also to remember Ron with affection. Help us to see him clearly as you did. More importantly, help us to see you. We ask this in the name of Christ our Lord, Amen.
Ronald Ross Burt, was born on May 18, 1939 in Burlington, IA the son of John and Mae Crank Burt. He was a young man with a variety of interests (one of those interests seemed to be finding ways to “ditch” his brother.) He was good in school and had a good aptitude for math. He graduated from La Harpe High School in 1957.
In August of 1959 he married Donna Melvin. Together they had four children. They later divorced. They had to bury two of their children: Rhonda and Rodney. It was a pain that we cannot possibly assess.
Ron began working in 1962 as a tool and die maker for J.I. Case in Burlington until retiring in 1992. He always went to work and seldom missed a day. Ron was a member of the LaHarpe Masonic Lodge, Quincy Consistory and the Peoria Shrine. He was an avid fisherman, an avid Cub and Bears fan and an avid and outspoken Democrat.
Ron was 75 when he passed away Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 9:35p.m. in the McDonough District Hospital.
Mr. Burt is survived by one daughter, Rena Quigle of LaHarpe, one son, Roger Burt of LaHarpe, six grandchildren and one brother, Bill Burt of LaHarpe.
He was preceded in death by his parents, one daughter, Rhonda Quigle, one son, Rodney Burt and a granddaughter.
Ronald Burt was an interesting guy. He was a very smart man. Not only was he intelligent, he was also skilled. He knew how to just about anything . . .though, from what I understand, getting him to actually do those things was often a challenge.
I don’t mean to say he was lazy; it is better to say that he worked diligently to conserve his energy; or that he enjoyed watching other people work. He was always happy to give encouragement, guidance, or “correction” and was more than willing to take credit. Ron didn’t see any reason to do things he could get other people to do for him. This was humorous but also probably his greatest weakness.
Ron and his brother Bill had an interesting relationship. When Bill was growing up he heard his brother tell him many times that he wanted to kill him. For all I know, he still said that when the disagreed about how something should be done. However they had a good work relationship. Ron would tell Bill how it should be done; Bill would disagree and want to do it his way. Ron would let him and then take credit!
Ron had a great sense of humor. He would listen to a conversation for a while and then would say something witty that would take everyone off guard and crack them up. Or, he would spin a yarn (he was very good at bullshit) about something and have everyone believing him.
He was a family man. He loved his children. He was patient and compassionate; not just with them but with everyone. He protected his kids. He enjoyed his Grandkids. He was never happier than when he was with his family. He had the ability to keep straight the complex relationships in the extended family. Everyone knew that he had a special bond with Rena and depended on her greatly in these last years..
Ron would have Roger tag along with him and Bill so he could learn by experience. He didn’t shelter him from any bad experiences because he knew that was the best way to learn. He had a way about calming Rena down when she was upset. He endured many rocky years in his home. He endured having to bury Rhonda and Rod. In fact, he and Rod were living together when Rod died. These were extremely hard times on Ron. He was a man that had a great deal of love in his heart even though it was hard for him to express that love. You could tell it was there from the twinkle in the eye, the nod of a head, or the smile on his face. His deep love was probably why it was so hard for him to handle death. When you love deeply, death hurts more profoundly.
Ron wasn’t a complainer. He had a pretty good pain threshold. No one knows how much pain he endured. He didn’t want to die but wanted to die slowly or through a stroke even less.
Ron always stuck up for the underdog. Maybe that came from being an Avid Cub fan. Let’s face it, there hasn’t been much to cheer about lately. The Cubs and Bears were his teams and he didn’t care what anyone else thought. He freely argued with others about his sports loyalties. Ron was also a staunch maybe even extreme Democrat. He was a President Obama fan and seemed to be pretty sure that President Ronald Reagan was the Antichrist.
Ron enjoyed the garden plot, he liked his “homemade” wine, and he liked to play Checkers, Cribbage, and Pinochle. But more than anything he enjoyed life and the family that God had given Him. I am happy to say that those who knew him enjoyed and give thanks for him as well.
The Bible tells us that funerals are valuable times. Solomon said that it is better to go to a funeral home than it is to go to a party. Why? Because a funeral forces us to face issues we would rather brush aside.
It is here that we must confront the issue of eternity. Is this all there is? Is life merely a mad dash to nothing? Or, is there a life beyond this one? If there is such a life, does everyone go there? If not, how do we get invited? Will we see each other again?
Instinctively, we all believe there is more to life than what meets the eye. Some would say it is wishful thinking. I prefer to think that our Creator built this yearning and this hope into every one of us.
So, if there is a Heaven how do we get there? Jesus stated it in its most simple form,
16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.
In other words, the key to life beyond the grave lies in who Jesus is, what He did, and how we respond to who He is and what He did.
The Bible says Jesus was God who came in human form. As a man He faced all the same kinds of temptations we did but He didn’t mess up; He didn’t choose His own way; He chose instead to obey God. Because of that, He was the only one who had no offenses on His record. All the rest of us have rap sheets that go on for miles. In addition Jesus performed great miracles and taught with a wisdom and authority that has never been seen before or since.
Jesus traded His perfect life as a payment for our sin. He said He would take our death sentence and as a result our record would be wiped clean. Absolutely clean.
How is this possible? It is only possible because of who Jesus is: God in human form. In other words, God paid our penalty for us. He has put the offer of salvation on the table and it is up to use whether or not we will receive it. The Bible says those who admit their rebellion and cling to Jesus will be made new. We will be forgiven and we will be given a new heart, a new attitude, and a new focus for life. Those who refuse to embrace Him will not live with God in Heaven (which is their decision), they will instead face God’s judgment and the penalty for their rebellion.
The Bible warns us that there are many who say they believe in Christ but they do so falsely. They either are believing in a Jesus of their own imagination, or they are only believing the facts and not entrusting themselves to the person. That should be of concern to all of us. The Bible says that the only way to tell for sure if we are trusting Christ is to watch a person’s life. The person who truly follows Christ will begin to live more like Jesus. The person who is not really following will not change at all.
So what about Ron? He said he believed in Jesus. He believed that there was really no other reasonable alternative; nothing else that made any sense.
As we look at Ron’s life you might say he didn’t seem very godly. He drank a lot. He was “creative” in his use of the truth and he was never a church goer. On the other hand, He had a heart of compassion; he possessed an intense loyalty, he was familiar with the Bible and he was a humble man.
Jesus seemed to pick the unexpected people. His disciples were common guys (who had their issues). He stopped and talked with a woman in Samaria that the whole town shunned. He went to the home of several tax collectors. He let a woman of questionable character wash His feet with her tears.
I guess what I am saying is this; only God knows for sure about Ron and about us. It is His judgment that is accurate. It is His judgment that counts. God is forever surprising us with His grace.
Every single one of us is a mess. On our own merit not a single one here would earn Heaven. So, I’m praying that Ron’s trust in Christ was genuine. It may not have been as developed a faith as God would have liked but (fortunately) thatt is not the condition for salvation. The condition is that we turn to Jesus and embrace Him as the ruler of our life.
Today we place Ronald Burt into the merciful and loving hands of our Lord Jesus. We look to Him for mercy just as we must for ourselves. What we know is God will do what is right.
Today is also a day for us to take stock of our own lives. As we sit here we are reminded that we will not live forever. Death tends to sneak up on most of us. We have a choice right now. We can continue to ignore the Lord, we can push Him to the side, or we can run to Him, cling to Him, and never let Him go. We have the choice to live the life He created us for starting right now. It seems to me this last option is the best.
Today is also a day to remember and give thanks. So as you think of Ron remember
- The lessons he taught and some of the creative ways he taught them
- The stories (many of them whoppers) that he told.
- The twinkle in his eye when he was pulling your leg.
- Watching the Cubs game or Bears game on television while listening to the announcers from the Radio.
- His love of the perfect Boston Malt from Dairy Queen
- His passionate Political debates
- His tender heart
- His hatred of Ronald Regan
- The way he was putty in Rena’s hand
- His witty sayings
- His close and loving relationship with his brother
- His uncomfortableness with the limelight and how uncomfortable he would be with this list.
In other words, remember the man who tried to be the best dad and the best man he could be. And after you have remembered . . . give thanks to God.
Our Father, we turn to you today and ask you to grant mercy and grace to Ronald. We pray that you would reunite him with his mom and dad and with Ronda and Rodney. Lord, please let Ron know that we loved him and appreciated him. Let him know that he will be missed.
Father, help this family as they grieve. Help them, and help the rest of us who are here, to use this time to take stock of our own lives. Help us to embrace the pardon you offer. Help us to live the life that you have for us to enjoy. Deliver us from our stupid and rebellious ways. Thank you for never, ever, giving up on us.
We ask all this in Jesus’ name. Amen.