LeRoy Mikel Hansen Funeral
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Psalm 130 Sermon
March 8, 2016
Hymns sung by the congregation:
"Just As I Am, Without One Plea"
"Rock Of Ages, Cleft For Me"
TEXT: "Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins."
There's a story that's been going around for a while. It's about a man who attended the funeral of somebody he had known for a long time. He listened intently about this man's virtues and good deeds. There seemed to be no end to his great accomplishments.
After the funeral was over, this man got up out of his seat. He walked over to the casket, lifted the lid, and peered inside. The mortician walked up to him and asked, "What are you doing? Is there some sort of problem?"
"No problem really," the man replied. "It's just that after hearing all those good and noble and wonderful things about my friend, I had to check to be sure I was at the right funeral."
Today as we are gathered here to bid a final farewell to my cousin Mike Hansen, there's going to be no doubt that you are at the right funeral. I say that because Mike had talked to me about his funeral a number of times over the last several years. And one of the things he told me, several times in fact, was, "Tell it like it is." By saying this, I'm assuming that he did not want to have the same scenario happen as I explained in my opening story. He knew he could count on me to be truthful and honest with you.
Now please understand I'm not going to stand up here and tell you a lot of offensive and inappropriate things. In no way am I going to disrespect Mike, or dishonor him. It's more like an explanation of where he has been in his life, and what, according to his faith, lies ahead for him.
Mike fought a lot of demons in his life. Sadly, there were those who openly avoided him and even hated him for it. There were those who just plain didn't like him. Mike was an alcoholic, and he also did drugs. He also had to bear the consequences of his addiction in various areas of his life. And this didn't make life any easier for his family or for others around him. His mother and dad, my mother too (who was Mike's Aunt Barb) had many situations with him. My mother, who was a recovering alcoholic herself, would spend hours talking to him. Mike would also show up at my door at all hours, and we would talk or just watch TV. We all tried to help the best we could.
And before you think that I am some sort of self-righteous pietist standing up here behind this lectern, I will confess that back in the 1970's I would hang out with Mike and do some of the same things he did. So I can give you first-hand experience. Don't let the clerical collar fool you!
As the years progressed, because of my close association with him during some of his darker moments, I was now able to communicate with him on a deeper level. Mike and I knew a lot about each other, things that nobody else did. So Mike knew that when he asked me to "tell it like it is," at his funeral, I could indeed do just that.
Today, I'd like to take a few minutes and introduce you to somebody else. This person was very wealthy, and had all sorts of booze, drugs, and women at his disposal. Oh, he tried to keep up appearances, but it did no good.
One of the people in his employ was married to a drop-dead gorgeous woman. So this man, who is also a voyeur, spies on her while she is taking a bath. And when his employee was away, he goes and has his way with her.
She gets pregnant because of this. So in order to cover up for it, he takes out a contract on his employee and has him murdered. And yes, he gets caught for what he did. He wasn't able to get away from anything. We would certainly classify him as a rather unsavory and immoral person.
So who is this person I'm talking about? It's none other than King David in the Old Testament. Yes, that's right! King David of all people! And the Bible even calls him a man after God's own heart! How can this be?
As a text for my meditation this afternoon, I have chosen the words of Psalm 130, one of the Psalms written by King David himself. And he's writing this after his sins have found him out, and he has hit absolute rock bottom. Things couldn't be any worse for him.
So he begins his lament: "Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy." This is definitely the voice of somebody who has hit rock bottom.
But it is right here where things make an abrupt change. David continues, "If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you."
Even though David was at his lowest, he doesn't stay there. He knows that God loves him and will deliver him. He knows that only God can lift him up from rock bottom. He continues in the Psalm, "...put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption." For David, there was a bright light on the horizon.
Mike's past was very troubling for him. He would keep looking back and lamenting the things he had done. And what made it worse, he would make great progress, and then stumble and fall again. How could God ever accept him? Had he done so much wrong that he was a lost cause? Had he done enough good things in his life that God would let him into heaven? When people start thinking in those terms, that's when feelings of futility and despair set in. And it can only get worse.
That's one reason that I like King David. Listen once again to his words, and apply them accordingly. "If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you."
Did you catch that? God does not keep scorecards! Life is not some sort of ecclesiastical balance scale that depends on a ratio of good things versus bad things.
Oh, and the Bible takes it even further than that. We are promised that God "will forgive our iniquity and remember our sin no more." And not only that, it gets even better. In Psalm 103 David also writes: "He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him."
It just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it? God keeps no record of our sins, and God forgives our sins and doesn't even remember them. And if that's not enough, our sins are completely removed from us.
That's the only reason I can stand here and talk about these things. I'm not here as some pillar of piety, nor am I here trying to somehow make up for the sins in my past. I'm here as a forgiven sinner. And I know that it is through faith in Jesus my Saviour I have the forgiveness and restoration I need. And that's the message I share with you today.
Mike had trouble letting go of the past demons that haunted him. The Apostle Paul knew that feeling too. That's why he wrote in Philippians 3:13-14: "I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us."
Heaven and salvation is not a matter of what you have or haven't done, or what you will or won't do. It's all purely a matter of faith. It's what you believe. And when that faith is squarely placed in Jesus Christ, then it is sure and certain. Jesus did everything necessary so that heaven would be a reality for everybody purely by God's grace alone through faith alone. Our relationship with Jesus Christ is what matters. We have to let everything else go.
If you take special note of the three hymns we're singing today, pay attention to what they are saying. We're tossed about by conflict, doubts, and fears. Our souls are stained. We're wretched lost creatures. But God found us. He rescued us and saved us through his amazing grace. Therefore we come to him with nothing in our hands; we cling in faith to our Saviour to be washed in his fountain. And since we are washed clean only by Jesus, we can stand before the judgment throne with confidence. This is nothing of our own doing, but it is all dependent upon what Jesus Christ has done for us.
As I was having a conversation with Julie and Jennifer last evening, Jen mentioned that we have to look at the positive things; and she's absolutely right. But before we can see things in a positive light, we have to deal with the negative stuff first. We can't simply ignore it, or wish that it wasn't there. We have to be realistic. As Mike would say, we have to "tell it like it is."
There are indeed some happy memories between father and daughters. Jen wrote me a rather lengthy Email with various anecdotes she remembers. I used some of it in the obituary, but I'll briefly share a few other things.
"In grade school, when I broke my collar bone, and split my lip and chin open, Dad was there to hold my hand...Dad and grandpa built a tree house and put up a swing set for us girls...Dad also got us this army surplus tent one year that smelled musty and we couldn't get rid of the smell, so we threw it out...Dad wanted a swimming pool, so he got a deal on a horse tank...Dad had a passion for entering radio and store contests, and we'd fill out stacks and stacks of entries...Dad loved going to Holmes Lake and bought a sail boat called 'Sail Fish.' If there was no wind, he'd swim along side and load it into the back of our old Plymouth, never cursing once...Dad enjoyed driving around Pioneer's Park, and would always stop and see the Native American statue by Ellis Burman...Dad took us to Worlds of Fun in Kansas City; I went on the Zambezi Zinger and the Tilt-a-Whirl with him...One year, Dad got some Christmas Decorations from the school that they were throwing away, so he was able to dress up in a Santa Claus suit. (And in my opinion, looking at the picture of him with his white beard, he certainly looked the part in later years!)
And Julie shared a few sentences too. She wrote: "To me, my dad was my hero. He had his weaknesses at times. Sometimes he was able to win, and other times he gave in. It's amazing that he fought so many battles and was still able to show me he could be a dad. Those are the times that mean so much to me. I know he could not take care of finances or make decisions, but he could make me laugh and he showed me love. That's amazing to me. I learned so much from him."
Today, we thank God for LeRoy Mikel Hansen. He had a soul that God felt was worth saving, so he sent Jesus to die on the cross so that would be accomplished. God loved Mike so much that he offered to forgive and forget the past, so that heaven would be a reality. God gave Mike the faith to believe in Jesus his Saviour and have a relationship with him.
All things considered, the world is certainly a better place because of LeRoy Mikel Hansen; and that is indeed telling it like it is.
LeRoy Mikel Hansen, known by almost everybody as "Mike," the eldest son of LeRoy Walter Hansen and Elizabeth Jane (nee' Hankey) was born on November 13, 1944 in Pampa, Texas. He entered into God's family through the sacrament of Holy Baptism shortly thereafter from the chaplain at the Pampa Air Force Base where his father was stationed. He was instructed and subsequently confirmed his Christian faith by the rite of Confirmation at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lincoln, Nebraska on December 16, 1990.
During his very early years, Mike moved with his family to a variety of different locations including Boise, Idaho and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania before settling down in Lincoln,Nebraska. In Lincoln, Mike attended Clinton Elementary School, Whittier Junior High School, and University High School, where he graduated in 1962.
One of Mike's first jobs was as a mug washer at the A & W Root Beer drive-in on South 48th and Van Dorn Streets in Lincoln. It was there where a young carhop, Beverly Ann Irons (who had the nickname "Sam") caught his eye. They began dating, and eventually got married on July 21, 1963 at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lincoln, Nebraska. To this union, two children were born.
Beverly was Mike's life companion for almost 50 years, and he loved her dearly. When Mike was hospitalized in South Dakota, Beverly wrote him a letter every single day. And she was even successful in getting Mike to go to TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) meetings with her.
Beverly shared Mike's deep love for his family. Together, they loved being around his family on as many occasions as possible, including birthdays and holidays. They would play games together like Scrabble, lawn darts, and cards. Mike was proud of his daughters, and especially proud of his grandsons.
Mike was an avid Cornhusker football fan; but he also enjoyed other sports like college basketball and baseball, especially women's basketball. He was also a big Elvis Presley fan, and would frequently sing along with whatever song of his was playing. He also loved watching old western movies, and whatever Elvis movie he could find.
During his lifetime, Mike had a variety of different jobs. He worked as a delivery driver for Tom Mara, and as a filling station attendant at Bill's Apco. He worked for Lincoln Public Schools as a custodian, painter, roofer, and general laborer. He also worked at various restaurants as both a short-order cook and janitor. He often worked several jobs concurrently.
Mike also served his country in the armed forces from 1969-1970, being stationed in Germany. He received an honorable hardship discharge so he could return home to care for his wife and family.
As the years progressed and his health deteriorated, Mike was an inpatient at various facilities. He lived for a number of years at the Victorian, and then he moved into assisted living at the Lexington. As he went into hospice care, he spent his final days at Homestead Nursing Home.
On February 27, 2016 Mike departed his earthly life at the age of 71 years, 3 months, and 14 days. Left to mourn his passing are his daughters Julie (Chris) Sandin of Lincoln, NE; Jennifer (Jim) Jones of Montrose, CO; grandsons Alex and Zach Sandin of Lincoln, NE; brother Mark (Patty) Hansen of Lincoln, NE; niece Mindy (Sean) McEntee of Albuquerque, NM; maternal cousin Rev. Dr. Daniel Schroeder of Lincoln, NE; and paternal (Hansen) cousins and their respective spouses/families: Gene Dale (Omaha, NE) and his sister Betty (Ohio); Russell Jr. (Columbus, NE) and his sister Marilyn Mae (Aurora, NE). Mike was preceded in death by his parents, his life companion Beverly, maternal aunt and uncle Barbara and Rev. Daniel Schroeder Sr., paternal uncles (and spouses) Chester, Russell, and Palmer Hansen, maternal cousin Jeffrey Schroeder, and paternal cousin Doug Hansen.
BLESSED BE HIS MEMORY