Dean Maatsch Funeral
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
1 Peter 1:3-8 Sermon
July 16, 2016

"How Great Thou Art"
"Go Rest High On That Mountain" 

TEXT:  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

            In Christ Jesus, dear Judy, Deaun, and Danelle, and the rest of the family and friends of Dean Maatsch:

            Back in 1789, Benjamin Franklin wrote the following statement in a letter:  “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” 

            The last phrase about "death and taxes" is not new; in fact, it might even be considered as rather cliché.  It isn't even certain if this was an original observation by Benjamin Franklin.  In all likelihood old Ben probably borrowed the phrase himself.

            But there is a lot of truth that is being expressed here.  We know that the mortality rate amongst human beings is, and always has been 100%.  That's a fact, and it's the reason we are assembled here.  And it seems like we're paying taxes all the time too:  sales tax, income tax, wheel tax, gasoline tax; it's an almost endless list.

            But the real truth here actually has nothing to do with either death or taxes. The key word here is "certain." 

            We know that we are living in a world that is in a constant state of flux.  Things are always changing.  We never quite know what to expect.

            So we get a lot of comfort from things that are static, those things that never change regardless of whatever else might happen.  We want things upon which we can depend and that won't let us down.

            This morning as we look at the passage of Scripture I have selected written by the Apostle Peter, he reminds his audience that God gives us promises that are sure and unwavering   

            The section of God's Word I have chosen to share with you on this occasion are the opening words recorded by the Apostle Peter in his first general Epistle.  Peter wastes no time in giving us something that is guaranteed never to change.  He calls this a "living hope."  It is the actual and sure promise of the inheritance of heaven.  This is something given purely by God's grace and love through faith in Jesus Christ.  This is the goal of the Christian's faith, something that fills us with "an inexpressible and glorious joy," something that is so good that words cannot adequately describe it.

            Throughout Scripture, God shows himself to be reliable and static in nature.  The Prophet Micah affirms this fact in chapter 3, verse 6 where God says, "For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed."  This is an assurance that God's people needed to hear.

            Faith is the key element in all this.  In the Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 11 verse 1 God gives us a short definitive statement of exactly what faith is.  "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."   Take special note of those two words "sure" and "certain."  That's a static faith. 

            In the Bible, God gives us his promises in absolute terms.  Listen to the words Job uses in chapter 19 verses 25-27:  "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God;  I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another."   There's no doubt in those words, not at all!  Job is absolutely certain of his heavenly home.  He knows all about the Saviour God has promised who will pay for his sins and bring him into everlasting glory.  Job knew that his vision of something better would be a reality.

            Even small children are well acquainted with this.  The Sunday School song goes, "Jesus loves me, this I know."  We don't sing, "Jesus loves me, this I guess," or "Jesus loves me, this may or may not be true."  The absolute certainty of faith is something a child learns early on, and will carry with them throughout their life.

            Today we can look at those promises God has made, and know for certain that they have become a reality for Dean.  And that leads us in to the two key purposes for a Christian funeral.

            First, it is a comfort for his family and loved ones.  Because of his faith in Jesus Christ his Saviour, we have the absolute guarantee that Dean is now in heaven, inhabiting the mansion God had prepared for him.  That is the goal of Dean's faith; and for that, we are indeed thankful.

            The second purpose is to serve as an example for those who are here to mourn his passing.  Dean is in heaven right now; and I know that he’d like nothing better than to share that with you, his family and friends.  Dean enjoyed spending time with those closest to him here on earth.  Spending an eternity with him in God's kingdom would be a joy beyond compare.

            I never knew or met Dean during his life on this earth.  So how can I preach a sermon at his funeral?  For starters, Dean was a Christian, and I can certainly talk about the Christian faith and what that means.  I also know two of his sisters.  It's obvious that I have known Joyce and her husband Dale for a number of years.  But I also knew his sister Jackie Ruyle from Beatrice, even though I never made the connection until we were writing the obituary.  Knowing the family and listening to what everybody had to say, there's no doubt when it comes to his Christian faith. 

            You know that there are many stories and anecdotes about Dean; over 78 years of them.  He was an awesome person, and nobody will deny that.  He touched many people in many different ways.  And if we were to start sharing stories and experiences, we could easily be here all day.  That's something you all can do in the days ahead.  Virtually everybody would say that Dean was a good person.

            But there's the other side of things too, and it's a side that we dare not overlook.  Dean was a sinful human being.  Because of his humanity, we know that sin affected him just like it does everybody else.  This might not be something we like to think about, but it is true.  As good of a person as he was, Dean was certainly not a perfect individual.  And that is something that he would have realized all too well.  He had his share of his flaws and imperfections.  According to God's standards, he was unable to measure up to the perfection God requires based upon his own merit.

            Just think of what life would be like if our eternity wasn't a guaranteed certainty.  If we had to base our hope of heaven upon all the good we've done, or based upon some scorecard system of good versus bad, we would always wonder if we've been good enough to pass muster with God.  Or perhaps we might be in despair over the wrongs we have done in our life and think that we're too bad to enter heaven when we die.  We would always be wondering and questioning and never certain of anything.

            But it's like I mentioned before, we want a degree of certainty in our lives.  We want to be sure that our heavenly mansion is ready and waiting for us.  Whatever questions we have and uncertainties we experience, Jesus is the answer.  He is always the answer, and that will never change.  

            From the depths of sin and strife, the Christian looks to Jesus through the eyes of faith.  As a Christian, Dean experienced the love and forgiveness Jesus gave him.  Dean had a relationship with Jesus through faith alone, and that relationship would have filled him with that inexpressible and glorious joy Peter talks about in our text.  Through faith in Christ Jesus alone, Dean is receiving the goal of his faith, which is the salvation of his soul. 

            The Apostle Paul summarizes this message of sin and grace so well in his Epistle to the Romans, chapter 3, verses 23-24:  "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."  This is the reality of the Christian faith.

            Heaven is not something we earn.  Heaven is only for those who cling to their Saviour Jesus Christ through faith alone.  The Apostle Paul puts this all into perspective in his Epistle to the Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 8-9:  "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast."

            I know that the past years weren't easy ones for Dean.  For the last 13 years, he endured countless treatments for his cancer.  Having ministered to quite a few cancer patients during my ministry, I know how rough that can be.  There are good days and not so good days and downright bad days that have to be endured.  And Dean would have known that his life was eventually drawing to a close, which was punctuated quite clearly over these last days and weeks.  The Christian ministry he received prepared him to meet his Saviour, and gave him the assurance he needed to know that God's promise for him was rock-solid.

            Several years ago, a book appeared entitled "Heaven Is For Real."  It tells about a very young boy's experience as he sees heaven and experiences the love of Jesus.  It's a good book, and well worth reading.  Through it all, young Colton Burpo wants to let everybody know that heaven is indeed for real, and that you can't get there without Jesus.  Indeed a person's relationship with Jesus is what counts.

             I can assure you that Dean wouldn't have wanted me to stand up here and give a 20-minute eulogy about how good of a person he was, or ramble on with a lot of meaningless platitudes and sentiments.  I'm here to tell you about his Saviour Jesus Christ who loved Dean so much that he went to the cross to pay for his sins.  God the Holy Spirit reached down from heaven and gave him the gift of faith in his heart.  This God-given faith is what enabled Dean to know Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour from sin.  

            To get into heaven, a person cannot come to God with a pile of good works or a fat checkbook.  A person can't get into heaven by a preacher mumbling a lot of meaningless platitudes or empty sentiments at a funeral.  A person can't get into heaven by good wishes or by praying over a dead body.  After a person has died, there's nothing left to do.

            There's only one way to heaven, and that is by a personal faith in Jesus Christ.  No other non-Christian religion or personal philosophy will work, regardless of how sincere or devout the person is.  When Jesus is our personal Saviour, then the victory he won over sin, death, hell, and the grave is ours through faith alone.  Because he lives, we too shall live.  We shall live forever with him in heaven.  And that is a rock-solid guarantee, something that will never change, despite whatever happens in our lives. 


            Dean's quote:  "I would like to thank each of you for riding the rails with me through life.  Although we [didn't sit] together regularly on the ride, just having you along is good enough for me!  So sit back, relax and please continue the ride with me."


Dean Davelle Maatsch, the only son of Elmer Maatsch and Rose nee' Duis, was born onMarch 1, 1938inOdell,Nebraska.  He entered God's family through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism onApril 10, 1938atSt. JohnLutheranChurchinLanham,Kansas.  He later affirmed his Baptismal covenant through the rite of Confirmation atSt. JohnonApril 6, 1952.

Dean grew up on the family farm in rural Odell, and attendedOdellPublic School, graduating in 1955.  He then entered theMilfordTrade School(now part ofSoutheastNebraskaCommunity College) where he studied electronics.  Following his graduation, he held a variety of small jobs, including an electric lineman.

Dean entered the U. S. Army in January of 1961, and was stationed atFort Sill,Oklahoma.  He received an honorable discharge in January of 1963 due to medical reasons.

Following his discharge, he worked for a short time for Vidicom.  Following that, he was a field representative for Sony Electronics for many years until his retirement in 2003.

Dean was married to his first wife in 1964, and to this union two children were born.  His family resided in the northeast area ofLincoln,Nebraska.

Dean enjoyed technology and kept current on all the latest advancements.  As an avocation, he loved to do various types of expert woodworking projects.  He would build everything from birdhouses to items of furniture.  His daughters fondly remember the tree house he built for them when they were growing up.

In 1998, he met Judy Vidlak who would be his soul mate and partner for the remainder of his life.  Together they traveled extensively.  They went such places asAustralia,New Zealand,Mexico,Canada, theCaribbean,Alaska,Hawaii, and lots of places in the continentalUnited States.  Dean and Judy would spend their winters inAlamo,Texaswhere they had a mobile home.  Usual activities involved a wide variety of dancing, board games, cards, and water volleyball.

Dean loved spending time with his grandchildren, and went to as many of their ball games and sporting events as he could.  And Dean was an avid Husker fan.

Dean contracted colon cancer in 2003, which spread to his liver.  Because of divine providence and expert medical care, he became the longest liver cancer survivor in history.  However, as his health deteriorated over time, our Lord called him from his earthly life onJuly 13, 2016at the age of 78 years, 4 months, and 12 days.

Left to mourn his passing are: his life partner, Judy Vidlak; daughters and sons-in-law Deaun (Dan) Little, and Danelle (Troy) Hansen; grandchildren Talon Little, Jaidyn Little, Peyton Hansen, and Adyson Hansen, one sister and brother-in-law Joyce White (Dale) Siebe, many cousins, nieces, and nephews; and a whole host of friends.

Dean was preceded in death by his parents; sisters and brothers-in-law Jackie (Marvin) Ruyle, and Karen (Wally) Bonner.

Blessed be his memory.