Pastor Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church – Dyer, Indiana
Funeral of Lorretta Roach
“Let not your hearts be troubled”
Dearly beloved, Frank, Frank Jr., Peggy, Sally, spouses, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, visitors, and fellow redeemed – Grace, mercy and peace be to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The text for our meditation is the Gospel just read, especially these words of our Lord: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
The context of this reading is those final hours before Jesus’ crucifixion, when the disciples squirmed in the upper room with anxiety, not knowing what would come next. Jesus spoke of His departure and death. They were overwhelmed with thoughts of separation from their master. They had dedicated three long years to serving him, by caring for the sick and the disabled. They stayed up with our Lord through many sleepless nights of prayer.
So now, these disciples wonder: what will life be like without our Lord? Will we still be disciples of Him? Who will lead us in the true way? To the disciples and to those who mourn for dear Lorretta, Jesus answers all our fears: “Let not your hearts be troubled… Believe in me… I am the way, the truth, and the life…” (John 14:1ff).
For you – Frank, Frank Jr., Peggy, Sally, and all those who mourn, let not your hearts be troubled! For as with Loretta, we know the way to eternal life.
(I. Jesus showed Loretta the Way in Baptism.)
Our Lord knows we are prone to doubt, fear, and anxiety over this life. Our weak hearts can give out in the heat of the battle. Yes, there is a battle for you soul, nothing less than our old foes of sin and Satan seeking to destroy our trust in the Lord and His Word.
Frank, you know this to be most true, having lost your dear Lorretta while you still travel through the vale of tears. Beware! There is the real danger that in you might turn from the Lord and His Word of comfort to you, instead turning to despair and grief. This despair and grief might lead you away from the love of your family and from those in your community and church who care for you. Let it not be so! Your family loves you and cares for you and even more so, our Lord has promised to never leave you or forsake you.
Frank Jr, Sally, Peggy, you have lost the mother who loved you, cared for you, and taught you. Beware! Just as there was a real struggle for Lorretta’s soul, so now there is a battle being waged for yours. There is the real danger you would turn from the Lord and His holy bridegroom, the Church, where the Lord conceived you in the womb of the font, instructed you in the faith, and nurtured you with spiritual meat and drink. Just like your earthly mother raised and trained you in what is good and true, your mother, the Church, has and will always keep you in the noblest of virtue, that is, faith in our savior Jesus.
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (13:34) Lorretta cared for you, Frank, as a dutiful wife, caring for you when you were sick. She cared for you, Frank Jr, Sally, Peggy, her children, as a loving and caring mother, especially bringing you to the Lord’s house, where you were baptized and were fed by the Word.
Indeed, just as Christ loved her, Lorretta loved all of us… you, her family, her friends, her neighbors, and her church. She even brought joy and encouragement to this young and immature pastor, when she greeted me always with a smile, the confident confession, “I know, Pastor,” and the strong grasp of the hand when we prayed together.
(II. Jesus taught Loretta the Truth.)
Lorretta often couldn’t speak when I visited her. Yet, I know that Jesus taught Lorretta the truth. She believed on her Lord and was comforted. When we celebrated the Lord’s Supper for what would be the last time, a tear came to her eye, after confessing her sins. She knew what a great gift our Lord’s forgiveness is.
You, the family and friends, know far better than I how difficult her last years had been. Lorretta suffered through the years of surgery and other affliction. Especially in these recent days, Lorretta’s flesh quickly gave way toward death.
Lorretta faithfully confessed in the midst of her suffering that nothing she experienced compared to the great pain of Christ and His cross. Christ bore in his flesh the full weight of all our sin. Christ was utterly forsaken by God, His Father. Satan snarled in glee when Christ hung on the tree. But those mortal wounds could not destroy the immortal one. Death’s bonds were unable to hold the Almighty in the grave. The Lord rose victorious on Easter morning, forever loosing the chains of sin and stocks of death from all who believe on Him.
When Lorretta suffered, she knew that it was Jesus who suffered for her. She knew Christ took her sin upon himself and that even in her worst pain, our Lord spared her. Our Lord showed mercy on her even unto death. She knew this is the Truth. In faith, she waited patiently for the Lord to deliver her, trusting again in the promise washed upon her when she was brought to faith.
One of her grandson told me a story shortly after she died. You’ll have to pardon me if I embellish the tale a bit. This grandson was having problems in school. His mom took him to Mimi Jr. for comfort. Grandma took the young boy aside and said, “there are only two men you need to know.” Pointing to two photos on the wall, she said, “Jesus Christ and Ronald Reagan.”
While Lorretta and I mostly spoke of Jesus, I know she wasn’t simply being funny. She knew what it meant to trust in the Lord but also to trust in those our Lord has placed in authority over us. Lorretta understood the wonderful order that God gave us in His creation. She knew that God gives us honest and noble leaders to preserve our community, country, and world. No doubt, she even saw a little bit of the Gipper in Frank, as he managed the household with love and virtue.
Lorretta knew that faith places its trust in the promises God has spoken. Lorretta believed that when we hear Jesus, we hear the Father. Lorretta knew Jesus is the truth. She confessed this faith as often as her body would allow her. Especially for you, her children, she told you of Christ and His work to save you from death by His cross and resurrection!
Even in the face of death, Lorretta trusted in Jesus. She did not despair. Her hope and our hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Jesus’ love dwelled within her, just as Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and my Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” (24)
No doubt, there will be rough times ahead. Your lives as family and every life that Lorretta touched will not be the same hereafter. In Lorretta’s death, the Father taught us all that the wages of sin is death. Our sin has real consequence. It is not merely a slap on the wrist but is a real, mortal foe… death.
(III. Loretta has new Life with Jesus and the Father.)
But we need not fear! We need not have the anxiety those disciples felt when Jesus said His farewell. For with the disciples, Jesus says to us “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father but by me.” In Christ, we need not question, nor doubt, nor fear. Our Lord is with us, showing us that He is the Way. He has spoken into our ears, giving us faith to know that He is the Truth. And only by Jesus do we have the promise of Life in this world and into the next.
Jesus is life. He was made Man, crucified under Pontius Pilate, and rose from the dead so that we too have life. Just as sin had no dominion over Him, it has no dominion of us, the baptized. Jesus is our robe of righteousness, our new life. “Because I live, you will live also.” (19) Jesus showed Lorretta the way of everlasting life in Baptism. At her baptism on December 13, 1959, the Father began a good work in Lorretta. The Father put to death the old Lorretta and brought to life a new Lorretta. This new Lorretta believed in Holy Trinity. This Lorretta trusted in her savior Jesus. In this new life of faith, the Father promised Lorretta everlasting life with Him and Lorretta believed.
The promise of Jesus is the very life given to our dear sister in Christ, your wife, mother, and grandmother, Lorretta. Lorretta is asleep, waiting for the new Life with Jesus and the Father. Lorretta was baptized into Christ. She was baptized into a death like His and so will rise in a life like His. Death has long waged war against Lorretta, trying to take her from you. Yet, for Lorretta, Death has lost its sting. The cruel conquerer takes no victory lap. Why? It has not overpowered her. Christ has promised her eternal life. Death for the Christian is only the patient sleep for our Lord’s return.
Lorretta found comfort in knowing she was God’s child and that through her baptism, the Lord now would grant her the promised eternal life. You remember that day, Frank, the day when Lorretta was welcomed as a child of the Heavenly Father. You know what great joy Lorretta found in her being reborn to faith and the new life granted to her as a Christian.
The disciples asked, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Lorretta knew the Way to heaven is Jesus. Even in those last days when she could barely speak, she welcomed her pastor. She desired to hear Jesus’ Word. She confessed her sins and heard the sweet words of absolution. She tasted on her lips the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, given and shed for Lorretta for the forgiveness of all her sins.
Lorretta knew that Jesus is the Truth. In Christ’s death, she saw the consequence for her sin. She wept over the great cost for disobedience when she considered Christ’s cross. Yet, in Christ’s resurrection, Lorretta rejoiced! She knew that Jesus is Life. She knew that her redeemer lives! He had conquered death for her, freeing her from her bondage to sin, Satan, and even death.
She believed that Jesus’ shed blood forgave her sins. She knew that she was in Christ, forever united to Him. Death has dominion over our Lord and no dominion over her. Lorretta will forever live with Him. With Christ, the dead shall rise. All the faithful shall meet Jesus with Lorretta on the last day and dwell with the Father. This is the promise of Jesus. This the good news that cannot be tainted by even death.
St. John the Revelator writes: “Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21) “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).
Frank, Frank Jr., Peggy, Sally, spouses, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, friends, fellow Christians – “Let not your heart be troubled.” For we know, as Lorretta knows, that the Way to eternal Life with the Father is through the only Truth, Jesus. Amen.