Pastor Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church – Dyer, Indiana
15. March 2011
Funeral of Lucille M. Berg
+ IN NOMINE JESU +
Dearly beloved, Richard, Eugene, Gail, Brenda, Renee, great and great-great nieces and nephews, friends, choir, and all the fellow redeemed – Grace, mercy and peace be to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The text for our meditation is Aunt Lou’s confirmation verse: “The LORD is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1).
Let Us Pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
It seems like it was just yesterday that we were in this chapel, mourning the death of Lucille’s sister, Lila, you dear mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and friend. Just three weeks ago, our Lord gathered his beloved daughter Lila unto himself, where she now rests from her labors and rejoices with all the saints and angels in heaven.
Aunt Lou was here. She listened attentively through the funeral service. She sang with us, prayed with us, and grieved with us. The death of her loved sister grieved her terribly.
When we get old, I think we grow more and more callous to the reality of death. One by one our friends and family drop off like flies. I heard last night at the visitation that a friend had ten near to her die in one month. Another had five die on Ash Wednesday.
That is, of course, the point of Ash Wednesday. We begin our Lenten journey to the cross, with ashes of grief. We mourn our mortality, repeating the curse spoken to Adam as he and Eve were cast out of the Garden.
In recent years, many Lutherans have revived the practice of imposing ashes on this particular Wednesday. The pastor marks the forehead with an ashen cross, and says, “Remember thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return.”
It is a humiliating experience. We stand before our Lord, dumbfounded by our ignorance and stupefied by our complete incompetence. We ought to know his holy Law but we have turned a blind eye. As the baptized, we ought to be more adept at keeping our Lord’s holy commands but instead we fail miserably.
That’s precisely what Aunt Lou remembered at her sister’s funeral. She remembered, as she looked upon the ashen body of her sister, that she is dust and to dust she will return. In only three short weeks, the grief would be too much to bear and her body would give way. Some people die of various unnatural causes. Death is never natural. Aunt Lou died of broken heart.
I don’t recall another time in my life where I have seen a woman of Lucille’s maturity weep as she did. It stuck in my mind. Most of her age have seen everyone go and are left alone. There is no one left to mourn for or grieve with.
Your family is different. Aunt Lou was like a second mother and grandmother to all of you. Rick, Gene, Gail, Brenda, Renee, and all. As Brenda told me, Aunt Lou had special spirit about her. She wasn’t content sitting on her laurels, dwelling in her comfort zone. She challenged her boundaries and explored the great gift of life given to her by her heavenly Father. She could laugh, play, and sing with the best of them. Underneath it all was gentleness and compassion for each of you, including her now departed sister Lila and brother Ebert, jr.
I think that’s why the funeral of her sister was so difficult. Aunt Lou knew first-hand that Lila’s death would create a huge whole in this family. Matriarchs have a way of gluing the family together. When they depart to be with Jesus, will the fabric of the family unravel?
So much time, care, and love was dedicated in these last years for Lila and Lucille. Now, that the Lord has received them both, what are we to do? Where are we to go? Should we grieve like others do, weeping in the streets? Or should we hole in our houses? Or perhaps begin that busy work of cleaning out their houses?
St. Paul says that we don’t mourn like others, especially those who have no hope. When we mourn, we mourn with hope. Our hope is founded on Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God. Our hope is built on nothing less or more than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
Hope is built on faith and faith upon the Word of God. We have hope because we have the clear Word of God, both in the Father’s demands but also in his most amazing promises.
Aunt Lou’s confirmation verse is no exception. “The LORD is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1). Lucille was not guided by fear. She was guided by the LORD. I’m sure she knew there were always evildoers at her doorstep. Yet, why fear? They are the one who stumble and fall.
Hope is built on the confidence of faith. The LORD is my light and my salvation… One thing have I asked of the Lord… that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.
Despite being a free-spirit, Aunt Lou was humbly submitted to our Lord. She regularly attended Bethlehem Lutheran Church and served faithfully on the Altar Guild. She received this most trustworthy Word of comfort as often as she was able.
I know she wasn’t like Lila. If we were to say Lila was tight-laced, then we’d have to say Aunt Lou was always tripping on her shoelaces. Traditions are good and so is curiosity. That’s why Lila and Lucille got along so well. They were like Laurel and Hardy or Tom and Jerry. Different, yet the same. Unique, yet complimentary.
Despite their differences, Lila and Lucille were the same. They both had the same hope, the same faith, and trusted in the same Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Both were redeemed by the same blood and will be resurrected by the same Father on the last day.
So also for you, Rick, Gene, Gail, Brenda, Renee, nieces and nephews, family, friends, and fellow beloved by God. While it may not appear so now, believe me when I say that Psalm 27 has already come to pass. Our Lord has done as he promised for Aunt Lou. He has hidden them in his shelter, away from all their troubles. He has concealed them under the cover of his tent. He has lifted them to safety from the whirling tempest of this fallen world.
“And now my head shall be lifted up above all my enemies around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to Lord.” (Psalm 27:12-13)
Fellow redeemed, loved children of God, Aunt Lou has already begun to belt out a new song, a song of joy for the Lord. She dwells in the LORD’s loving embrace, awaiting the resurrection of the dead. On that day, she and all the faithful will gather around the throne, making sweet sacrifices of praise and shouts of joy. It will be a great song and Aunt Lou won’t be afraid to try. As a matter of fact, she’s already learning the words.
In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church
+ SOLI DEO GLORIA +