Pastor Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church – Dyer, Indiana
25. October 2010
Funeral of Margaret M. Reichelt
“Grafted onto the True Vine”
Fellow believers in Christ – Ron & Emily, Carol, Heidi, Jamie, Elli, Angela, and Chris, spouses, grandchildren, family, friends, and all the redeemed – grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our meditation will consider these words: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 ESV)
When Jesus told those words to His disciples, their hearts were troubled. They were gathered together for the last time before His betrayal and crucifixion. They knew that something was up. Jesus washed their feet, the master acting as a servant. One of them would betray him. One of them would deny Him. But he would not leave them alone. For Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He did not leave them but promised to send His Holy Spirit upon them to comfort them and guide them. They had nothing to fear despite the sorrow of the moment.
So it is for you also. You have nothing to fear despite your sorrow. Margaret was granted a blessed end by our Lord. She is held within our Savior’s loving embrace. This Savior showed Margaret His way, His truth, and His life. He was with Margaret until the end. And He is with you, dear family.
Margaret’s pastor etched upon her heart her verse from St. John when she confessed her Christian faith publicly before God and her fellow believers in the rite of Confirmation. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 ESV)
Even though that day was seventy five or so years ago, she remembered and treasured this verse, even while she suffered in those final days. Margaret treasured these words of our Lord because she knew they were true. She faithfully attended her church in Hammond and most recently in Dyer.
She and her dear husband Bill desired to receive our Lord’s gifts of preaching, absolution, and the Lord’s Supper. She desired to train up you, her children – Ron and Carol, in the way that you should go. She brought you to the baptismal font where our Lord washed you clean, named you as his own, and anointed you with the gift of the Holy Spirit and faith. She knew that her life was nothing but vanity apart from Jesus.
She knew that if there was to be any life in her, if there was to be any life in you her children and spouses, or even if there was to be life in her grandchildren, this life would come from the vine, our Lord Jesus. The life of Jesus was given to Margaret because she was grafted onto the true vine. She and Bill were true branches whose whole life were fed by the vine, the shoot of Jesse. From Christ the vine flowed living waters into the life of Margaret and into all your lives as her family.
This life of Christ is evident in you too. You are the fruit borne of Christ through his branches Margaret and Bill. In you we see the benefit of Margaret’s life in Christ. Good branches bear good fruit. Not only do they bear good fruit, they bear fruit in abundance. The multitude of great grandchildren bear witness that Margaret’s branch continues to bear fruit, even today as she lay asleep with Jesus.
Margaret knew that apart from Christ, apart from the true vine, she could do nothing. Apart from hearing Christ’s Word, being renewed in her baptismal grace, receiving our Lord’s precious true body and blood, given and shed for her for the forgiveness of sins, Margaret knew no good thing could come of her. Without our Lord as her source of goodness, her fount of grace, her branch would wither and die. Her children would fall from grace into despair and unbelief. Her grandchildren would reject God and the favor he desires to give to them. Her great grandchildren would fall further from the tree. Margaret heeded this warning and faithfully remained dedicated to the Lord.
Margaret knew that apart from our Lord, she could do nothing. She remained grafted onto Christ even until death. Just this past Thursday, I was able to visit her. She was weak and some pain. yet, when I asked her if I could celebrate the Lord’s Supper with her, she was more animated and boldly said, “Yes.” She heard God’s Word spoken into her ears, refreshing her again in trust in the resurrection of the dead. She received our Lord’s very body and blood on her parched lips. She rejoiced in this gift, with ecstatic tears. What a great blessing to be given such a confidence that the holy sacraments provide! What joy to dine at the marriage feast of the Lamb!
Ron, Emily, Carol, grandchildren, great grandchildren – This feast does not end. It is the gift of the communion of saints that we confess in the Creed. Our dearly departed don’t merely live on as memories. All the dearly departed, including Margaret, your father Bill, Margaret’s brothers and sisters, and even her granddaughter await our Lord’s return on the last day. And what a glorious day that will be, when the dead will be raised and the faithful raised to eternal life in heaven. Heaven is filled with great mansions, joyous singing, and the triumphant feast. There all the faithful will be reunited to praise our Lord and sing with all the angelic hosts.
I know that Margaret liked to have a good time. She shared joyous family memories with you her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. She shared what I am sure are fond memories with her friends and neighbors at Tops or bowling in the school basement. Yet these fond memories pale in comparison with the joy Margaret and all the faithful will experience in the joys of heaven.
Margaret abided in the vine that is Christ. She heard His Word faithfully and receive his Holy gifts as often as she was able. The Lord promised to her that whatever she asked, it would be done for her. I know Margaret prayed that our Lord take her into His loving embrace. He has kept His promise. In Margaret, the Father is gloried. Margaret proved to be our Lord’s disciple. She loved her Lord and abided in His love. And now we can rejoice with her! Christ the vine has given her joy and her joy is full even unto everlasting life. Thanks be to God! Amen.