23. February 2011
Funeral of Lila E. Corman
Dearly beloved, Richard, Eugene, and Gail, spouses, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, visitors, and fellow redeemed – Grace, mercy and peace be to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Christians, take comfort in the promise of the resurrection of the dead! Take comfort knowing that our Lord Jesus Christ conquered our mortal foes. Even the sin of each of us and of the whole world could not overcome him. The grim hands of Death could not hold him in the grave. The prince of demons was bound in chains, whose head crushed beneath the triumph of Easter morning.
Is this difficult to believe? Absolutely. Our minds have an impossible time wrapping themselves around this truth. Our reason, separated by two thousand years of history, rejects the eyewitness testimony of the Apostles. Our reason knows nothing of dead people rising from their graves to life. Our reason has not seen the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man as Jesus himself prophesied through St. John.
Worse yet, our reason knows nothing of the corruption of our flesh and the trespasses against God. We look to ourselves with a far nobler opinion than we ought. We consider our worth in psychological terms of “self-esteem.” We look at death as the victory over life. We measure ourselves up against the yardstick of opinion and find ourselves righteous or holy enough for God.
God’s Word says otherwise. When measured not by opinion but by the holy truth of God’s standard, we learn that we are rotten, no-good, low-life, sinners. We deserve nothing by God’s righteous anger and wrath. We we consider death according the Scriptures we learn that it is the screeching halt, crash, and catastrophe. No one goes easy. No one is peaceful in death.
Even poor Lila’s flesh withered and decayed before our Lord took her to himself. I saw her just last week in the hospital. She was barely able to speak and looked nothing like the photos of memory. She had already suffered in her flesh with cancer and broken shoulder. Her suffering continued for those final days until death finally overcame even her German/Swedish will. A strong independent mind in the end still cannot transcend the inbred weakness of our mortal nature.
It was in times like these that Lila liked to remember that famous poem, “Footprints in the Sand.” The family shared this poem with you in the memorial card.
The poem goes like this:
(Copyright © 1984 Mary Stevenson, from original 1936 text, All rights reserved)
To be honest, I didn’t know much about this poem until today. Our favorite scholarly research tool, Google, came to my rescue. Apparently, there has been some dispute as to the original authorship. Not until 1991 was Mary Stevenson awarded the copyright after she found her original copy authenticated to 1939.
I remember seeing this poem in my grandparents home as one of those famous framed prints, with a beach and the single set of footprints. I never thought much of it. But my research proved interesting. The author of this poem was much like Lila. Mary Stevenson was born in near Philadelphia PA in 1922, just three years before Lila. Mary’s family describes her as an individual with strong headedness, much like Lila. Mary suffered great loss when she lost her mother to death at age six, forcing her father to raise her and the seven other children. This all happened in the midst of the Great Depression.
Lila too went through the Great Depression and she was undoubtedly affected greatly. Her confirmation in the Christian faith came in 1940, right in the midst of the Second Great War. She lost two grandchildren and her beloved husband Corky to death. Maybe the raising of three boys was a bit of a headache sometimes?
Lila understood trials. That’s why she loved the “Footprints” poem so much. She knew that sometimes the challenges of this life and even of her own flesh are too much to bear. Sometimes we’re tempted to give up, to throw in the towel, and sink into the pit of despair. Yet, her faith could not allow this. While you might chalk her resiliency up to her German bloodline, it was her faith in Jesus that got her through the toughest times.
Sometimes we’re tempted to the Puritan ideal. We’re tempted to think that when times get tough, we’re to pull up our bootstraps and have at it. Lila knew that this was often not true. Truth be told, the only thing that gets us through these times is Jesus.
The reason the “Footprints” poem is so powerful is because it confesses the holy truth of Scripture. We could quibble over the finer points of doctrine in the poem but still, I think, it conveys the Gospel of Jesus Christ in most comforting and consoling way.
The poet Mary Stevenson knew that no matter how much we try to follow Jesus, we are weak. In the lowest and saddest times of life, our best attempts aren’t enough. Actually, our best attempts to make it through the good times aren’t enough. The truth is that in good and bad times, it is our Lord who carries us.
It’s like we heard in David’s poem on the same theme, Psalm 23. The LORD does it all. He is the shepherd, the leader, the provider, the restorer, the comforter, the butler, and the anointer. Despite our enemies, despite the valley of the shadow of death, despite evil, and despite the often parched and withered lands we are forced to travel, our LORD is with us.
The end of David’s poem has one of the sweetest words of good news in all of Scripture. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Its those words that comforted Lila in the end. Its those words that got Lila through the hard times.
What was David confessing? What truth? Jesus. Jesus is the goodness and mercy that followed Lila. He is the goodness and mercy that picked her up and carried her in sadness and trial. Lila knew in sickness and in health that every good thing, indeed everything she had came from the Lord. She rejoiced in confessing her faith, namely that our heavenly Father had given his only son into death, that we may never die. She rejoiced every Sunday in the Easter acclamation, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”
Even now, Lila is being carried by our Lord. To our reason, she is dead. To our faith, she is already alive. She is alive with Christ. Just like our Lord said to the widow, “She is not dead but is sleeping.” Too true! Lila is not dead but is sleeping. We don’t see her footprints anymore. But in faith, we see our Lord’s footprints in the sand and know that Lila is being carried by him to the joys of heaven and to everlasting life.
Dearly beloved, Richard, Eugene, and Gail, spouses, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, visitors, and fellow redeemed – may this faith in Jesus Christ that carried Lila through this life so also carry you into the eternal joys of heaven and eternal life. Amen.
In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church