Rev. Paul J Cain
He Is Faithful
Memorial Service Sermon for Delores “Dee” Luella (Heinzen) Black
Tuesday of Pentecost XX, 20 October 2009
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
In the Name of Jesus. Amen
Dee Black died in Christ. At my last pastoral visit to her, she was the most peaceful I had ever seen her. She confessed her sins and received Jesus’ forgiveness, comfort, and peace. She was ready to go home to be with her Lord and rest.
She told me, “I’m glad I met everyone at Immanuel. God bless every one of you.” And then she said, “Did I say that right? You can put that in your own words, pastor.” I responded, “If I did that it wouldn’t sound like you.” And she smiled.
Dee helped plan today’s service. She selected the hymn of the day, “My Faith Looks Up to Thee,” her favorite, and agreed to Cathy and David’s suggestion of “How Great Thou Art.” Dee chose both psalms. The three readings were chosen to complement those selections and reflect my time with Dee as her pastor. Even the bulletin reflects her favorite color.
Those of us who knew her well knew that she was sometimes anxious. Over the last month she wanted to make sure to get her Christmas cards done. She wanted to provide a good home for her family and church photos. She wanted to make sure everybody was taken care of. That sounds like the anxiety common to concerned and loving mothers.
When I paid her a pastoral visit, I shared Scripture, a sermon, a hymn, prayer, and Holy Communion once a month. I would summarize her attitude in recent months in words I first learned from a godly aunt: “I may fear dying, but I need not fear death.”
In Christ, death is the entrance to eternal life, life with her Lord Christ, and a reunion with all who have fallen asleep in Jesus.
Dee held fast the profession of her faith. She remembered God’s promises to her. And in so doing, she fulfilled today’s sermon text, chosen for her at her Confirmation by Pastor Brammeier back in 1942. Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised;)”
Faith trusts in that which it does not see. If it was just hoping in what it could see, we’d call it sight. Faith is reverent awe, hope, and trust that holds on to Jesus Christ for dear life—and into eternal life. Scripture reminds us that faith is not something we do, but a gift from God. The Holy Spirit gives the gift of faith through the hearing of the Word and the water of Holy Baptism.
Faith doesn’t often talk about itself. Faith talks about its Lord and who He is and what He has done for us. In today’s readings, hymns, and psalms, you have heard many promises from our Lord. They are most certainly true, not merely because they’re true for me and this congregation and our departed sister Dee, but because they come from the Lord of Truth Himself. His promises are solid enough to build your life upon. And salvation is a life and death matter. Jesus died and rose so that you may live with Him. You can rely on God’s promises and gifts for eternal life with Him.
During their last hours with her, Dee’s children reminisced with their mom about their lives together, the joys and tears, the words said and left unsaid. (She was sorry for unkind words that often slip out of our mouths as well as for not always making the opportunity to explain words that could be misunderstood.) Dee knew how much you loved her, even when there were disagreements, hurt feelings, or differences of opinion. She loved you all.
And in the midst of all that special time with her family, Dee noted that a baby was born on TV. Life goes on. One soul leaves this world and another soul enters. We gather today to celebrate her life. We thank God for His gift of Dee to us and how we were able to serve Him by serving her. We thank God for the gifts He gave to her in her life, especially the gift of faith, by which she gladly received the gifts of Holy Baptism, God’s Holy Word, Holy Communion, and the spoken comfort of the forgiveness of sins.
These gifts of God are yours as well, just as is promised in Hebrews 10:23 (ESV) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. Amen.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.