Sunday, March 6, 2011

Funeral Sermon for Alene Semingsen

The Rev. Paul J Cain
John 15: 1-17
The Story of Alene and Her Lord
Funeral Sermon for Alene Semingsen
Saturday of Epiphany VII, Transfiguration Eve, 05 March 2011
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today’s service tells a story. First and foremost, it tells of salvation in Jesus Christ and Him alone. Second, it tells the story of Alene Dorothy (Herseim) Semingsen. This funeral service tells the story of Alene and her Lord, of His love for her and her love for God.
Her family and I looked through her Bible and hymnal and found some amazing things. The ribbons in her hymnal marked the Nicene Creed and the hymn, “On Eagle’s Wings,” one of the last songs Alene sang with our choir. Colossians 3 was chosen as our Epistle reading because of the smile on her face and song in her heart.
In her Bible you can read her baptism verse, Mark 10:14, in her own handwriting: “Suffer the little children to come unto Me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God.” She continues with Psalm 23, the source text of “The King of Love My Shepherd Is.” She fondly remembered Revelation 2:10, also read today. Her Confirmation booklet references Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (She remembered that on her funeral planning form, too.)
Her well-worn Bible has notes and references both recent and older. She had the reference “Deuteronomy 6” as a reminder to “pass on” the faith to the next generation. She echoed those thoughts with these personal notes written just above John 15: “When you are tested [by] real difficulties, you will know if you are a strong Christian. Jesus is my King! [He is the] Best gift to give to your children.” Her commentary continues throughout the rest of John 15.
1[Jesus said:] “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  2Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
Alene writes, “Sufferings [like] [are] allowed to come into our life so He can use it to make us grow. Pride keeps us from growing.” If anyone had “inconveniences” or “real difficulties” in the last two years, it was Alene. Spiritually, she was well-prepared in Christ. Her words comfort us today because of God’s Word that abides in her.
3Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I 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.
Alene has those words, “for without Me you can do nothing” underlined. We reproduced that in our printing of the Gospel Lesson for today.
6If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Alene again: “[The] Grace of God is Free, but it isn’t Cheap. We have Obligations because of what Jesus did for Me. We are free of guilt.” She understood the difference between her righteous standing before God in Christ and the life of sanctification as a response, our “obligations” to serve our neighbor. With regard to sin she writes, “ First of all a mirror.” She knew what Jesus did for her and that in Him she was “free of guilt” and forgiven. With regard to her obligations to family, friends, and Church, she knew that the “Law is a guide for the Christian.”
12[Jesus said:] “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
“Love” in this text, John 15, shown to her by the Lord and Ray and Lynn and Marley and family and many friends, love from the Lord that she reflected to all of you, is the reason our closing hymn is “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.”
Alene Semingsen delighted herself in the Lord. Her Lord continues to delight in her. We mourn and weep because we miss her and love her. And we should. Death is not part of life. Jesus came that Alene and all of us would have life to the full and eternal life, including the Resurrection from the Dead to Life Everlasting. In the meantime, we mourn because we love, and love culminates in the reunion of all who believe in Christ.
While we wait for the Lord to return on the Last Day or call us home before then, what would Alene recommend? Her notes that accompany John 3 say, “Born again [also means] Born from above. God does this! [We] hear the Gospel, [and receive] the sacraments [until we reach] eternity and God in all His glory. Jesus is true God and in control of all things for our good <[and] His glory>.” Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.