Saturday, October 29, 2016

Funeral Sermon for Vera Kaufmann Rhoades, 29 October 2016

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Psalm 43
Thine Forever
Saturday of Trinity XXII, 29 October 2016
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
Funeral Sermon for Vera Laura (Kaufmann) Rhoades

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Death is on our minds today. We mourn, but we have hope in Christ, for He has defeated death by a death of His own and a Resurrection of His own that He will one day share with us.
We miss Vera, our sister in Christ. She felt like family, even to many of us who were not related to her by blood or marriage. The Lord makes us family through Holy Baptism. He makes promises to us in His Word and He keeps them, of that we can be sure. One such promise is Mark 16:16. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Vera was baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, according to Christ’s command, and into this promise. We rightly leave the rest up to the Lord.
Elements of today’s service tell of the gifts Christ gave to Vera and the story of her life in Christ. She was baptized on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, Quinquagesima, in 1918. Our Epistle lesson today was likely heard that day.
The Sunday before Palm Sunday was Vera’s Confirmation Day in 1930, and at least a portion of Psalm 43 was heard that day. (Read underlined verses on next page.)
1Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me! 2For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? 3Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! 4Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. 5Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
We read the whole of this psalm responsively earlier in the service. It speaks to God’s vindication and deliverance of us, the light and truth of His Word guiding us each day and all our life long, His gathering of us to be His people in the place where He delivers His gifts to us, and that He is the source of our hope, the object of our praise, both our Savior and our God.
On a Confirmation Sunday in a German Lutheran congregation in 1930 Nebraska, one would probably also hear this verse from the mouth of Jesus:
Sei getreu bis an den Tod, so will ich dir die Krone des Lebens geben.[1]
The English of Revelation 2:10b is: “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
In Holy Baptism, Vera is in Christ. At her Confirmation and First Communion and every Communion since, even those in her room with us at Green House Living, she is in Christ. Now, she is at peace, at rest, in Christ, and in His presence. With her we await the return of Christ and the Resurrection of all on the Last Day, when all delivered and saved by Christ will be with Him and one another face to face, knowing in full, fully in Christ.
Years ago, I asked Vera about her favorite hymn. “Well, I like them all!” she said in her “happy-grumpy” voice. And then we opened up her hymnal and looked at some, including “Let Me Be Thine Forever.” You may be noticing a theme develop. Together, the readings and hymns echo her confession of faith.

When a pastor visits a Christian like Vera on her deathbed, he has a wonderful resource in a book called the Pastoral Care Companion that accompanies the hymnal Lutheran Service Book. (And yes, there’s even an app for that on my smartphone.) Some call it “Last Rites.” We call it “Commendation of the Dying.” What an excellent opportunity to comfort a believer who received the washing of water and the Word, heard Jesus’ Words of forgiveness, drank deeply of Sacred Scripture, and feasted upon Christ’s own Body and Blood. Near the end of the “commendation,” or, when death is near, the pastor speaks or chants the Nunc Dimittis, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace…”
Then, the pastor may say or sing stanza three of the classic Lutheran hymn “Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart,” LSB 708: ¯ “Then let at last Thine angels come, To Abram’s bosom bear me home That I may die unfearing. And in its narrow chamber keep My body safe in peaceful sleep Until Thy reappearing. And then from death awaken me That my own eyes with joy may see, O Son of God, Thy glorious face, My Savior and my fount of grace! Lord Jesus Christ, my prayer attend, my prayer attend, And I will praise Thee without end.”
What comfort! Even in this wicked world, His love surrounds you. He blesses you here in His Word and Sacrament according to His Gospel promises. He has given you family and friends to love you, and a congregation of other forgiven sinners to care for you and encourage you. He will never leave nor forsake you. And He is with us until the end of the age, the time of His reappearing.
For a Christian with a Lutheran background, this was Vera’s hope as she despaired of any so-called righteousness in herself and clung tightly to the forgiveness of sins Jesus won for her. This is your hope as well. Jesus tells us the Truth in His Word. I invite you to hear His Word on a regular basis, believe in the Father who sent Him, and by faith, receive the gracious Gifts of God delivered by God the Holy Spirit: Life in Him now, eternal life in the world to come, and Resurrection on the Last Day. Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] Luther, M. (2001). Biblia: das ist: Die gantze Heilige Schrifft (Re 2:10). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. 1545 translation.