Rev. Paul J Cain
The Good Portion
Memorial Service Sermon for Mary Lou (Chieslar) Sare
Wednesday of Pentecost XXI, 28 October 2009
(Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming)
At Kane Funeral Home
In the Name of Jesus. Amen
One thing is necessary, Jesus says, “the good portion, which will not be taken away.” Ultimately, that good portion is Jesus Himself. It is His forgiveness. He presents Himself and His forgiveness for you in His Word. Being in the Word of God at the feet of Jesus Himself is the One Thing, the good portion.
Luke 10:42 was Mary Lou Chieslar’s Confirmation verse back on April 18, 1943. She confirmed with her own heart, mind, and lips that she believed the Christian faith into which she had been baptized shortly after her birth. She was born again by water and the Word, born from above and into Christ Jesus. We celebrate today that she was forgiven by Jesus. We rejoice in the promises of Christ, especially those we hold dear when we have lost someone we dearly love.
You have heard the precious promise of Jesus in Luke chapter 10 twice already. Once it was sung. The second time it was read. It is particularly appropriate to frame the life of Mary Lou as we hear again about Jesus’ interaction with Mary and Martha of Bethany. Martha was anxious and troubled amid her busy life. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus to hear His Word.
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Jesus’ reference to the “good portion” may remind you of the meals you had at Mary Lou’s home. How blessed was she to be able to live in her own home until the Lord took her home to His promised heavenly mansions! TLSB: “Food comes and goes, and eventually everyone becomes hungry again. The Word of God, however, abides forever. It alone can truly satisfy. [St. Augustine wrote:] ‘In these two women the two lives are figured, the life present, and the life to come, the life of labour, and the life of quiet, the life of sorrow, and the life of blessedness, the life temporal, and the life eternal’” (1736.)
We can see the contrast Augustine mentions in Mary Lou’s own life. She did not always choose the good portion. She told me herself. Sometimes she was as distracted as Martha herself by the pots and pans of life’s vain fretting and striving. In the Lord’s divine wisdom, and in ways that often seem mysterious, He found a way to reconnect with her.
Let me tell you that story. George introduced me to his brother, Don. Don introduced me to his friend, Gene. Don and Gene introduced me to Gene’s sister, Mary Lou. “She’s been wanting to come back to Church, pastor. Would you pay her a visit?” And so I did, the first of several. She confessed her Christian faith. She confessed her sins and received absolution. She heard the Word read, sung, and preached. She fed on the Lord’s Body and Blood in Holy Communion. Now, Mary Lou has introduced me to Kim and Curt…all of you, her family and friends and loved ones.
Some of you knew about her desire to come back to Church and that she did. Others of you may be surprised. Either way, consider her confession of Christ as her final witness to you:
2 How were Mary’s thoughts devoted
Her eternal joy to find
As intent each word she noted,
At her Savior’s feet reclined!
How kindled her heart, how devout was its feeling,
While hearing the lessons that Christ was revealing!
All earthly concerns she forgot for her Lord
And found her contentment in hearing His Word.
She had other joys in this life, like her frequent trips to Disney World, that collection of Mickey Mouse memorabilia, and doting on her loving family. Many of you were by her side in her final days. She noticed. She gave you that smirk of hers. For all of the blessings she was given, one she deemed highest:
4 Nothing have I, Christ, to offer,
You alone, my highest good.
Nothing have I, Lord, to proffer
But Your crimson-colored blood.
Your death on the cross has death wholly defeated
And thereby my righteousness fully completed;
Salvation’s white raiments I there did obtain,
And in them in glory with You I shall reign.
We remember that Mary Lou had a child-like quality about her—in a very good way. She was playful yet serious, inquisitive, yet certain about many things. She was clothed in the white robe of Christ’s righteousness. Her child-like faith declared and prayed:
Through all my life’s pilgrimage, guard and uphold me,
In loving forgiveness, O Jesus, enfold me.
This one thing is needful; all others are vain—
I count all but loss that I Christ may obtain!
I have seen tears from her family in my recent time with them. They are nothing to be ashamed about. We mourn because we love. I’ve seen people mourn family who was still living, but on the other side of the country. You weep and mourn Mary Lou because you still love her. That’s a good thing! She is at peace, at rest, and truly comforted because she now dwells with her Lord, Christ Jesus. She had faith in Him. She was washed in the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Christ died on Good Friday to take away your sins, too. He rose on Easter Sunday to give you life now and eternally. Perhaps you are a lot like Mary Lou. Maybe you forgot the Lord’s good portion for a time. Thanks to the Lord, she enjoyed it again in this life and now enjoys it forevermore. She is your reminder of a Mary who was at times a Martha and then a Mary again. God’s Word brings forgiveness, life, and salvation. Hearing it regularly by faith is the One Thing Needful, the most important thing you can spend your time on in this life. Jesus is your good portion. Amen.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.