Summary: Funeral for a faithful woman who died in old age. The sheep know the voice of the good shepherd and need not fear even death.
Ella Freimark Funeral 22 April 2002 John 10:22-29
Rev. Roger Haugen
At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly." Jesus answered, "I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand."
Advancing in years, like any other stage in life, has its own joys and sorrows, pleasures and pains. Old age can bring with it infirmity. As the years go by one has to make sacrifices, giving up activities that were once a part of our every-day life. One hasn’t the same strength or energy. There are the inevitable disabilities and illnesses. All of this is a bitter reality which we all come to know. Ella knew what it was to grow old. It became tougher to get to those hockey games that she loved. She always said how she wished she could get to church more often but some days it just wasn’t possible. The times of illness and periods in the hospital took their toll.
But old age has its good side also. There are advantages, comforts and joys. After the hustle and bustle of the working years, comes a slower pace, time for good friends and good conversation. Retirement from the farm and moving into town, first Rabbit Lake and then North Battleford, meant that the long hard farming days were replaced by an easier pace and the opportunity to be involved in community affairs.
For those who look back on life and see a life of meaning and fulfillment, retirement years can be a time of thanksgiving and hope. For Ella Freimark these past years have been years of living faithfully and with joy the life that God had given her. Taking whatever came not asking "Why me?" but knowing that in the midst of it all, God had not forsaken her. Yes, death was at work diminishing Ella’s strength but it could not take away her faith or her hope. Her story is one of a life filled with certainty that no matter what happened in life, God was always leading her into the future.
We all want peace of mind throughout our life but especially in our later years. To find beauty and meaning in life one must say "Yes" to our aging and everything that comes with it. We find peace when we know with certainty that we belong to God and nothing is able to change that. In our baptism we are given the gift of no longer having to fear death and once being freed from that fear, we are freed for life. We can look back on our lives and accept it for what it was, its joys and its disappointments, knowing that no matter what, God has never abandoned us.
As we look back on our lives in the assurance that we are one of Jesus’ sheep, we know that we will not be forsaken in life or in death. Such was the life of Ella Freimark. She heard Jesus’ voice throughout her life and sought to follow Jesus in all she was and did. She knew that because she was one of Jesus’ sheep listening to his voice, she was assured of eternal life. She knew that even in these last days when death did its worst, taking from Ella her strength and her independence, that in even her death her victory over death was assured.
To sheep of the shepherd death is just one more stage in life. The final step which we are able to look forward to, the ultimate step in which we have victory over all the powers of evil which have assailed us through life. To be a child of God is to face death for what it is and know that the victory belongs to God.
To those who have followed Jesus Christ throughout their lives, death is robbed of pain beyond the immediate sting of loss and confusion. To a sheep of the great shepherd, death in the ultimate victory, the culmination of a life lived following the one who gives meaning and purpose to life. This is the assurance that Ella has today, the assurance that we all have today.