Summary: This is a funeral sermon I delivered to a standing room only crowd for one the most beloved grade school teachers in our community.
“Mabel Anderson, Lamb of God”
It seems to me totally fitting that we should be paying our last respects to Mabel on Thanksgiving weekend. For that is what we are doing here today. We are giving thanks to Almighty God for sharing this beautiful woman with us.
As I sat down this week to put pen to paper to try and capture the essence of the life we are celebrating today, I found my words to be totally inadequate. How could I possibly put into words a wonderful life of 85 years? A life of faith, love, caring and charity. When it comes to Mabel Anderson, mere words written on paper are not enough. Any eulogy worthy of Mabel would have to come from the heart. To know her and to be in her presence was truly humbling and as I sat and pondered, I felt that perhaps this task was better suited to someone of the likes of a Billy Graham or a Dr. Robert Schuller. How could I possibly sum up and praise someone so beautiful? But then I remembered; Mabel would not expect me to. She knew that the least would be first and those who were humble would be exalted. I have to confess that, as a minister, I sometimes get the feeling that I know it all, I understand it all and I’m going to tell it all and you had better pay attention. Yet when I preached to Mabel, I knew I was truly preaching to the choir. I didn’t feel worthy preaching to her. She should have been preaching to me.
We have spent the past few months in church reading from the Gospel according to St. Matthew. And in the past few weeks we have heard several stories and parables by Jesus, informing us of what was required from his followers to gain entry into his heavenly kingdom.
1. Parable of Wedding banquet – “Many are called but few are chosen”
2. The question from Sadducees regarding the greatest law
3. “All who exalt are humbled, all who humble are exalted”.
4. Parable of the 10 bridesmaids.
5. The Parable of the 5 talents
These stories and parables of Jesus make us nervous and we think to ourselves, “Is Jesus talking about me”? Am I foolish? Am I prepared? Have I wasted my God-given talents? Am I too self-centered? I have to admit that I have a long way to go and many amends to be made before I am ready. I could see myself in these scriptures, as I’m sure many of the congregation could (if they were paying attention). But not Mabel. As I preached I would look out at the congregation and there sat Mabel and Joel, so much in love. Mabel would have that warm, loving peaceful smile of hers. She knew what I was talking about and she was not afraid. She was ready for God. Then there was the Gospel story last week about sheep & goats, etc. Mabel was not here to hear it, but it was truly about her. (Paraphrase story in Matthew 25:31-46). Mabel Anderson, Lamb of God, was going to visit the sick and the shut-ins when she fell and went to the hospital. Mabel kept a journal for many years. Her journals fill countless volumes and fill many bookshelves and drawers in her home. Every day she wrote a little something about what happened in her life. Sometimes she would write only a paragraph and other times several pages. It was always about the people in her life that she loved so much, seldom about her, and she always ended it with a little snippet about the weather and current events. The last entry into her journal was Tuesday, November 5th 2002, Election Day as Mabel noted. She wrote that day about how sorry she felt for her wonderful husband Joel who had lost 3 of his cows to an unexplained illness. Her heart was heavy because of the sorrow Joel felt. She shared his pain that day. And she ended that day by saying that she was going to bake a cake and take it to the nursing home because tomorrow she was going to visit and share her time and talents with the residents. That was her last entry. 85 years old and still caring for others. As I mentioned earlier, the story about the sheep and the goats was a story about Mabel. Her passion for caring for the least of God’s children never shined brighter than when she was teaching and taught she did for 37 years. She taught and loved each child with a passion and love seldom paralleled and never equaled or surpassed. She cared for each child as if they were God’s own children because she knew they were, and treated them as such. And her students knew this. I’m going to tell you a story now; a story I call the Tale of Two Teachers. The first part of this story comes from a collection of inspirational tales compiled by Tony Campolo, noted Christian author. (Story about Teddy Stallard and Miss Thompson)