Summary: Funeral sermon for Ruth Gossage, age 97, one of the first female U.S. Secret Service agents.

But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God

decreed before the ages for our glory.

Life is mystery. It is not just that life contains mystery, nor

that there are so many unsolved questions. It is that life

itself is mystery, secret and hidden, as Paul says. It has

often been said that the great puzzles we never quite solve

are the puzzles of our past, our present, and our future:

where did we come from, why are we here, and where are

we going? I submit to you that, while sages and

philosophers, scientists and pundits in every age have come

up with answers, no human answer is completely satisfying.

Every answer to those questions leaves much to be desired.

And if you struggle honestly with those issues, you are left

with one unsettling truth: that life is mystery. Where we

came from, why we are here, and where we are going

remain unclear for most of us.

And that is why it is so remarkable to be able to celebrate the

life of one who did have answers to those questions, one

who was comfortable with her responses to the great issues

of life. Few of us arrive at the kind of quiet certainty that

marked Ruth Gossage. Few of us achieve the kind of

blessed assurance she had. Ruth Gossage was comfortable

in her own skin. She knew where she had come from; she

knew who she was and what she was doing here; and,

praise God, up to and including the very end of more than

ninety-seven years of life, she was confident of where she

was going. She had found the answer to the secret.

Part of the lore about Mrs. Gossage’s is that she was among

the very first women to be an agent in the United States

Secret Service. By some accounts, in fact, she was the very

first woman to qualify to carry firearms. She served her

nation, protecting the president, some sixty years ago, in the

White House. And so, though there are many other facets to

Ruth Gossage’s life, I want to pick up on this item, and, with

a nod to the James Bond genre, I want to think with you

about what it means to be “On His Majesty’s Secret Service.”

For just as Agent 007 served the Queen of Great Britain, “on

her majesty’s secret service”, in the 1963 Ian Fleming novel,

so also agent Ruth Gossage served the King of High

Heaven, on His majesty’s secret service. She found and

served the secret of life’s great mystery.


First, consider with me that Ruth Gossage served our Lord

with the simplicity of her witness. She did not attempt to

overwhelm, to argue, or to bowl you over. But you felt the

power of her convictions and the strength of her

commitments, as she shared them lovingly and beautifully.

Paul tells the church at Corinth that when he came to preach

among them, he did not come with lofty words or wisdom, but

came with simplicity of speech and with the determination to

let his life speak as his witness. Paul knew that he could

have dazzled the Corinthians with his logic and could have

overpowered them with his rhetoric. But, says the apostle,

he knew that if he were truly to be successful, it would not be

because he had argued them down, but because he had

lifted them up by the Spirit of God.

Ruth Gossage had an active, alert mind. Almost until the

very end, if she could hear you, she could comment with

intelligence and insight. I learned a long time ago that she

did not accept everything that you said without examining it.

I received a few inquiries here and there about some of the

more outrageous statements I made in my sermons! But

when Ruth came questioning, it was not to be critical, and

not even to seek new information, but rather to exert a

witness, to share what she knew. And to do it not with lofty

words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s


Read her poems, and you will see. Listen to the directness

and the simplicity of her language, and you will know. She

writes of love and friendship and family. Even when she

writes of complex issues, like racism or intolerance, she

writes as one who brings straightforward values and a clear-

eyed insight. There are sweet touches of humor and

poignant observations that open a window through which we

can see. Like the psalmist before her who said that he did

not trouble himself with things too high, Ruth Gossage

unraveled some of the secrets of human life with direct and

simple wisdom, with pure and lovely logic.

Oh, she was on His majesty’s secret service. She served

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