Summary: A funeral sermon in which we learn about the person something of her relationship to herself, to others, and to God.
Jutta was one of those people that make a preacher’s job easier – or really, the job of anyone who speaks in public. I came to know Jutta at the vespers service held each Thursday evening at the Manor. She always sat close to the front – on the second row, in fact – and…I don’t know how to put this, except that, week after week, each time I spoke, she was with me. I could see it in her face. She made me feel like what I was saying was the most important thing on her mind at the time.
If you’ve ever made a talk to a group of any kind, you know how the audience can make the difference – or, if not the whole audience, just one or two people who give you the green light. They’re the people who are into what you say. They are receptive. They seem to resonate with you…and you with them. If I can put it in kind of a churchy way, they are a blessing.
That was Jutta. Then…afterward, she would never fail to come by and say how much she enjoyed the service. In time, we developed a little ritual in which she would say how much she enjoyed it, and I would say, no, I’m the one who got the most out of it. And she would insist, and so forth. And we would have what you might call a benign verbal battle, each trying to convince the other. I never tired of it.
Now, with nothing more than that little snapshot of Jutta, you can make three observations about her. One is her relationship to herself. A second is her relationship to others. And a third is her relationship to God.
Let’s start with Jutta’s relationship to herself. Jutta had what I would describe as a healthy esteem for herself. When I say healthy, what I mean is that she didn’t have herself on her hands. She didn’t need you and me to take note of her. She didn’t demand to be the focus of our attention.
There are people that do. The world has to revolve around them, or they don’t feel significant. They are self-absorbed, self-important, or self-conscious. Their sense of who they are depends on what others think – or, really, on what they think others think.
Not Jutta. She was very secure about herself, and, because she was, she never felt a need to direct the conversation to herself. She always wanted to talk about you, to listen to you, to pay attention to you.
Jesus talked about this with his disciples. On one occasion, these men who would later be known as St. John, St. Matthew, St. Peter, and so on – these larger-than-life figures in our minds turned out to be pretty small-minded…at least, until our Lord confronted them. You know what they were doing? They were arguing among themselves about who was most important. And when Jesus questioned them about it, they were too embarrassed to admit it.
So, Jesus said to them, “You know that in the world those who have the power lord it over everyone else.” And then he said, “It shall not be so among you, but whoever would be great among you must be the servant of all, whoever would be first must be last. For even the Son of Man” – he was talking about himself – “even the Son of man,” he said, “did not come to be served but to serve.”