Summary: A funeral sermon for an 85 year old woman who had passed away due to a blood disorder, and had gradually lost a lot of her memory in her last month. I was at her bedside when she was called home, and her last moments served as a powerful witness to mysel
Some of you as you arrived here this morning may have already noticed the two hymns that were chosen for the congregation to sing are “Softly and Tenderly” and “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” Although they appear in our newer hymnbook, With One Voice, they’re actually pretty old, familiar hymns. In fact, when I go to the Friendship Home here in Audubon to conduct my monthly communion service for our members who are living there, or when I am asked to do the Sunday afternoon service there, when I ask what the folks there would want to sing, these are often two of the most requested ones. In fact, in the few months that I was her pastor, when I would ask June which ones she wanted to sing that day, she’d usually choose one of the two. While they were two of her favorite hymns of all of Christendom, there’s another reason that we’re singing these two hymns today. And I’m going to get into that. But, June would be the first to tell me today “Don’t put the focus on what I did today, Pastor. Put the focus on Jesus and what He did for me.” So that’s what I’m going to do for you today, because that’s the only message that really matters, and it’s a message that we are singing about in those two hymns.
The words of our Gospel reading for today were words that I read at June’s bedside during the Prayers of Commendation for the Dying this past Wednesday morning, a couple of hours before her death. They are some of the more familiar words of Jesus, some of the more comforting words that Jesus spoke in his earthly ministry. You often find them above the outside doors of a church. My grandparents’ church in Prescott, Iowa has these very words above both the main doors of the outside of the church, as well as above the main doors of the sanctuary inside. They are words that are indeed fitting as we gather here in God’s house to give thanks to God for June’s life, and for what He has done for her.
The first time I met June was my first Sunday here as the Pastor at Our Saviour’s. It just so happened that our church was responsible for the Sunday church service in the afternoon at the Friendship Home, so I ended up going out there in the afternoon to conduct the service and to meet some of our residents who lived there. June came to that service, and after I had finished, I went around the room to introduce myself and visit with the residents there. When I got to her, she smiled at me, the kind that can just light up the darkest room, took my hand, thanked me for coming, and then shared a bit about her family. I knew from that first visit that her life had been dedicated to them. Each time I came to conduct a service at the Friendship Home after that, she’d always have something to share with me about one of her grandchildren, or great grandchildren. I could tell that her family brought her great joy. In a world where women who forego a college education, career, and other personal goals to stay home, raise a family, take care of their husbands, and later in life, become a loving grandmother and great grandmother, June was certainly a dying breed. When some women today would look at her life and come up with all kinds of things she could have done, or others would say that she led a boring life, June didn’t see it that way at all. Instead of complaining about what might have been, she delighted that God had called her to be a wife, mother, and homemaker and later, a grandmother. June’s entire life revolved around selfless service to other people. It was her joy in life to be a wife, mother, grandparent, and friend.
But, life wasn’t always easy, and she had some burdens along the way. One of the most difficult days of her life was May 20th, 2001, when her beloved husband, Paul, was called to his eternal home. June was called to mourn the death of her husband, and face the prospect of life in this world without him by her side. From what I understand, I don’t think she ever really got over that. She would tell family and friends that she couldn’t wait for the day when she would see Paul again in heaven. One of the ways she helped fill that void in her life was in another way of service to others, as she volunteered her time here at Our Saviour’s. Many a Thursday afternoon, she would be found helping our secretary fold bulletins for the upcoming Sunday and other tasks that she could help out with. It wasn’t the most glamorous task in the church to do, but she was so glad to do it, and loved it, because she felt by doing it, she was helping God’s work continue here. I’m sure it was difficult for her to no longer be able to do that when she moved to the Friendship Home.