Anna Mae Schmidt
Romans 8:22-27; John 10:27-30
April 9, 2014
St. John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI
Each of us has moments in life that impact us for years to come. In my limited experience, it seems to me that those moments are more often than not connected to death, either the death of a loved one, or a near death experience that gives one a new perspective on being alive. From what I can tell of Anna, she was no exception. Her dad died when she was fairly young, only about 13 years old. From that time on, because her siblings were older and she was the only one still at home, Anna had to learn how to take care of herself and her mother. From what I understand, that nurturing mentality is something that stuck with her for many years.
As I sat in her living room earlier this week with Alvin and two of their sons, I heard stories of what a great mom she was, shuttling sons back and forth between many and various sports practices and games. She was a soccer mom before they were called soccer moms. She took great pride in her boys. She loved them dearly, a love that I assume was intensified by the experience of losing her own father at such a young age. But she was more than a mother. The way I heard it, she was an exceptional cook too. I couldn’t help but be moved by the glint in her sons’ eyes as they recalled the big family dinners that mom used to prepare. She cooked German food. She cooked it well. And she cooked it in massive quantities, making sure that no one ever left her table hungry. But if there was still a little room left in your belly after one of her feasts, she’d probably want to fill it with a strawberry sundae. She loved to provide for her family.
Beyond her talents as mom or cook, she was a good wife and companion to Alvin. Again, this is simply my speculation, but I’d be willing to guess that watching her own mother lose her husband helped shape Anna’s approach to married life. She truly enjoyed her time with her husband, doing those things that we often assume moms and wives don’t want to do. She loved to pile into the motor home with her husband and go fishing, and camping. The two of them would spend time together in the beautiful forests of Michigan or on the shores of one of our many beautiful lakes. As long as Alvin went with her, she would gladly spend the night in the woods, cherishing the time they had to be together, time that perhaps her own mother missed out on.
That’s the Anna that her family remembers. That’s the Anna that those who knew her longest remember. That was Anna before the dementia took control of her body. That was Anna for 50 years of marriage and motherhood. Unfortunately, that’s not the Anna I knew. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to sit and talk with that Anna, to get to know the Anna that those who knew her longest still remember and love. But I first met Anna last September, and by then the disease had taken control. So apart from the stories I heard and the memories that were shared with me, I didn’t really know who Anna was.
But I know who she is.
Anna is God’s baptized child, washed in his holy water on March 19, 1932. In her baptism, Anna was joined to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as the Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 6 – anyone who has been baptized into Christ Jesus has been baptized into his death. And if we have been united to him in a death like his, we will certainly be united to him in his resurrection. Or as Paul wrote in Galatians, because I have now been crucified with Christ through baptism, I no longer live, Christ lives in me. Christ is alive in all his baptized. Christ was alive in Anna, and now she is alive in him.
The presence of Christ in in his Christians, especially in Anna, is not something to shrug off as if it’s no big deal. It’s not just some theological jargon or tired old cliché. In truth, it makes all the difference in the world. Because Christ was alive in Anna, Paul’s words from Romans 8 apply directly to her. Hear again what Paul had to say: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Anyone who knew Anna for the past few years knows that the dementia had taken such control of her body that she had trouble speaking or remembering. But the Holy Spirit was alive in her, speaking the words she could not speak for herself. The gift of faith was alive in her, faith given to her in the water of Baptism, faith sustained in her through the proclamation of God’s Holy Word. The dementia may have overpowered her mind and body, but it could not overpower her baptism. Nothing can overpower baptism, for nothing can overpower Jesus.
That’s what he himself told us. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, said that no one will snatch his sheep out of his hand. No one. Anna was made a sheep of his flock in her baptism, and nothing will overpower baptism. Not even dementia. Satan can and will wreak all kinds of havoc in this world, but he cannot overpower our Lord. God’s Word is sure and certain, and God’s Word declared Anna his dear child. Satan cannot steal that. He can and will tempt us to give it up, to turn our back on it, to reject the gift of forgiveness that our Lord gives. But he cannot take it by force. So even though Anna’s mind and body buckled under the weight of dementia, her baptism did not.
Neither will your baptism fail you, for God’s Word is true. As the prophet Isaiah tells us, just as the rain and snow come down from heaven and water the earth so that plants bloom and grow, so also God’s Word does not return to him empty, but it accomplishes its purpose. The Word of God spoken over you in your baptism places you squarely in his hand. And no one snatches one of Jesus’s sheep from his hand. What a gift baptism is. What a blessing to be claimed by our Lord in this way. What comfort is ours through this wonderful gift, this gift that was given to Anna, this gift that would not let her go.
Even though over the course of the last few years Anna lost the ability to speak, the gift of faith in her would not be silenced. The hymn we sang just a few moments ago will give you a glimpse of what it was saying. Hear again those words, and hear them as Anna’s words: God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ! He, because I could not pay it, gave my full redemption price. Do I need earth’s treasures many? I have one worth more than any that bought me salvation free lasting to eternity. Sin, disturb my soul no longer: I am baptized into Christ! I have comfort even stronger: Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice. Should a guilty conscience seize me since my baptism did release me in a dear forgiving flood, sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood? Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ! Drop your ugly accusations, I am not so soon enticed. Now that to the font I’ve travelled, all your might has come unraveled, and against your tyranny God my Lord unites with me. Death, even you cannot end my sadness, I am baptized into Christ! When I die, I leave all sadness to inherit paradise. Though I lie in dust and ashes, faith’s assurance brightly flashes: baptism has the strength divine to make life immortal mine.
Because of all these things, given to Anna in her baptism, given to you in yours, there is nothing worth comparing to this lifelong comfort sure! Open-eyed, our graves are staring, but even there we’ll sleep secure. Anna is resting secure now. Though our flesh awaits its raising, still our souls will continue praising. Anna’s soul is praising now even as it has been for the last few years that she was unable to speak. Even though she was not the Anna you remember from so many years ago, the gift of God was alive and well inside her proclaiming, “I am baptized into Christ. I’m a child of paradise.”
As you mourn the death of such a wonderful woman, find comfort in the fact that she is God’s child. Rejoice that you are God’s child. Be comforted with the knowledge that the Holy Spirit spoke words of faith for her when she could not speak for herself. Rejoice that the Holy Spirit speaks for you and for me in our weakness. But above all else, rejoice in the promise of the New Creation, the Creation free from the effects of sin and corruption, the Creation where you will be reunited with Anna as you knew her, Anna before the dementia held her captive. For that is the promise that awaits her, and you, as God’s child.
 Romans 6:1-5
 Galatians 2:20
 Romans 8:26
 John 10:29
 Isaiah 55:10-11
 God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It LSB 594