September 3, 2014
St. John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI
There’s a recent trend in the corporate world. Consultants are being brought in to companies worldwide to give seminars on the newest trend. These consultants are paid tens of thousands of dollars for these seminars, money that the companies feel is a sound investment in improving their customer relations, strengthening the morale among the workers, and cultivating a better work environment. But here’s the thing about these consultants: their message isn’t really new at all, it’s actually quite old. They preach servant leadership. They instruct corporations and their workers in the joy to be found in an attitude of service rather than entitlement. The joy of service is a reality that the church has known for years, since the beginning of time, in fact. So while it may be cutting edge to the secular business world, it is quite familiar to those of us in the body of Christ. We see it in action all the time. We saw it in Bea, whose servant heart shone through in all she did.
She was always looking for ways that she could chip in or help out. Whether it was something special, like helping organize the chancel flowers on Christmas and Easter, sewing costumes for Boar’s Head, or just the regular weekly responsibilities of being part of the Altar Guild, Bea found ways to help. But it wasn’t just at church that her servant heart shined. She had such deep love for her family, a love that I experienced each time I visited her and Marlin at home to bring them communion. I heard the stories that can only be told by a woman deeply proud of her children and grandchildren. Her love and concern for her family was so strong that in the last few weeks, while her daughters were by her side day and night, she even asked to be put back in the hospital so that they could go home and get some rest. But that was Bea. Always selfless. Always thinking of others.
It is good to remember those things today. It’s good give thanks to God for all that good that he did through Bea. But that’s not ultimately why we’re here today. The most important thing to remember about her today is not what she did for others. Wonderful as those things are, the most important thing to remember about Bea today is what our Lord did for her. He who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many, he served Bea. He worked for her salvation by taking on human flesh, being born of a woman, being obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. But death could not hold him. He defeated that great enemy and rose to new life again. He became the first fruit of the resurrection, but we will be the harvest. Because of all that he has accomplished, we know that those who are baptized into his death will also share in his resurrection.
That’s Bea. That’s your wife. That’s your mom. That’s your grandma. That’s your comfort and your hope. Your strength to meet the days ahead comes from the knowledge that she was baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus on February 26, 1928 at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Detroit, MI. God strengthened the new creation given to her in those waters and nurtured her through the regular proclamation of his holy Word. She heard that Word throughout her life as she continued to come to our Lord’s House, where she feasted on his body and blood given and shed for her for the strengthening of her soul. For 73 years, since her confirmation in April, 1941, each time she left the table of the Lord she heard or sung these words: “Lord, now let your servant go in peace. Your Word has been fulfilled. My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people.” Lord, let your servant go in peace. For 73 years Bea came to the table of our Lord’s Supper, a foretaste of the feast to come, and left singing of peace and joy. Today she is at the feast itself. Today she is experiencing true peace and true joy – all because of what our Lord has done for her and given to her.
There is the source of hope in your grief. There is your consolation. Jesus promises us that the one who endures to the end will be saved. That was Bea’s confirmation verse, a verse that is so appropriate to remember today, for Bea did indeed endure to the end, and now she is enjoying paradise. Now she has been saved from the cancer that attacked her body. Now she has been saved from the death and decay that hang over this creation like a storm brewing on the horizon. We still have more storms to endure in the days, weeks, and months ahead, but as we prepare for these storms we can take our cue from Bea. She endured to the end because even though she was always looking for ways that she could help do something for those around her, when it came to her salvation she left it all up to our Lord. He is faithful. He keeps his promises.
He is indeed a great and wonderful God. In the words of the Psalmist, he is the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, the one who by his strength established the mountains and the seas so that all who dwell on earth marvel at his signs. God’s marvelous creation has inspired hymns about being so humbled at the sights of the world around us that our soul cries out, “How great Thou art!” But as magnificent as the creation is to behold, the true greatness of God is seen in the cross of Christ. As the hymn writer put it:
And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee, “How great Thou art!”
Our soul sings because it is in the death and resurrection of Jesus that our death becomes the birth into the life to come. Bea knew this. Bea believed this. And so she departed in peace. She departed to peace. Her eyes are now seeing their salvation as they never have before. Her soul is now singing as it never has before. She is experiencing the inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, unfading, and kept in heaven for her by God’s grace. Those of us who are still this side of heaven will miss her. We will mourn her death, but not as those who have no hope. We have hope, for in the water of our baptism we have been promised the same inheritance. We too have been promised life in paradise with those who came before us who died in the faith. Find your comfort in that promise. Find your comfort in that hope.
Bea was indeed a selfless and loving woman, so if you want to pay tribute to her memory, doing something helpful for someone else is certainly a good place to start. She certainly had a servant’s heart. But even more than that, she was a child of God. More important to her than the things she did for others were the forgiveness, life, and salvation that were hers through all that our Lord had done for her. Through her work, her memory will live on. Through the work of Jesus, Bea herself will live on, not merely as a memory, but as a restored child of God in the new and perfect creation. We who endure to the end will join her there. May God grant you the faith to trust this promise as you mourn Bea’s death, and as you look forward to seeing her again in the life to come.