Lorraine Elsie Porea
August 13, 2015
Saint John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI
Playwright George Bernard Shaw is quoted as saying, “A happy family is but an earlier heaven.” From what I’ve heard about Lorraine, she would agree. From what I’ve heard over the past few days, for Lorraine, her family was a little piece of heaven on earth. “Sweet Lorraine” they called her, because she was a grandma to everybody. Having grown up in a large family with 11 brothers and sisters, she was no stranger to a crowded kitchen. In fact, it sounds like she preferred a bit of a crowd. Why else would she have everyone over every year to make Christmas cookies, a production so full and intricate that it sounds an awful lot like an assembly line: women baking, men frosting, grandkids decorating, and everyone sneaking a bite or two along the way?
Yes, her house was the gathering place, and it was important to her that everyone felt welcome. She was a woman of tremendous compassion. Compassion was such a fundamental part of her personality that even when the Alzheimer’s got bad near the end, if she saw someone who needed a hug, she would be the one to give it, probably with 10 small pats on the back. It didn’t matter if she didn’t know the person. All that mattered was that they needed to be loved, and she was going to be the one to do it. That’s probably why she was so willing to open her home to friends of her family. But her family itself held top spot in her heart. Going to the grandkids special events, coming here for Christmas Eve candlelight services, just spending time together. Yes, I think Lorrain would agree with George Bernard Shaw. I think for her, her happy family was indeed an earlier heaven, a piece of heaven on earth.
But we are here today because of the other family that Lorraine was a part of. You see, for all that she did with and for her own family, she was part of an even bigger family. On September 23, 1928 Lorraine was washed in the waters of Holy Baptism. She was adopted into the family of God, made his own precious daughter. He put his name on her and made her his own. And while her earthly family may have been for her an earlier heaven, because she was claimed by God himself as part of his family, she is now enjoying heaven itself. And it’s not because she was such a good mother or grandmother, and by all accounts she was one of the best. And it’s not because she was so active in Church, which she absolutely was, giving countless hours to the Ladies’ Society and their rummage sales. It’s not because of any merit or worthiness in her. No, today she is enjoying heaven itself because she is part of God’s family.
Being part of God’s family through the water of Baptism is a wonderful thing. Think back to Lorraine’s confirmation verse, which is printed at the top of the bulletin and which was read just a few moments ago. God says to each of his children, he said to Lorraine, “You are my servant, I have not cast you off; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Because she has been upheld by the hand of our Lord, Lorraine is now enjoying the rest of the promises that are part of that section of Isaiah. Listen to them again: Verse 11 – “All who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish.” The Alzheimer’s that tried to put her to shame has been defeated. For all the confusion that it brought into her life these last few years, now it is the one standing confounded as it watches its prey being safely delivered from its grasp, as it sees Lorraine freed from its clutches to live in a new and healthy body, the body of the resurrection in the new heavens and the new earth.
From Verse 12 – “You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all.” All the evils of this world, not only the Alzheimer’s but all disease. All heartache. All hardship. All the enemies of a happy life. Where Lorraine is now, even if she looked for them, she would not find them. They are as nothing at all, for she is resting safely in the hands of the Good Shepherd. Jesus has given her eternal life. Now, she will never perish, and no one will snatch her out of his hand. For she is part of God’s family, and our Heavenly Father is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch her out of his hand. Yes, she is safe with the Lord.
But she is not alone. It sounds like Lorraine didn’t like to be alone, always surrounding herself with family and friends. Like the author of Psalm 42, she would go with the throng in procession to the house of God, worshiping with the multitude. She worshiped with a mini-multitude here, with the other members of God’s family who would gather to hear his Word, who would feast on the body and blood of our Savior, who would leave this altar singing, “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy Word.” Now she has departed in peace, departed to be with the true multitude, people of every tribe and race and language all gathered before the throne of God in eternal praise. She is with her heavenly family, with all her brothers and sisters in Christ from all times and all places. She is in her Father’s house.
I know that you, her earthly family, miss her terribly today. How could you not? How could you not long for those days of homemade pizzas and apple pies and canned peaches? How could you not miss each little story that goes with every Christmas ornament? Decorating the tree will probably always remind you of her. She was such an important part of your family. But find hope in the reality that she is part of our Lord’s family too, and though your time with her may be done this side of heaven, there is an eternity waiting for you in the Father’s house. Washed by the blood of Jesus and clinging to his forgiveness alone, we too are promised new life in him. We too look forward to being reunited with those we love who have died in the faith.
For we are in our Father’s hand. What else is there to say? If God is for us, who can stand against us? Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, even in these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, no anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. He’s got Lorraine. He’s got you too.
So we are not here today to say good-bye forever. Lorraine used to like to say, “See ya later, alligator,” or, “After ‘while, crocodile.” We are here today to say “See ya later” to Lorraine. For as important as she is to her earthly family, she is part of our Lord’s family. So was dad. So are you. You will see her again in the Father’s house.
May God grant it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.