Lori Bonita Bargowski
February 4, 2016
Saint John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI
“Lord, now you let your servant go in peace. Your word has been fulfilled.” Peace is one of the great gifts from God. Our world speaks often of peace, but our world can’t ever understand the fullness of peace. To our world, peace is the absence of something. The absence of war. The absence of heartache. The absence of strife. But the peace of our Lord is so much more. It’s not about what’s not there, but about what is. More accurately, the peace of our Lord is about who’s there. It’s about Jesus. Where Jesus is, where Jesus has done his work, where Jesus has created faith and reconciliation, there is the fullness of God’s peace. There is the peace that passes understanding. There is the peace that cannot be overcome by the changing winds of this life. There is true peace. It is that peace that I think of when I think of Lori. Lori lived in the peace of the Lord. Lori has now departed in the peace of the Lord.
Of course, for those who knew Lori, peace might not be the first word that pops to mind when you think about her personality. Mischief, maybe. But peace? She seemed to find great joy in disturbing the peace. After all, she was the one who taught her granddaughters how to shoot the wrappers off their straws in the restaurant. And if that wasn’t help enough, she would always send a few straws home with them, just a little ammunition to help them disturb the peace around their own dinner table a little. She was the one who had dancing Santas and huge light displays set up for Christmas, not to mention the crazy hats she would wear for the holidays. Silent Night? Sleep in heavenly peace? Not in Lori’s house. She struck me as the kind of person who might get out the sharpie if she saw you sleeping too peacefully. She was a wonderful woman, a true joy to be around, always smiling her contagious smile, always joking around, and often up to something.
So maybe life with Lori wasn’t always the most peaceful, but I still think that’s because she was a woman who was filled with the peace of the Lord, with the true peace that passes understanding. She was a woman who knew her salvation rested safely in the hand of the Good Shepherd, and that knowledge gave her peace. That took off the yokes and shackles of this life so that she could be a fun-loving trouble maker, the kind of woman who makes you smile when she walked in the room because you always wonder what she would do or say today to make you laugh, the exact kind of woman you always wanted around to liven things up. And she was around a lot. She gave selflessly of her time. When the news began to spread throughout the congregation that Lori had died, more than one person asked me, “Is that the lady who worked at the library?” She was Sunday School Superintendent at her former church. She was part of the leadership for the Fraser Historical Society. She helped around here with VBS. She joined in for the 150th Anniversary skits in the gym. She sang in the choir. She was an active woman who embraced life, who embraced relationships, who embraced joy.
And I believe that is because she was filled with the peace of the Lord that Simeon sings about in the Gospel of Luke. Whatever else was or wasn’t happening in her life, Lori knew she was a child of God. On May 7, 1950, Pastor Winterstein at Huntington Woods Lutheran Church baptized Lori into the family of God. The gift given to Lori that day shaped her attitude toward life. She knew that her salvation was secure. She knew that no matter what failures or shortcomings might be part of her life story, her Lord would not fail her. He would fulfill the promise the made to her that day. He would sustain her in the true faith unto life everlasting. And so Lori lived a life rooted in the promises of God. She was a combination of Mary and Martha, both sitting at the feet of our Lord hearing his word, while also actively serving him by serving the people of this world. She knelt at this very altar to be strengthened and nourished by the body and blood of her savior. And when she returned to these very pews after communion, she would join the body of Christ here singing the words we heard just a few short moments ago. “Lord, now you are letting your servant go in peace. Your Word has been fulfilled. I have seen my salvation.”
God was at work in her, and that filled her with peace. That is our peace today, too. For as many memories as we have of Lori, as fun as she was to be around, the sad reality remains that her time on this earth was always destined to come to an end. That day will come for each one of us. None of us will escape it. But for those of us who hold Jesus in our hearts through faith like Simeon held him in his arms, the promise is that we too will depart in peace. For that’s what our Lord does. He takes hold of us in baptism, covering us with the robe of his own righteousness that covers all our sin. He comes to us through the proclamation of his Word to speak peace into our chaotic lives. Not a peace that is the absence of busyness or strife, but the true peace that comes from being united to our redeemer. The peace that fills us from head to toe, even when we don’t feel particularly peaceful. For it is not a peace that relies on us or our emotions or our schedule or our circumstances – it is the peace of the Lord. It is the peace that comes from knowing how the story ends – with the resurrection of the body into life everlasting.
That peace is yours, for Jesus is yours. That peace allowed Lori to look past the struggles and burdens of this life. She had more than her fair share of health concerns. Her poor body had been through so much in the last few years. And yet she kept her eyes focused on Christ through it all. In the words of the Apostle Paul, because she was raised with Christ through faith, she set her mind on the things that are above, where Christ is. She knew that her life was hidden in Christ with God. And she knew that when Christ who is her life appears, then she also will appear with him in glory. That is the promise she is waiting for now, resting safely in the hand of our Lord until the day of resurrection.
Let that same promise of Christ fill you with peace in this time of grief. Lori used to tell her grandkids that she loved them. When they would reply with the same, she would say that she loved them more. When they would reply with the same, she would say, “No, I love you more because I’m bigger.” Well, Jesus is bigger still, and his love is stronger than death. He loves Lori and will raise her back to life with all those who have gone before her in the faith, and with all those who will come after her. Let that promise fill you with peace amid your grief today. You will see your mother, your grandmother, your friend again in the resurrection on the last day. Let the promise of your own resurrection fill you with peace in the days to come. For the promises of this world are fleeting, and the peace of this world is fickle. From one day to the next, the peace of this world waxes and wanes. We’re always chasing after it, but will never catch it. “If I can just get the right job, or take the right vacation, or buy the right house,” we tell ourselves, “then I’ll have peace.” But that peace will never last. It is not true peace.
True peace comes from our Lord, form being united to him, from holding him in your heart through faith. And that’s exactly what he’s given you. That’s what he gave Lori. I have no doubt about it. In those last days of her life, when I had the opportunity to sit with her in the hospital and talk to her about Jesus and forgiveness, when I had the opportunity to give her communion one last time, she gave me two thumbs up. She was at peace. She knew where she was going. She knew Jesus had her. May the same peace fill your hearts and minds today. For the same Jesus that has brought Lori safely home is guarding you too.