The Lord Is My Shepherd
Funeral Sermon for Hilda Quandt
June 6, 2016
St. John Lutheran Church and School, Fraser, MI
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. They’re familiar words. They’re comforting words. They’re words that were near and dear to Hilda. We would sit in her living room and talk about all sorts of things. She would tell me about her trips to Eastern Market to sell produce from the family farm, and I would tell her about my own family’s trip to the market to buy flowers. She would tell me about her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and I would tell her about my own kids. She would ask about her friends and how they were doing. She would always ask about Alma, the lady who she used to meet up here to clean out the pews each week to get them ready for Sunday morning. And I’ve heard stories about how that used to look. Those of you who know Alma know she was a sparkplug, a fireball of energy. Hilda, on the other hand, lived at her own leisurely pace. So Alma would barrel through three sections of pews in the time it took Hilda to finish one. But no one was upset. That was Hilda, gentle, sweet Hilda. She truly embodied the words of her confirmation verse: “Be kind to one another and tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
I really enjoyed the time I was allowed to spend with her. This past week her children pulled back the curtain for me and gave me a fuller picture of who she was. I heard stories about E-Z Bake Ovens and Jellyfish. I heard about family trips to Grindstone City and the Wisconsin Dells. I heard how mom used to be able to soften up dad, so the kids would go to her first and let her get a head start before they asked him for something. I had to laugh when I heard about how she would take all three kids to pick beans at Aunt Jenny’s, but had to hurry home and get everyone cleaned up in time so that dad didn’t find out. I heard about the stray cat that she would allow the kids to treat like part of the family during the day, but had to go back out when dad came home. I didn’t realize she was hiding a bit of a rebellious streak, but then again, all those stories just further demonstrate something I already knew, which is just how loving she was as a mother, as a grandmother, and as a friend.
But the last few times we visited, Hilda didn’t want to talk much about Eastern Market or anybody’s kids. She simply wanted to hear some Psalms. Especially Psalm 23. She must have told me a dozen times in that last visit alone that she wanted Psalm 23 to be the text for her funeral sermon. So here we are. Remembering all that Hilda meant to us, and she is still pointing us to Christ. It’s as if she’s saying, “Stop talking about me already, and start talking about Jesus – the Good Shepherd.” She found such comfort in the words of that Psalm. Today, we find comfort there too.
For the Lord is our Shepherd, and because he is our shepherd, we shall not want. He provides all our needs of body and soul. He leads us into green pastures and beside still waters. As most of you already know, sheep are not intelligent creatures. They have a hard time fending for themselves. Without the shepherd to lead them, they would not find green pastures for food. Without the shepherd to lead them, they might try to drink from rushing waters and be swept away by the current. But the shepherd guides them to green pastures and still waters where they can eat and drink and find their strength. That is what the Good Shepherd did for Hilda – that is what he does for you. He leads us into the green pastures of his Word. Hilda fed on that Word Sunday after Sunday sitting in these pews hearing the truth of her sin and her salvation. She fed on Christ himself at this very altar in the bread and wine that are his flesh and blood, and through that sacred meal her faith was strengthened and her sin forgiven. She became a member of her Lord’s flock when she was baptized in May of 1928 just up the road at St. Peter in Macomb. From that point on the Good Shepherd fed and nourished her as his precious little lamb with his life giving word of forgiveness and hope.
He restored her soul so that it was no longer a lifeless soul of sin. He restored her soul and filled her with the gift of his spirit, leading her into the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Like the Good Shepherd in Luke’s parable, like the shepherd described by the prophet Ezekiel, our Lord restored Hilda’s soul for his own name’s sake, because he is a loving and merciful God who delights in steadfast love. When the cares and concerns of this life wear you down, the Lord restores your soul with the promises of his Word. He restores your soul today with the hope of resurrection and the comfort of eternal life. When sickness or disease or grief or sadness make you feel less than whole, the Lord restores your soul with his life-giving Word. The Good Shepherd is always watching over his sheep.
It is truly a comfort to have such a shepherd, for this life is fraught with dangers. This life is, indeed, the valley of the shadow of death. And yet in the midst of this valley, we fear no evil, for Lord is with us. We fear not even death itself, for death could not hold our Lord. When our Lord saw that we were lost to death, he left to find us. And once he found us, he carried us home. In baptism we are united to the death of Jesus, and if we are united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united to him in a resurrection like his. That is the promise God made to Hilda in her baptism, that is the promise he makes to you in yours. Therefore, even though our lives are a journey through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil, for the Good Shepherd has found us. He has rescued us. He is with us still, protecting us with his rod and his staff. They comfort us, for we know that no matter what else happens in this life, our salvation is secure.
It’s not only a promise of future deliverance. It is also a promise of present joy. It’s a promise of present comfort, even in the midst of the chaos that surrounds us. For while our enemies are ranting and raving against us, we rest in the protection of the Good Shepherd. We have his forgiveness. We have his name on us in baptism. We have his rod and staff. We are protected, we are safe. We are so safe, in fact, that while the enemies of sin, death, and the devil are fighting to get us, our Lord prepares a table for us to sit and eat. “Fear not,” he says, “for they cannot harm you. You are mine.” And he is so certain that we are safe in him that he prepares a table for us right in the midst of their attacks. He bids us come and eat. Sit and rest. He has taken care of everything. The Lord has prepared a table for us, and the meal on that table is the paschal lamb, Christ himself both the host and the meal, given in order to destroy our enemies completely. While the world continues attack, even then we sit down at the table of our Lord, eat of the paschal lamb, drink of the fresh water, and joyfully sing: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” We are his favored guests, so our head is anointed with oil as a sign of the honor he has bestowed upon us by bringing us into his flock. Our cup overflows with his mercy and his love, more than enough to cover the sin and shame that clings to our flesh.
Hilda found tremendous comfort is found in these words. We do too. Because we live in the flock of the Good Shepherd, his goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our life, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. That is where Hilda is today: living in the house of the Lord, surrounded by his goodness and mercy. Find your hope in that. For that promise is not only for Hilda, it is for you too. It is for all those who are baptized into the flock of the Good Shepherd. That same shepherd is guarding you with his rod and staff. He is feeding you on the promise of his Word, revealing to you the truth of your sin, and restoring your soul with the promise of salvation. He leads you into green pastures and beside still waters. His goodness and mercy follow you all your days until you dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Hilda found great comfort in the words of Psalm 23. Let those words fill you with comfort today, too. For Hilda’s soul and the gift of faith in her has indeed been guarded and protected her whole life by the Good Shepherd through his Word. She is now alive in the house of the Lord. All we who are also part of the Lord’s flock through faith will also be in that house one day. We will look upon the Lord in the land of the living. We will see Hilda again in our Lord’s paradise.
So may the God of all comfort grant you peace in your grief, and may he fill you with the hope of resurrection, that as you continue on your own journey through the valley of the shadow of death, you fear no evil, but rest in his protecting hand until the day when you join Hilda in the house of the Lord forever.