October 20, 2014
St. John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI
1919 was a busy year. In January, the 18th Amendment was ratified, ushering in the era of prohibition, bootlegging, and the Roaring Twenties. February saw Benito Mussolini rose to power in Italy, while in March of that year a man named Mahatma Gandhi begin his crusade of passive resistance. President Woodrow Wilson was in office when the Treaty of Versailles brought an end to World War I in July. And in December, 1919, Millie Reindel was born Millie Buelow at her family’s farmhouse in Mount Clemens, MI. Just a few days later she was baptized by Pastor Wuggazer of St. John Lutheran Church in Fraser, MI, where she has been a member ever since. December 1919 to October 2014. Almost 95 years. She was not only a lifelong member of St. John, she was a long life member. A lot has changed around here in the almost century since Millie became a baptized member of St. John. Pastors have come and gone. Principals have come and gone. Teachers, musicians, and members in general have come and gone. The congregation has slowly moved itself to the north side of 14 Mile road, both by building and adding to the school facilities, and ultimately by building the sanctuary you are all sitting in today. Yes, a lot has changed at St. John since 1919, and Millie was part of it all. But one thing has been constant for all those years: this was Millie’s church. From the cradle to the grave, St. John was Millie’s home.
Of course, there were plenty of other things that made Millie who she was. She was a gentle and patient mother who was quick to speak a kind word about everyone she met. She loved going to her lake house in Lewiston, loved her children and grandchildren, and was thrilled when she became a great-grandma. She and Irwin were proud of the hardware store, a store opened by Irwin’s dad in 1898 and now in its third generation of Reidel ownership. From what I hear, she had a special place in her heart for the antique car down there, and I’m sure many of you can still picture her sitting in the car’s rumble seat for the Fraser Parade. Millie was involved in a lot of activities and had many things in her life that brought her joy, but you can’t tell the story of Millie without St. John. So much of her social life and friendships were found at church in the LWML, in the 55-Plus Club, in the fish fries and pancake dinners. Millie was a lifelong member here, and that’s a rare thing these days. Fewer and fewer people attend the same church from the cradle to the grave. Millie did. 95 years in one place. 95 years at one church. That’s a remarkable thing. And yet we’re here today because as remarkable as 95 years is, it was always destined to come to an end. As Millie’s kids told me last week, she was the last Reindel of her generation. Millie’s remarkable 95 years saw her outlive her husband, her siblings, and most of her friends. As long a period of time as 95 years is, it has an end. Her days on this earth were numbered from the start. Each of our days on this earth is numbered. None of us will be here forever. No one will be a member of this congregation forever.
Which is why we celebrate that Millie was a member not only of St. John Lutheran Church in Fraser, MI, but also a member of the Body of Christ. As the Apostle Paul wrote, we now regard no one according to the flesh, for if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Millie was a new creation, brought forth in the water of Holy Baptism on December 28, 1919. Since that day, since that holy washing, the Spirit of our Lord has been alive in her, nourishing her through the proclamation of God’s Word, strengthening her through the body and blood of Christ given and received from this very altar, from these very hands. In this very room, from this very pulpit, Millie heard week after week of her Lord Jesus. She heard how he was born for her, how he lived for her, how he suffered for her, how he died for her, how he was buried for her, how he was raised for her, how he ascended for her, and how he was now in heaven preparing a room for her in their Father’s house. If it were not so, Jesus would not have told us. But it is so, and Millie knew it. She knew it because she is a member not just of St. John, but of the flock of Jesus, her good shepherd. She is one of his sheep. She knows his voice, and nothing can snatch her out of the Father’s hand.
That is our consolation. That is our hope in the midst of grief. For over 80 years Millie received the body and blood of Jesus from many different pastors in this place. The pastors changed over time. The language changed from German to English. The location changed from the building across the street to the one we’re in today. But Jesus didn’t change. It was always the same Jesus coming to his precious daughter Millie to guard her and protect her in the true faith unto life everlasting. And because it was always the same Jesus, Millie could always leave the altar singing, “Lord, now you let your servant go in peace. Your word has been fulfilled.” Dear friends in Christ, God’s Word has been fulfilled for Millie. She has now departed in peace to be with our Lord. In the Father’s house are many rooms, and one of those room’s belongs to Millie now. December 1919 saw Millie Reindel born into this life in her parents’ farmhouse. December 1919 saw Millie Reindel born into life eternal in the waters of holy baptism. October 2014 saw Millie take the next step in her eternal life, one step closer to the resurrection of the body unto life everlasting. Her time at St. John may have come to an end after 95 years, but her time in the Church Triumphant will never end. Her days on this earth may have been numbered, but now she lives in the Kingdom of God that needs no sun or moon to mark the time, for there is no end of days there.
There is no end to those days because our Lord has swallowed up the covering that is cast over all people in these. He has swallowed up death. Death may have swallowed up our Lord in the cold darkness of cross and tomb, but death could not hold him. He burst forth to life that Easter morning. In the resurrection of Jesus death itself is now swallowed up. Now it has no hold over Jesus or any of those who have been united to him. It has no hold over Millie. Death may have swallowed up Millie on this earth, but that was just the trip through the birth canal into new life in paradise. Millie has now added her voice to the chorus of saints in heaven singing, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
Today Millie is rejoicing in the salvation of our Lord. Let us learn to walk the same road. For while we may not have been members of one single congregation all our days this side of heaven like Millie was, our days remain numbered like hers. Our last day is coming. She approached her last day with hope in her heart, for she knew she was a forgiven child of God. Let us also learn to cling to that same hope, found in the cross of Christ. Lift up your eyes to the hill of Calvary, and see your salvation. From where does our help come? Our help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved, even in death; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
He did it for Millie. May he do it for us too.
 2 Corinthians 5:16-17
 John 14:2
 John 10:27-29
 Revelation 21:23
 Isaiah 25:9
 Psalm 121