Funeral Sermon for Irene Serr

Funeral Sermon for Irene Serr; based on Pss 23 & 116:12-19; Jn 14:1-3, 27; by Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson; Cook Southland Chapel, Medicine Hat, AB; October 28, 2013, two o’clock. We are gathered here today to draw strength and comfort from God and each other; to remember and celebrate the life of Irene Serr; to give thanks to the LORD for her long and full life; and to entrust her into God’s eternal care.

 Wordle: Peace  Irene was a faithful Christian woman, actively involved in various capacities at Grace Lutheran Church right up until it closed at the end of 2009. She was also a loving wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother.

   As Irene’s pastor at Grace, and later her chaplain at the Good Samaritan Society facility; I was privileged to get to know and spend quality time with Irene. Her devout faith certainly inspired me. During the years that I served as pastor at Grace, Irene was especially active in the ELW-women’s group. She very much enjoyed attending the ELW Bible studies. I know that she also faithfully read her Bible and devotional materials and spent time with Jesus in prayer. When she later moved into South Ridge Village, whenever she was able, she attended the hymn sings and the worship services. So when I think of Irene, the word faithful is an appropriate one to describe who she was and what her life was about: Faithful to her God, her church, and her family and friends.

   Faithful to the end of her life, even in death she knew and trusted that she was not alone, as the comforting words of the twenty-third Psalm promise us: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me.” The LORD was Irene’s Good Shepherd—leading her through death’s valley, safely into heaven and eternal life.

   As I remember Irene, I’m reminded too of our passage from Psalm 116. I think those verses also quite aptly describes Irene. Psalm 116 was most likely written by a servant of the LORD giving thanks for God’s deliverance or healing from some kind of danger or illness. The psalm forms part of a group of Psalms 113-118, known as the Hallel, short for Hallelujah Psalms, which were sung by the Israelites during the three pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles. Our verses were likely part of the offering to God, sung in a spirit of gratitude during the worship service. Indeed, we Lutherans, in our liturgy also follow that Jewish tradition; since during the Lenten season, we sing verses 12-14 after the offering as the offertory hymn—giving to God our gifts with grateful hearts and lives, remembering that every gift comes from the LORD.

   As I think of Irene, verse 15 in particular stands out: “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones.” After every visit I had with Irene, I realised how precious she was in the sight of the LORD. I’m sure you did too—especially you family members. I don’t mean precious in the sense that God places more value on any one person over all of the rest, no. In God’s eyes and before his holy presence we are all equals. Every life is valuable in God’s eyes. What I mean is that because of God’s grace and love poured out for Irene by Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross Irene and all of us are precious.

   A faithful person’s death like Irene’s is precious in the sight of the LORD because, as a sinner she was daily forgiven by Christ and given new life in him; thanks to being baptised into Christ’s death and resurrection; thanks to the forgiveness received through participating in the sacrament of Holy Communion; thanks to the grace given and her faith strengthened and renewed through the power of God’s word.

   A faithful person like Irene is precious in death because in life God regarded her as a valuable servant. God values the work of those who are faithful; the good they do; their example to others; their witness to others inspired by kind, caring words and deeds. Our LORD regards them as precious in life too whenever they face difficult times and keep the faith when tested to the limits.

   So precious then is a faithful person like Irene that, as Jesus promises in our gospel today that he has prepared a special place in heaven. There is plenty of room in the Father’s house for faithful folks like Irene. Now she is in that heavenly home being welcomed with the loving arms of Jesus—just as her loving arms and hands prepared a wonderful welcome to you family members so many times as she cooked special meals for you on your birthdays, anniversaries and other holidays. Now, with all of her loved ones in heaven Jesus is welcoming her to that heavenly banquet feast.

   So, since Irene is now in the Father’s home, another wonderful promise of Jesus has been fulfilled: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” Words of comfort and reassurance.  

   In the New Testament, the Greek word for peace is eirene. In English, it is Irene. Irene’s very name means peace. I think that she lived up to her name too, don’t you? She brought comfort and harmony and kindness to so many of her family members, church members, friends and neighbours. The biblical sense of peace is wholeness, harmony and well-being. Heavenly peace is not based on coercion or the threat of war or legalistic conditions and requirements. Heavenly peace is the complete absence of war; complete love. Heavenly peace is a perfect state: no more sin and evil, no more sadness and tears, no more pain and suffering. That is the peace Irene’s life reflected and that is the peace she now shall enjoy forever. I’m sure that heavenly peace would also be Irene’s wish, her hope, and her prayer for you too.

   In closing, I’d like to share a prayer that the family gave me, which Irene prayed every day, reminding us again of how precious Irene was, the prayer goes like this: Good morning God, you are ushering another day, untouched and freshly new. So here I come to you God, if you’ll renew me too. Forgive the many errors that I made yesterday, and let me try again dear God to walk closer in Thy way. But Father, I am well aware I can’t make it on my own, so take my hand and hold it tight, for I can’t walk alone. Amen.         

   

     

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Sermon Reformation Sunday, Yr C

Read my sermon for October 27, 2013 here: Reformation Sunday Yr C

Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon

This week Sara at the Weekly Photo Challenge writes: Horizon. The space or line where the sky meets the earth. So many places where the sky meets the earth around the world, and millions of interactions between two elements. It can be water, a city skyline, a forest, a wasteland, a desert, a sunset outside your bedroom window.

There are, of course, different kinds of horizons in life beyond the external physical world. There are, for example, mental horizons, thinking new (even sometimes old, yet valuable and time-tested true) and creative thoughts that are life changing. There are emotional horizons, experiencing certain feelings that open up new opportunities in life for health and healing. There are spiritual horizons, which draw us into deeper and closer relationships with others, the world and God, and shed light on life’s ultimate meaning and purpose.

Hope you enjoy my entry this week, the photos were taken back in 2007 on our holiday in Denmark.  Please check out the other entries here.

The North Sea from Hanstholm harbour, Denmark

The North Sea from Hanstholm harbour, Denmark

Windmills along the North Sea, Denmark

Windmills along the North Sea, Denmark

Village along Limfjord, Denmark

Village along Limfjord, Denmark

Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step; only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find the right road.

Dag Hammarskjold

As soon as I finish one thing, there’s always something else on the horizon I want to do. I don’t have any intention of retiring from anything.

Marla Gibbs

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Hue of You

Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves

This week Cheri gives us the following challenge: For this challenge, we want to keep it simple: share a photograph with a prominent color (or assortment of colors) that reveals more about you. It could be a symbolic, meaningful shade; a color that expresses how you currently feel; or a combination of colors that excites you and tells a visual story.

My colours and hues of colours change with the seasons. The above shot was taken while walking in Kin Coulee Park this past week. Check out the other entries here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Infinite

Ben Huberman writes:

As a kid, I loved standing between two mirrors: moving my arms, it felt like playing in an endless corridor of synchronized motion.

We continue to encounter these moments of wonder as adults, too, when the infinite catches us by surprise. We stumble upon it in things both big and small: on the beach, staring into the horizon; in the depth of a loved one’s eyes; or even drowning in the emptiness of a Berlin subway car.

IN A NEW POST CREATED FOR THIS CHALLENGE, SHARE A PHOTO THAT SHOWS US A GLIMPSE OF THE INFINITE.

Infinity can produce contrasting effects on (and in) us: it might make us feel dwarfed or amplified, afraid or empowered. It might take the form of a wide panorama or a zoomed-in fraction of an object. A starry sky? A sea of commuters on a train platform? Rows of corn in a field? No pun intended, but the possibilities really are endless.

I agree with Ben that the possibilities are endless, a sense of infinity may be encountered in relation to the Holy One of heaven and earth; other human beings; the physical universe; a work of art, music or literature; and more. This week I’ve posted two photos from a trip to Germany back in 2007. Be sure to check out the other entries here.

Front of Cathedral of St George & St Nicholas, Limberg, Germany

Front of Cathedral of St George & St Nicholas, Limberg, Germany

This cathedral dates back to the 8th or 9th century. It underwent a major restoration process from 1965 to 1990.

Arches in one of the transepts

Arches in one of the transepts

The arches have decorative floral and leaf motifs on them and the vaulted ceilings in this transept and throughout the cathedral create an atmosphere of the infinite. This cathedral’s architectural history is quite interesting, reflecting several influences, including: Romanesque, Romantic, Baroque and Gothic. The light shining through the window into the cathedral and even a bit onto the left side of the person reminds me of the Holy One, who is the Light of the world, and fills the entire universe with light that brings with it the capacity to encounter beauty, love, joy, healing, and life in its fullness-in short, the infinite.  When I think of the word infinite, my mind also goes to those famous, inspirational words of British poet and artist, William Blake:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 
And Eternity in an hour.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Good Morning!

We all start our days in different ways: going for a run, hitting snooze 17 times, or watching the morning news, among many, many others.  It could be a shot taken during your morning walk, the morning vista out your kitchen window, your cat doing a pre-breakfast stretch, or a textured close-up of your oatmeal bubbling away at the stove. I’m excited to see how all your days start — maybe we’ll all pick up a new morning ritual! I am definitely “a morning person.”

I love the peace and quiet of early morning, when I get out of bed at around 5:30 or 6:00 A.M. most days.

Food and drink for my body

Food and drink for my body

First of all, I eat breakfast, often it is a bowl of cereal and definitely coffee. I cannot start my day without coffee!

Food for my mind & spirit

Food and drink for my mind & spirit

After breakfast, I spend time with God, reading the Bible, devotional literature, and praying. Be sure to check out the other entries here.

 

100th Anniversary Celebration

Yesterday Sunday, September 29, 2013, I was privileged to celebrate the 100th anniversary of St. Peter Lutheran Church, Stettler, Alberta, where I was ordained and served in my first call as pastor.  Of course brought my camera along and took some photos.

Church Exterior Front

Church Exterior Front

Church Exterior Sideview

Church Exterior Sideview

Church Sanctuary

Church Sanctuary

I appreciated the opportunity to assist the resident pastor with the worship service and share a greeting/address with the congregation. Meeting with parishioners after so many years brought back many warm and grateful memories too. There were both tears and laughter, as folks reminisced; remembering the saints of old who have gone to their eternal reward; as well as the saints of today and their participation in this community of faith. I learned many things from the folks in this congregation, three of which I am in particular most grateful: the ministry of hospitality and generosity, the importance of listening on a deep level, and the love of and appreciation for music. Most of all I’m grateful to God for his constant faithfulness, love and grace, which continue to be poured out in abundance among the pastor and parishioners of this congregation. To God be the glory!