Funeral Sermon for Leona Gronemeyer

Funeral Sermon for (Helen) Leona Gronemeyer, based on Ps 23; Matt 5:5 & Jn 13:3-5, 12-15 by Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson; Cook-Southland Chapel; April 16, 2014, two o’clock.

TagxedoI consider it a great honour and privilege to be able to participate in this service today to remember, pay our respects, and commend Leona to our LORD’s eternal care. Leona was a special person. I am most grateful to have known Leona and feel very blessed to have worked with her at the Good Samaritan Society’s facility, South Ridge Village for many years. I must confess—and I think if there are other staff here today they would agree—that it was a joy to work with Leona!

   Leona was a deeply caring person. When I think of Leona, one of the first thoughts that come to mind to describe her is the beatitude of Jesus in Matthew 5:5: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Leona was meek in the sense of being a humble person—she was a friendly, gentle, loving, caring, non-threatening presence. I think many of our staff and residents felt that she was very approachable and non-threatening. Because of her kind, gentle caring presence, people felt that they could talk to Leona. While she served them their food, she was also serving them by going the extra mile and listening to their concerns, and expressing empathy and an encouraging word, and sometimes an appropriate hug to those who needed to be comforted.

   From time-to-time, Leona would come to me for a heart-to-heart talk, expressing some of her personal concerns and the challenges that she faced in her life. She would always thank me for listening to her.

   So Leona was blessed as a meek person, because she inherited the earth by touching the lives of so many people—including, and especially her family members. They too, I’m sure could tell countless stories about Leona’s humble, meekness; her loving and caring ways.

   These days, many people talk about servant leadership. I think Leona is a wonderful example of what it means to be a servant-leader. She obviously learned from and was inspired by Jesus, our Perfect Servant-Leader. In our passage from John’s Gospel, Jesus on the last night that he spent with his disciples, after they had their meal together, took off his dinner robe, rolled up his sleeves, and with a bowl of water and a towel, knelt down to wash and wipe his disciples’ feet. This act epitomized Jesus’ role as the Perfect Servant-Leader. In those days, it was usually the lowest servant or household slave who would wash and dry peoples’ feet. After Jesus finished the foot-washing, he told his disciples that it was an example of servant-leadership for them to follow.

   Leona certainly followed Jesus’ example very well throughout her life. She was a servant-leader, who found meaning and fulfillment in her life by serving her parents and looking after them in their twilight years; by raising her children and providing for their needs so lovingly; by caring for her husband for as long as she possibly could until her health began to fail her; by supporting and encouraging her grandchildren in so many ways; and by so willingly serving others beyond her immediate family.

   Shanda and Diana shared a couple of examples of Leona’s heartwarming servanthood with me. Shanda told of how her mom would sit up into the wee hours of the morning to read Shanda’s long-hand, written, university papers and type them out for her so she could hand them in the next day. Diana told of how her mom would often phone her in the wintertime to encourage her to stay home rather than risk getting into an accident by driving on icy and snowy roads.

Even when she was very ill during her last couple of weeks of life; Leona always thought of the needs of others and didn’t want others to make a fuss over her. Others first, herself last. Doesn’t that remind you again of Jesus and the true meaning of service?

   Speaking of Leona’s last couple weeks of life; one of the important things that Leona and her family were able to do was have several “good-bye conversations” and one of which was to plan this service. Leona requested a favourite Bible passage, the twenty-third Psalm. In the Psalm, of course we have the beautiful picture of our LORD as the Good Shepherd.

   The LORD our Shepherd provides for our needs throughout life’s journey; preserves our life; and protects us. When one is facing a difficult death, perhaps fears try to take over. However, this psalm reassures us; gives us the confidence that our LORD the Good Shepherd is with us every step of the way; leading us through the valley of death. The psalmist reminds us we don’t stay in death’s dark valley; our LORD leads us safely through it.

   Then, once we’re on the other side of death—WOW! Look at what we see, a BIG PARTY with lots to eat and drink! We have the picture of the LORD as the one who prepares and hosts a banquet feast. The picture here reminds us of our LORD’s generosity, the psalmist puts it like this: “my cup overflows.” What a wonderful, appropriate picture as we remember Leona! She too loved her food; she loved to prepare it and serve it—obviously, that’s why she loved her job at the Good Samaritan so much. However, Leona, so her daughters tell me, also loved to eat. She really enjoyed eating her food. Well, now Leona is most likely rejoicing with her loved ones and her LORD as they all partake of the superabundant, heavenly banquet feast. Do you want to join Leona one day? You can by placing all of your trust in the LORD, who during this Holy Week reminds us that he has won a tremendous victory for us by his suffering and death on the cross. He defeated the powers of sin and evil and death itself. Why? Because he is the resurrection and the life. All who place their trust in him and follow him shall also share in a resurrection like his. Then, like the psalmist, like Leona, we too shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Amen.

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About dimlamp
I am, among other things, a sojourner, a sinner-saint, a baptized, life-long learner and follower of Jesus, and Lutheran pastor. Dim Lamp: dimlamp.wordpress.com gwh photos: gwhphotos.wordpress.com

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