A Brief Graveside Sermon for Lois Kerr

Brief graveside sermon for Lois Jean Kerr, by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson, based on Eccles 3:1-8 & Jn 14:1-3, Edberg Cemetery, November 7, 2017.

A mother, grandmother, friend, neighbour, resident of Bethany Meadows, and child of God, Lois Jean Kerr, has left this life for that better place we call heaven. You who loved and knew Lois will certainly miss her. Life is not the same when a loved-one dies.

I am sure you will find comfort in celebrating and sharing the memories that you have of Lois, as she touched your hearts and lives over the years.

Lois was a generous, kind, caring and loving person. Family was very important to her. Lois shared her gift of cooking with her family, and she loved entertaining friends and family. You family members were grateful to have shared one last special meal with Lois at Thanksgiving.

I’m told that Lois’ chocolate chip cookies were a big hit among you. This legacy lives on as Judy now uses her mom’s recipe and makes these cookies for the students at the school where she is chef.

Lois’s gifts of generosity, kindness and caring were also shared with us at Bethany Meadows, where she spent the last years of her life. She was always most kind toward her fellow residents. While living at Bethany Meadows, Lois loved it when the therapy horses came to visit. She also enjoyed participating in Hymn-Sings, Devotions, Worship Services, and our Music Appreciation Group.

As we turn to God’s word for comfort and hope, we hear those words of the writer of Ecclesiastes who tells us that there is a time and a place for everything in life—that is the way God planned it. For Lois, each stage of life prepared her for the next one, until finally, the LORD called her to her eternal home. Lois enjoyed the gift of time that God gave her, and now she will enjoy being reunited with her husband Bill, whom she missed and longed to be with again.

Turning to that wonderful passage from John’s Gospel, we have the promise from Jesus and the hope that comes with that promise that he has prepared a place for us in heaven. The Father’s house translated as many mansions, many rooms, many dwelling places.

Home, as you knew it, was a place where Lois loved and accepted you, and cared for your needs. A place where you could feel secure and be yourself. How much more that will be true in our heavenly Father’s house.

That reminds me of a morning at Bethany Meadows when I was making my rounds. I asked Lois, “How are you doing today, Lois?” She replied, “I’m good enough to go home.”

So now Lois can be at peace and celebrate the joy and love that is hers as she lives in the full presence of God in his heavenly home, thanks to what Jesus our Lord and Saviour has done for her and each one of us. For that, thanks be to God! Amen.

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A Brief Graveside Sermon for Bryan Braim

A Brief Graveside Sermon for Bryan Ross Braim, based on Job 19:25-27; Rom 14:7-8 & Jn 11:25-26; by Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson; April 29, 2017, eleven o’clock.

A husband, dad, granddad, friend, neighbour, and member of God’s family, Bryan Ross Braim, has left this life and is no longer with us. You will miss him for sure, as will all of us at Bethany Meadows. In times like this, we turn to the Word of the LORD for comfort and strength, healing and hope.

Our first reading from the Book of Job is quite appropriate for this season of Easter, reminding us that, even though Job faced many sufferings and losses, including his family members, property, and ill-health, he still refused to lose hope in God. In these verses, he looks forward to God the Redeemer who is the God of life, and after death, the resurrection of the body. As a person of faith, we trust that Bryan, like Job, looked forward to a hopeful future, when God would heal him of his ill-health, and raise him to life eternal.

As we remember Bryan and his life, we are also encouraged by the words of the apostle Paul in our passage from Romans. Bryan, as the apostle Paul says, did not live to himself, nor did he die to himself. Rather, he lived and died to the Lord Jesus. He did this; I’m told, by thinking of others putting them first before himself, with a kind heart and a life for serving the needs of others.

I appreciated Bryan’s very supportive attitude toward me and my work as the chaplain at Bethany Meadows. Bryan, when he was able to, enjoyed attending all of the pastoral care activities and events at Bethany Meadows. He would often tell me that he appreciated the sermons, and thanked me for the Bible studies. On one occasion I recall he was so enthusiastic about the Bible Study that he even tried to recruit staff members to attend. As the caring, kind-hearted person that he was, sometimes he would express concern that I might be working too hard. Bryan’s expression of concern for me was a moving example of his compassion for others. I’m told that he was also supportive and kind-hearted to all of his pastors where he attended church.

As a person of faith then, it is with hope and confidence that we entrust Bryan to Jesus, who speaks those words of comfort and hope in our passage from the Gospel of John: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

My prayer for each one of you is that you will take these words of Jesus to heart, believe them, trust them, and move into the future with comfort and strength, healing and hope. As the resurrection and the life, Christ has conquered the powers of sin, death and evil. As his followers, we too, including Bryan, shall share in his Easter victory, and one day a resurrection like his, and life with a capital L-life eternal. Amen.

 

 

Funeral Sermon for Allister Burke Ferguson

Funeral Sermon for Allister Burke Ferguson based on Exod 20:12; Rom 5:1-11 & Jn 6:37-40, by Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson. Bethany Meadows Chapel, March 8, 2016, 1:30 P.M.

Image by Dimlamp

Image by Dimlamp

A son, brother, friend, and child of God, Allister Burke Ferguson is no longer with us in this life. Death came unexpectedly, like a thief, and robbed Burke of a long life. We can never take life for granted; each day is a gift from God. When death comes so suddenly, as was the case for Burke, we are left shocked and in deep sorrow. Burke’s parents and you other family members shall certainly miss him, and your lives will not be the same without him.

Although I didn’t know Burke real well, and only for a short time, the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of him is the fourth commandment: “Honour your father and your mother.” Burke respected and loved his parents dearly and he willingly and faithfully served them. Joyce you told me that he phoned you very often, and would end the conversations by telling you that he loved you. Allan you recall how he stayed with you while you were in the Edmonton hospital, and he visited you faithfully in Wetaskiwin hospital. He also ran many errands for both of you.

Allan and Joyce, you told me that Burke was a presentable person in the sense that he was concerned about people, conscious of them and their needs. One of the things he would do is take your dog Jumper around to other patients.

Burke, you said, was a person of faith in God, and was conscious of his relationship with the LORD, and he attended church on a regular basis. He also read the Bible and came to you Rev. Allan with his questions.

Even though Burke was diagnosed with OCD, an obsessive-compulsive disorder, and certainly had his struggles with that; yet he was able to go to the University of Brandon and graduate with a degree in computers. He worked for a time in that field, and later he had his own business writing computer programs.

I think Burke had to deal with a lot of suffering because of the OCD. He was conscious of his disabilities, and that caused him to withdraw more from other people. And that reminds me of our passage from Romans.

The apostle Paul also endured a lot of suffering in his life. Yet, speaking of the process whereby we are made right with God, Paul is very confident. He emphasizes it by saying: “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” In other words, it wasn’t that we had to be perfect in order for us to be worthy of God’s love and grace. No! Rather, it is the opposite. Even such a thing like an obsessive-compulsive disorder will not stop God from loving us and making us right with the LORD. No! Paul twice in this passage employs a phrase that emphasizes how confident he is of Christ’s saving work on the cross. The phrase consists of three words, “much more surely.” Paul still has much of the Jewish rabbi in him here, as he employs a method of comparing or contrasting called from the lesser to the greater. However the sense of what he says in this phrase “much more surely” is that thanks to Jesus the greater is so great that it leaves the lesser so far behind that it cannot really be compared or contrasted. “Much more surely…will we be saved through [Christ] from the wrath of God. …much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by [Christ’s] life.” In other words, thanks to the saving work of Jesus on the cross we are both justified and reconciled to God. To be justified means that God makes and declares us righteous. To be reconciled means that as sinners we are God’s enemies, yet now thanks to Jesus we have been made God’s friends. Our friendship with God is based on the perfect grace and perfect love of God freely given to us thanks to Jesus.

The third passage of scripture from John’s Gospel is also one of deep comfort in that it pictures all those faithful Christians who believe in Christ as their Saviour as safe and secure with him; and, on the last day, they will be raised from the dead. In John’s Gospel, to believe in Jesus is much more than accepting a set of doctrines. Rather, to believe in Jesus means to place all of our trust in him as the final and best authority on God, on us human beings, and on life. To believe in Jesus is to act upon our beliefs through deeds of lovingkindness—inspired by the power and creativity of Christ’s forgiveness. To believe in Jesus is to willingly obey him.

So, as we continue this service today we come to commune with our LORD and with one another—the saints on earth and in heaven, including Burke. As we celebrate the Lord’s Supper together we are united with Jesus and with one another, thanks to his saving work on the cross and his grace and love poured out to each one of us. Reminding us that in this meal we have a foretaste of the eternal feast to come, when we shall all be gathered together with our risen Saviour. Amen.

 

 

 

A brief funeral sermon for Wayne Schuller

Image by Dimlamp

Image by Dimlamp

Funeral Sermon for Wayne Schuller, by Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson, based on Romans 8:35, 37-39, Weber Funeral Chapel, Camrose, February 23, 2016, two o’clock.

For Wayne and his family members, the last few years have been challenging. Alzheimer’s and dementia can be a cruel disease. A person who is struck with Alzheimer’s and dementia suffers from both physical and mental losses. Family members can feel rather helpless at times as they see their loved one suffering from these losses. Family members observe how their loved one changes as Alzheimer’s or dementia takes its course and robs them of their faculties; so they no longer are the person that they once were. They can forget so much, even the names of their family members as well as their own name. Past memories of their family history and their own life story disappear. The mind becomes more and more like fog, unable to think clearly.

They also lose their ability to talk and walk, and even eating and drinking can become a challenge. They can become totally dependent on others. When death does come, it may be mixed with both sadness and a sense of relief. Sadness because you certainly shall miss your loved one and your life will not be the same without them. Relief because now your loved one’s suffering is over. Relief also for those who place their faith in God—trusting that their loved one is now in the loving, eternal presence of God.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know Wayne very well. However I’m told that even though he was not a “religious” man, he did believe in God. A God, who as the apostle Paul tells us in the passage from Romans, is always with us. Even though Paul faced many hardships and much suffering in his life, he was still very confident that nothing could separate him from Christ’s love—not hardship, not distress, not persecution, not famine, not nakedness, not peril, not sword. If Paul were alive today, and if you were to ask him about this, I’m sure he’d say that Alzheimer’s and dementia could not separate us from the love of Christ either.

Paul doesn’t stop there either, he goes on to speak with confidence that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from God’s love in Jesus our Lord. What a wonderful, encouraging, and hopeful message that is!

Why is it true? Well, because in the end, God has won the victory over all of these things. It may not seem like it right now, just like it didn’t seem like it for Jesus’ disciples when he died on the cross on Good Friday. Yet, surprise! surprise! God raised Jesus from death on Easter Sunday. God has the power to give life even after death. In this way God won the victory over the powers of death and evil.

So, for Wayne Alzheimer’s disease is not the last word, nor does it have the ultimate victory over Wayne. No! Rather, thanks be to God that Jesus, through his death on the cross and his resurrection have ultimately defeated Alzheimer’s disease and all other powers that work against God.

In closing I’d like to share this poem, “I Understand,” by Joy Rembert:

How difficult it must be for you,/To watch me become less of the person you once knew./My body is here, but my mind is not./The things we once shared, I may have forgot./This will be our longest goodbye./For the mind of the person you love, is slowing and will die./I will not act or behave like the person I once was./But please remember, it’s not something I have control of./I’m sorry for this burden I put on you./There will be some rough days, with teary eyes and hearts of blue./But let the love of so many years carry us the rest of the way./Because this is not forever and our souls will meet again one day.

Yes, thanks be to God that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord! For Wayne, there is a final victory over and life after Alzheimer’s thanks to Jesus. That is Wayne’s hope! That is your hope and mine! Amen.

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.

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.         

   

     

Funeral Sermon Roy Woodward

 

eccles3Funeral Sermon for Roy Irwin Woodward, based on Eccles 3:1-12; Ps 46 & Rom 8:31-39, by Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson, May 31, 2013, St Peter Lutheran Church, Medicine Hat.

Time. Roy was well aware of the Preacher’s truth in Ecclesiastes that: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Roy had a time to be born, and this past Monday was Roy’s time to die. In between these two times, Roy spent a lot of time living. Living very well, I am pleased to add!

   For Roy there was a time to grow up, go to school, and live through those “dirty thirties” when life was difficult, and Roy had his stories to tell about that. Yet, such difficulties were often seen by Roy as opportunities to learn and do what he could to make the best of the situation at hand. For Roy there was a time to go to work and to meet the love of his life, and marry Reita. Roy enjoyed his time at his work for the Government as an assessor. For Roy and Reita there was a time to raise their two daughters. As the years went by, for Roy and Reita there was a time to retire and enjoy travelling.

   During the course of all those years, Roy also devoted his time to serve in many capacities as a volunteer in the community at places like South Ridge Village, and on the Good Samaritan Society’s Board, and, of course, in his church. For Roy there was a time to serve his LORD by teaching Sunday School, sitting on Church Council, and serving as treasurer at Grace Lutheran Church. Roy spent a lot of time in and around the church—puttering around doing various jobs repairing this, and fixing that, and trying to figure out how best to scare away those noisy crows that roosted in the trees and drove the neighbours crazy! J When yours truly went on holidays, I could depend on Roy to devote his time to leading lay services at Grace as well as at South Ridge Village. When the time came to move towards the closing of Grace, Roy was a very articulate dissenting voice. Yet, when all was said and done, Roy was not one to hold a grudge or be unforgiving. He accepted the decision and remained gracious and cordial towards those with whom he disagreed right up to the end. Roy had a servant heart, his loyalty to our Lord and his church was an inspiration to us all. His love of neighbour was very practical, everything from doing carpentry jobs like building a neighbour’s hand-railing; to making the beautiful cross and mobile banner stand for the South Ridge Village chapel; to helping others with their income tax; and more.

   Roy enjoyed life immensely and lived a life filled with meaning. I’m sure he would say, along with the author of Ecclesiastes: “I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live.” This, I think, would be Roy’s prayer and wish for you Reita and all of you other members of Roy’s family.

   In the last couple of visits I had with Roy in the hospital; he told me that he knew his time on earth was short and he was at peace with that. The only thing he was concerned about was you Reita, and you other members of the family—especially the grandchildren. He said that he knew there would be sadness and a time of mourning for you. He said he loved you all dearly. Then he said: “Grieving is the price we pay for loving.” How true! I would add that those who grieve deeply also love deeply. So take the words of Ecclesiastes as an invitation to you—this is your time to cry and time to mourn. In the crying and mourning there is healing, for our loving God is with you, and we are with you. One wise contemporary rabbi and author, Noah benShea, I think is correct when he says: “Life’s challenge is to find the gift in our grief.”

   As Christians, that gift is, the LORD our God who, like the psalmist says is: “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Or as Martin Luther re-worded Psalm 46 in his most famous hymn: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” The confidence expressed in Psalm 46 may have been based on God’s protection of Jerusalem during the time when the powerful Assyrian army failed to capture the city around 701 B.C. More than the walls around the city, God was Jerusalem’s Mighty Fortress. Why? Because “The LORD of hosts is with us.” The LORD Immanuel—God with us. God who, in the vision of the psalmist sees a future filled with redemption of all creation when God’s kingdom will come and bring complete peace; the Shalom of God by making wars cease to the end of the earth; destroying all weapons of war. God who was Roy’s Mighty Fortress, giving him 86 years to live a life filled with blessing upon blessing; giving him that peace which passes all understanding right up to the end.

   Such divinely-given peace is also a by-product of God’s saving and justifying grace, which the apostle Paul speaks of so confidently in our Romans passage. Through Christ’s sacrificial, atoning death on the cross absolutely nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. In the language of the courtroom, Paul, like a confident lawyer makes his defence for the saving, redeeming power of Jesus. Then, in verses 37-39, I can imagine Paul visualizes Jesus as  the perfect defence lawyer and God the judge who states with utter confidence the consequences of what Christ has done for us—nothing separates us from Christ’s love the judge declares. We have no worries, no fears, we are in God’s hands no matter what, thanks to Christ’s love for us.

   So yes, we can find the gift in our grief because the gift is Christ’s love for us. A love that is always with us unconditionally, just as Jesus himself is always with us. May you find comfort in the saving work of Jesus; trusting in him always as did Roy who has gone to his eternal reward with him in heaven. So with the confidence of our faith we commend a loving son, husband, father, grandfather, faithful church member, child of God, Roy Irwin Woodward to Christ our Saviour and Lord. Amen.