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.    


Funeral Sermon Chrissie Hittel

Day One-Let there be light by Phillip Ratner

Day One-Let there be light by Phillip Ratner

Funeral Sermon for Chrissie Hittel, based on Ps 8 & Jn 3:16-17. By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson. May 7, 2013 at 11:00 A.M., St Peter Lutheran Church, Medicine Hat.

Chrissie Hittel, a well loved mother, grandmother, wife, aunt, teacher, friend, active citizen in the church and community, and sister in Christ has left us for her eternal home in heaven after a long and meaningful life of 98 years. What a difference she has made too! The world and the church is a better place because of Chrissie. You and I are better people for having the privilege of known and loved, and been loved by Chrissie. She has left her mark in our hearts and lives.

   As a pastor I’m privileged to be with church members to share important milestones. Last Friday was an evening I shall never forget. Chrissie’s friend Trudy and I were with Chrissie. She had one of those special moments of alertness that I’ve observed on many occasions when people are near death. Chrissie recognised us and was able to communicate with us. True to her form, she expressed her gratitude for coming to see her. I asked her if she would like to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. She told me with an enthusiastic “Yes” that she would. So I communed her and then I suggested that Trudy and I would sing “Jesus Loves Me,” and “Amazing Grace,” and if she was able to sing she was welcome to do so as well. Chrissie’s eyes lit up and a big smile came on her face. We started to sing. Guess what? The 98-year-old Saint Chrissie sang along with us. She sang so beautifully, so clearly, so joyfully, so lovingly that it was a wonder to behold! Both Trudy and I were deeply touched. I’ll never forget that last visit with Chrissie. She ministered to Trudy and me as much as we did to her. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Chrissie is singing right now with vigour and joy in the heavenly choir!

   Turning now to our Bible passages, Chrissie—being the well organised person that she was—chose Psalm 8 for this service along with all of the hymns today. Two of the four hymns also refer to either God as Creator or the magnificence of God’s creation—In the Garden, and This is my Father’s World. Psalm 8 is known as a creation psalm. The psalmist, looking up at the clear night sky, stands in awe and wonder at the panorama view of the moon and stars. The scene is beautiful, and the psalmist at first blush feels rather small compared to the vast universe. I think you and I have had this feeling too at times when we look up at a clear night sky and see the moon and all of those stars. We too feel rather small and may ask the same question of God our Creator, as the psalmist did long ago: “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” I think the question today is even more pertinent than back in the psalmist’s day because scientists tell us that if we were to travel at the speed of light, it would still take us about 100,000 years to go across our Milky Way galaxy; and beyond that there are apparently billions of galaxies. Yet, implied in the words “mindful” and “care” is the psalmist’s sense that we matter; that in the mind-boggling enormity of the universe God notices us and looks after us; in spite of or perhaps because of our smallness.

   In the next four verses, the psalmist thinks in a paradoxical way by emphasising the honoured and dignified place God has given human beings by making them “a little lower than God” [or perhaps better translated “a little lower than the angelic heavenly court”]; “crown[ing] them with glory and honour” and “giv[ing] them dominion over [all that God has made.”] The phrase “a little lower than God,” reminds us of Genesis 1 and 2, and that we are created in God’s image. Along with our special place in the universe, being given dominion over creation does not give us free license to abuse creation and exploit it into extinction. No! Rather, dominion refers to the privilege and responsibility of being stewards/managers of creation; of being partners with God our Creator in looking after creation that witnesses to God’s love and justice.

   Here I’m reminded of one of Chrissie’s bailiwicks—her social conscience and deep sense of having to advocate for what is right and just. Chrissie was a committed social activist and wrote letters of advocacy—ever ready to stand up for what was true, right and just, hence also upholding the Commandment to love your neighbour as yourself.

   Speaking of love, I think of Chrissie when I remember the words of John 3:16-17. Chrissie knew and received the love of Jesus; if at all possible, she attended church services every Sunday to hear God’s word and receive the sacrament. This was of utmost importance to her. God’s love did not remain dormant—Chrissie willingly and eagerly shared God’s love with the world around her. Anyone who knew Chrissie well I’m certain would describe her as a loving person. A person who, in her words and actions bore witness to the love of Jesus for the world. Chrissie’s love shone through her spunky, sweet and caring ways as: a mother, grandmother, aunt, friend, teacher, fellow church member and more. Her smiles always had a way of melting one’s heart. Her humour too was an expression of her love. One of her last remarks to someone who asked her how she was doing was this witty and humorous answer: “I’m cold and I’m old!”

   Chrissie knew of that greatest gift of all, the love of Christ. I think if you asked her, that she would tell you the love of Christ is the best love of all, and she would want each of you here today to have the love of Jesus. For Chrissie, Christ was faithful—blessing her with his love for 98 years! I think her prayer for each of you would be that you too would be actively involved in the life of the church to receive the love of Christ and his gift of faithfulness in your lives too. So it is that we commend Chrissie now to Jesus the LORD of love, who offers her now the gift of eternal life. Amen.

Funeral Sermon for Bertha Gurke

Funeral Sermon for Bertha Gurke, based on Ps 23, Heb 10:19-25 & Jn 14:1-6 by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

A mother, grandmother, friend, neighbour, resident of South Ridge Village, and sister in Christ, Bertha Gurke, has left this life for her eternal home in heaven. Today we remember Bertha, give thanks to God for her life, and commend her into the LORD’s loving hands.

The last few years have not always been easy for Bertha—having to live and cope with all of her health problems. Nor has it been easy for you, the family members either; with most of you living out of province. Yet, the LORD was there for Bertha during these past few years, just as he was throughout her lifetime. You see, Bertha was a woman with a strong faith in her Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Bertha knew and trusted that because the LORD was her Shepherd she had everything she needed.

Bertha’s strong faith in the LORD her Shepherd certainly inspired me as her pastor and, I’m sure many others too. Her close relationship with the LORD her Shepherd reminds me of this beautiful story. The Lord is my shepherd…” A famous actor was once the guest of honor at a social gathering where he received many requests to recite favorite excerpts from various literary works. An old preacher who happened to be there asked the actor to recite the twenty-third Psalm. The actor agreed on the condition that the preacher would also recite it. The actor’s recitation was beautifully intoned with great dramatic emphasis for which he received lengthy applause. The preacher’s voice was rough and broken from many years of preaching, and his diction was anything but polished. But when he finished there was not a dry eye in the room. When someone asked the actor what made the difference, he replied, “I know the psalm, but he knows the Shepherd.”1 Bertha knew the Shepherd; I am certain of that—and what a precious gift that is! Bertha knew the LORD was her Shepherd and now she knows the reality of our Psalm’s last verse: “I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

For Bertha, her home was important. On occasion, when I called on her, she would point to the picture of her home where she lived in Maple Creek. I think she was proud of that home, and enjoyed it very much. Looking at the picture, her home certainly had some unique qualities and character. In that home, Bertha raised you her children, and she also welcomed others, so they could feel at home there.

Bertha knew the LORD her Shepherd and she wanted you, her loved ones to know him too. She wanted to dwell in the LORD’s house forever. So Bertha was faithful. During her seven years with us at South Ridge Village, she faithfully attended the Sunday afternoon Worship Services and Wednesday morning Bible Studies. In fact, oftentimes she was the first resident to show up at the Worship Services and Bible Studies. She wanted to be there and she committed herself to be there to worship the LORD her Shepherd and study his Word. Bertha told me that she so looked forward to them, and they were a highlight of her week. Bertha was also a friendly neighbour to Irene—bringing Irene along with her.

Yes, Bertha was a faithful follower of Jesus; and I am sure that her hope and prayer was that you, her loved ones, also be faithful followers of Jesus; that you too attend Worship Services on a regular basis to grow closer to Christ and be at home with him. As I think of Bertha and her faithfulness I’m reminded of these words from Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” For Bertha, a home was important; therefore she attended Worship and Bible Studies to help her be close to Jesus and at home with him. She was a faithful role model for you and others—encouraging them to worship the LORD on a regular basis so that you too can be close to Jesus and at home with him. By faithfully attending Worship and Bible Studies, Bertha grew in her faith in the LORD her Shepherd and received the encouragement of other faithful Christians. Yes, for Bertha a home was important and she wanted, more than anything else, to be at home with her LORD the Good Shepherd.

In our Gospel, Jesus speaks words of encouragement and promise regarding an eternal home, saying: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” And he goes on to say that there is nothing more that he wants for us than we be at home there with him; he wants nothing more for us than to fulfill this promise: “I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”

You see, as comfortable and friendly and loving as any home can be in this world—nothing, not even the best home on earth can compare with what we have to look forward to in heaven, our eternal home. On earth there are no perfect homes. We gather our loved ones around us and think we can be permanently happy. However, death comes to rob us of our loved ones. Or one of those near and dear to us decides to move far away from us. Our earthly homes are in a state of flux and being broken up. Not so with God’s heavenly home. Our eternal home in heaven is permanent and there death shall no longer rob us of loved ones—nor shall loved ones move far away from us. In heaven there are no broken homes. We shall all be celebrating a wonderful family reunion. The greatest celebration shall be to have the holy privilege of living forever in the presence of God our heavenly Father and Jesus our Good Shepherd who is also known as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Yes, one day you and I shall be in that eternal home; the place of joy and love unending. On that day we shall meet up with Bertha and all of our loved ones again; we shall be with the LORD every day. Jesus promises this to you, me, and everyone who believes that he is “the way, and the truth, and the life.” My hope and prayer, and I’m sure Bertha’s hope and prayer was and is that you do believe Jesus to be the way, the truth and the life. Amen.

1 Bible Illustrator for Windows, diskette, (Hiawatha, IO: Parsons Technologies, 1994).