Graveside sermon for Eveline Grymaloski

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Graveside sermon for Eveline Grymaloski, based on Rom 5:1-5 & Isa 25:6-9, by Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson, Camrose Cemetery, July 10, 2018.

As I thought about Eveline, one of the first things that came to mind was that she was a person of character—that reminded me of the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 5:1-5: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

Notice that Paul says our life as followers of Jesus is productive. As I think of Eveline, I believe that she was a person of endurance—she had to be, since she lived for 100 years! Now that’s endurance! Her endurance however was not stagnant rather, it produced character, and her character produced hope.

Eveline was a sweet person, and will be dearly missed by you family members, as well as by our residents and staff.

She was an avid reader. On occasion, she would read something humorous, and then she would take it to the staff members of Spruce Cottage and read it for them. After that, she would have a good laugh with the staff.

Eveline enjoyed visiting with her companion, Phyllis, they had many meaningful conversations together.

There was a poem that she liked to recite for staff: “Won’t you be mine, Eveline? Yes I will, yes I will, if you only be still.”

She was a very friendly, happy and affectionate person. Residents and staff can remember Eveline holding their hand, kissing it, and then wiping off her kiss with a Kleenex.

For as long as she was able, she participated in exercises. She also did very well in getting around with her wheelchair—in fact, at the blink of an eye, she was half way down the hallway! I teased her about that, and told her she was speeding, and she had better watch out, because she might get a speeding ticket! 🙂

Eveline was a singer, she loved participating in our cottage Hymn-Sings. She also enjoyed attending the Sunday church Services, Wednesday Devotions, and when she was able, the Thursday night Bible studies.

Eveline’s faith was very important to her, and her husband, being a pastor, I’m sure was encouraged by her faith—as most likely were you family members too.

Because Eveline was a person of faith, I’m sure the following words of Isaiah 25:6-9 also apply to her now, as she has gone ahead of us to be with her Lord.

The prophet writes these wonderful words: “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Death and the celebration of the final victory over death—that is what the prophet Isaiah proclaims in this passage. His message is one of celebration, hope and comfort. Isaiah reassures his people and all of us here today that we don’t have to be afraid of death, God will destroy death forever.

In verse six, Isaiah pictures all peoples gathering on Mount Zion in the new Jerusalem, where God will act as a host and a chef. God will prepare a huge banquet-feast. In this feast you will not have to worry about diet restrictions or things like diabetes, high cholesterol, or gluten-free foods. Rather, you will be able to eat every food because it is the LORD who will prepare it and he will serve only what is healthy for everyone. So this huge banquet-feast will be absolutely delicious—everyone will enjoy their favourite foods, and there will be such an abundance, enough for everybody.

So the picture of this banquet-feast is one of joy and celebration. Isaiah tells us the reason for such a huge celebration. God will destroy death by swallowing it up forever. No more death.

Once death is destroyed by being swallowed up forever, Isaiah tells his people and us: “Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth.” In other words, once death is gone forever there will be no more reason for sadness, crying and grief. God will wipe away the tears from all faces like a loving parent wipes away the tears from their crying child to comfort and reassure them. In this act of God wiping away everyone’s tears we have a picture of God as a tender, loving parent.

So, we wait for the future time with hope, trusting that God is going to do what these words of Isaiah promise he will do. God is in control of your future, my future, and everyone’s future. Eveline knew that, and I pray that you do too. Amen.

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Funeral Sermon for Doreen Anderson

Sermon for Doreen Avonne Anderson funeral, based on Ps 23, Prov 22:6, Gal 6:6 & Jn 14:1-6 by Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson; Burgar Funeral Chapel, Camrose, AB, March 21, 2018, twelve o’clock.

Doreen Avonne Anderson has left this life behind and is no longer with you. All of you who knew and loved Doreen will miss her. Yet, as the psalmist reassures us, even though Doreen had to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, the LORD her Shepherd was with her, leading her through death, so that now all of her suffering is over.

For the last years of her life, Doreen was a resident in Spruce Cottage at Bethany Meadows. As her pastor there, I came to know Doreen as a quiet, soft-spoken person. She told me about her life as a teacher and, in her retirement years, how she enjoyed travelling, she also was an avid reader until her eyes were no longer able to focus. So with that in mind, I thought a couple of Bible passages were appropriate as we remember Doreen today and give thanks to God for her life.

The first passage is from Proverbs 22:6: “Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.” Or as the Good News Bible puts it: “Teach children how they should live, and they will remember it all their life.” What a privilege it was for Doreen to be a teacher for thirty-seven years and do exactly what this proverb describes! She taught the young children for over three decades and, I’m sure she made an impression on their lives—teaching them things that set them on the right track to succeed in their lives. Teaching them so that they could go on to live meaningful lives by making a difference in the world. Perhaps her teaching even inspired one or more children to become teachers like herself. In any case, I’m sure that all of those years of teaching had their rewards for Doreen, because she spoke to me about a couple of her students—one of whom I know, and today he is a well-respected teacher and scholar in the church, Rev. Dr. Gordon Jensen. What a privilege it is to be a teacher and set students on the right path, which they will remember all of their life!

Another passage from St Paul’s letter to the Galatians 6:6 also reminds me of Doreen, teaching and education: “Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.” I would hope that after teaching for thirty-seven years at least a few of Doreen’s students shared the good things they learned from her. I would also hope that Doreen having been taught by other teachers in order to get her degree was able to share good things of what she learned from her teachers—teachers who inspired her and made a difference in her life.

Turning now to John’s Gospel, which is a favourite passage of the Anderson family, we are given another reason to place our trust and hope in God. Jesus speaks to us, saying: “Let not your hearts be troubled,” or, as the Good News Bible puts it: “Do not be worried and upset.” He goes on to say: “Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” What wonderful words of promise and hope Jesus speaks here!

This picture of “my Father’s house,” as Jesus describes it here gives us the sense that there is plenty of room for us there to enjoy—a location where there are “many dwelling places.” In the old King James Version of this passage, it is translated “many mansions.” It’s rather interesting that Jesus speaks of heaven in this way as a place where there is plenty of room for us—since in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament, the word for salvation actually literally means: to be open wide, to be unconfined, to be free. The word in Hebrew is yasha, which interestingly enough is closely related to Jeshua or Joshua, which is the Hebrew for our English name, Jesus, meaning “God saves.” You can find comfort and peace if you trust and hope in this Jesus who is one with God and saves. Jesus is our way, truth and life through placing all of our trust in him and following him, we are given the gift of eternal life.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the other things Doreen enjoyed talking with me about was her travels. She was blessed to be able to travel to several places, including: New Zealand and Australia, Europe, several of the United States, and down to Eastern Canada. However, as much as we travel in this world, it is always good to arrive back home. As the old adage goes: “There’s no place like home.” Now Doreen has gone on her final journey, and she has reached her final home—that dwelling place, that room, that mansion in her permanent heavenly home to be with Jesus and those whom she loved who are already there.

So, let us all place our trust, our hope, our lives into the hands of this God who is our Loving Shepherd; whose love is completely and always dependable; who is the greatest, most inspiring Teacher of them all; who is our loving Saviour providing us an eternal home with lots of room; and a place where we shall dwell in perfect freedom; living under the power of his love. Amen.

 

 

A brief funeral sermon for Carla Harris

A brief funeral sermon for Carla Gwen Harris, based on Ps 23 & Jn 14:1-3 by Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson; Burgar Funeral Chapel, Camrose, AB, December 16, 2017, two o’clock.

 

A daughter, sister, sister-in-law, aunt, friend, neighbour, and member of God’s family, Carla Gwen Harris, has departed from this life. With death, comes a sadness, especially for you members of Carla’s family. You will miss her.

When I asked family members to tell me a bit about Carla, they said she was short and sweet-pun intended. She touched their lives with her honesty, forth-rightness, sense of humour, spontaneity, at times strong-mindedness, as well as being upbeat, and having a positive, hopeful view of life. She was also known and respected as the family historian for both sides of the family. She loved and was proud of her family; they were the most important part of her life. Carla, I’m told, also was a caring person, and looked after her mom and aunt. Some of the things she enjoyed in life were knitting and crocheting, movies and reading, as well as country music, especially Johnny Reid.

When a family is close-knit, and a member departs from this life, there is a sadness and there can be a loneliness and emptiness. One of the most comforting gifts that God gives us at times like this is God’s Word. So we turn to God’s Word now, starting with Psalm twenty-three. This beautiful psalm is one of the most popular and comforting passages in the Bible. Even though it likely wasn’t originally written specifically for funeral services—countless Christians and Jews choose Psalm twenty-three for funeral services.

The words describe God as a loving, caring shepherd, as well as a host and chef who serves up a banquet feast. God our shepherd provides for our needs; is with us to lead us through death’s dark valley; and is generous in providing a banquet feast—“my cup overflows,” says the psalmist. God’s deepest desire is that every human being knows him as a loving, caring God who provides for our needs, and who is always with us through life and through death.

There’s a true story I love about a house party in one of the big English country houses. Often after dinner at these parties people give recitations, sing, and use whatever talent they have to entertain the company. One year a famous actor was among the guests. I’ve been told he might have been Charles Laughton. When it came his turn to perform, he recited the Twenty-third Psalm. His rendition was magnificent, and there was much applause. At the end of the evening someone noticed a little old great aunt dozing in the corner. She was deaf as a post and had missed most of what was going on, but she was urged to get up and recite something. In those days people used to memorize a lot of poetry! So she stood up, and in her quavery old voice she started, The Lord is my shepherd, and went on to the end of the psalm. When she had finished there were tears in many eyes. Later one of the guests approached the famous actor.

“You recited that psalm absolutely superbly. So why were you so moved by the funny, little old lady?”

He replied, “I know the psalm. She knows the shepherd.”1

Speaking of knowing the shepherd, that brings us to our passage from John’s Gospel. Jesus is preparing his disciples for his death, which he knew was coming soon. In this farewell talk, Jesus uses highly relational language, the language of love to comfort, reassure, and give his disciples peace of heart and mind. He tells them not to let their hearts be troubled—in the Good News Bible he says it like this: “Do not be worried and upset.”

Then Jesus goes on to tell them why they shouldn’t have troubled hearts; why they shouldn’t be worried and upset. He says to them and to each one of you: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places, many rooms, many mansions.” Then he says that he’s going there to prepare a place for each one of us. So there is plenty of room there for each one of us. Even better yet, Jesus promises that when the time comes, he will come to get us and take us to that eternal home, he wants us to be with him there. Now he has done that for your loved one Carla, and one day he will do the same for each of you, so that you will meet her again there.

So my hope and prayer for each of you is that you place your hope, your trust, your lives into the hands of this God who is a loving shepherd. A God who loved us so much that he died on the cross for each one of us. Jesus, who still loves us so much that he wants everyone to be in a relationship with him and to live under the power of his love. Amen.

1 Madeleine L’Engle with Carole F. Chase, Glimpses of Grace: Daily Thoughts And Reflections (New York & San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers & HarperSanFrancisco, 1996 & 1998), pp. 317-318.

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.

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.