The Funeral of Ruth Shirley Perovsek
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
There seems to be a trend today to think of funerals as celebrations of life. People seem to be so afraid of death, they don’t even want to deal with the harsh reality of it at a funeral. Not to long ago I even heard a person suggest that it would be nice to have his brother’s funeral at a Chucky Cheese, where they could sit around and talk about all the good times. Certainly remembering good times after the parting of a loved one can be a good thing. We Lutherans often do the same after a funeral over a glass of wine, or a pint of beer. I suppose somewhat of an informal wake. But the funeral isn’t about that. The funeral isn’t about celebrating the persons past life, death reminds us too much that the past life was empty, vanity as the preacher of Ecclesiastes calls this world and our life in it. Death is sad, and we mourn the loss of loved ones, and the reminder that no one gets out of this world alive. It reminds us that our life in this world, every thing we work for, everything we do is also vanity, for it does not come with us. But there is another side to the Christian funeral. It is not only a mourning of lost life, but a celebration of the life our beloved deceased now has, in the world waiting for us. A life in which our innocence blessedness and righteousness in Christ is known in its full glory. For the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with that glory that is to be revealed to us.
Shirley was here, a faithful member of this congregation when I arrived fresh out of seminary. She just lived a couple of blocks over and was one of those people whose door always seemed to be open. I would stop by every once in awhile and share a cup of coffee with her. She would tell me many stories of places she had gone. Things she had done. I still have a coffee mug from the Red Garter Casino she gave me. It is somewhere in my office. She never really told me about the hard times in her life. She never dwelt on the past sufferings. She never bragged about what she did for the church either. Those were things other people told me. Others told me about her hard life, the things she had to deal with long before I came. Others told me about how she had helped the church through hard times. Out of respect for the dead, I’m not going to bring them up now either. Those of you who knew her, much better than I, know what she had to live through, and the things she did for her beloved congregation. It seems to me though, that she had a pretty hard life, perhaps more suffering than good times.
But I also knew another side to Shirley. Shirley was one who knew her Lord Jesus Christ, and had incredible faith, and knowledge of Lutheran doctrine that reinforced that faith. One of the first memories I have of Shirley was her asking me about the book the “Purpose Driven Life.” Seems some relatives in Minnesota had sent it to her, and she was puzzled because they belonged to a Lutheran Church. She had read the book. I had decided not to waste my time, after reading the introduction. After reading the book, she had come to the conclusion that it wasn’t really Christian, much less Lutheran. She wanted to know what I thought, and I concurred. I still haven’t read the whole book, though she gave me a copy she gave me that day. The problem that she saw with it? It was all about you, the person reading the book, and what you should be doing to bring purpose to your life. It wasn’t about Christ, and what he has done for you. Shirley may never have found much purpose to this life, but she found meaning and value in life when she looked to the Cross. Christ comforted her in the hard times. Christ gave her life meaning, and value, with his blood. And she knew that no matter what happened to her in this world of sin, pain, and death, Christ made it worth it, because he had died for her, as he has died for you, and secured life everlasting, glories waiting to be revealed to us that far surpass the sufferings of this present time. She knew that because of His death, she didn’t need to worry about the problems of this world. So she pressed on in life, and found joy in friendships and life, because Christ took care of the rest for her, and the sufferings of this present time weren’t worth comparing with the glory that was to be revealed to her, on account of Christ.
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. Oh there is suffering in this world, painful suffering. I think the most painful suffering I ever have witnessed has been the pain of childbirth. I’m thankful I didn’t have to experience it first hand. Watching my son be born showed me pain, but then it gave me joy. The pain of childbirth ends in joy, the joy of life. And that is how God describes the pain of this life for Christians. Christian suffering ends in joy. For we merely groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies, for in this hope we are saved. And this hope is not mere wishful thinking. It is a hope grounded in the promise of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ. He revealed this hope to us, when he became one of us, clothed himself in our flesh and blood, and bore the wrath of our sin on the cross, dying in our place, and shedding his blood as the perfect sacrifice on our behalf. He revealed this hope for us with his resurrection, rising from the grave in a glorified body before ascending to heaven, to show us a glimpse of the life that he had prepared for us with his death. And it is that life that we celebrate today, with the death of Shirley. The life that Christ has given to her, and which she now enjoys for all eternity. A perfect life filled with innocence, blessedness, and righteousness living with Christ for all eternity. A life he personally gave to her with her baptism, where she was buried with Christ, only to rise with him today in the full glory of the newness of life. And in that hope we wait with patience, knowing for certain that it too waits for us in Jesus Christ.
Now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.