Saturday, July 25, 2009

Funeral Sermon for Helga Achen

Funeral Sermon For Helga Achen
Bror Erickson

[28] Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. [29] Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. [30] For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)

Helga has found rest, after all her labors and 30 some years of heavy laden health, in Jesus Christ, The Lord Your God, The Holy One of Israel, Your savior and her savior. From what I understand it has been off and on for 30 years, struggling with her health. And it hasn’t been easy from what I have seen in the last 5 years, and especially the last couple months. But I have always admired Helga for the value she put on this earthly life that God had given her, the earthly life God had redeemed for her on the cross.
We talked about that, her and I, in the first hospital visit I made after her surgery. What a testament to the value of life, life paid for with the innocent suffering, death and blood of Jesus Christ, it was that she went through such great lengths to try preserve it. She quoted her confirmation verse to me in German “Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me. Laß meine seele leben, daß sie dich lobe, und deine rechte mir helfen.” She told me how she didn’t get to pick the verse, and hated it at first. But had grown to understand that maybe that pastor knew something, and it had come to mean everything to her. That she would pray that verse, and know that every day she lived was another day for her soul to praise God, a day in which her soul praised the God, who gave his life for her salvation.
Helga valued that. She valued her salvation in Jesus Christ. You could see it constantly as she sat in church. You could see it in the way she would notice that the banners needed changing. Or the way she would call for her pastor to come visit her in the hospital, so she could here God’s word, and be encouraged with it.
Helga knew that none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live we live to the Lord, and if we die we die to the Lord. She knew that whether we live or whether we die we are the Lord’s. Because it was the Lord’ who created us, and he who formed us. And he who redeemed us. It was the Lord who called her by name as she passed through the Holy waters of baptism, as just a baby girl on the plains of Prussian Silesia, the home she had to flee before soviet occupation when her life was so young. She knew to whom she belonged, She belonged to the Lord. She knew He had given her this life and all she so dearly cherished in it. Her devoted husband, and loving Children. And she brought them up in that same faith in Jesus Christ, to value the life he had given them.
You could see this value she put on life as she enjoyed that life Christ had redeemed seeing all the pictures in the video Donna put together for the viewing last night. You could see how much she cherished this life when she was camping, playing games with the kids, and travelling the world over, celebrating life. Life is worth celebrating as much as death is worth mourning.
But though she went through great lengths to preserve this life God had so graciously given her, neither was she afraid of death. She didn’t hold onto this life as so many do fearing death. It wasn’t in her mind that death was the end. She knew that the Lord she had now in life, would be her Lord also in death. Because he had died and lived again that he might be Lord both of the living and the dead. She knew that she was secure in him, that her life was secure in Him, in Jesus Christ. She lived every day to the Lord. But she also knew that if she died she would die to the Lord.
I know that there was a lot of pain and sorrow as Helga said goodbye to us all. We all had sorrow, and she had pain. There were expressions of pain born in love, when life became too wearisome, the pain too laborsome to cope with, and the treatments too heavy laden to bear anymore, and she decided to find rest, not only for her soul, but her body also in the Lord who had promised rest to her. Some thought she might be giving up on life, that they might be able to help her find the will to continue. It wasn’t a question of will, she wasn’t giving up on life, she wasn’t giving up on her family. I don’t even think it was much of a decision, but a facing of reality, perhaps reality only she could see clearly. But she knew that there was more to life than this world, more to reality then the dreary room of the ICU, but a mansion in her fathers house of heaven waiting for her. And this she knew not because of any delusion as to who she was.
It’s typical of funerals to praise the dead. To talk of all the good things they have done. And I suppose it is fitting, and in line with the eighth commandment to remember the good, and forget the bad of those who have passed. Helga had done a lot of good in her life. But she was not under the delusion that she deserved a mansion in heaven for having raised children in the Christian faith, for having been a devoted wife for some 40 years, etc. And those are wonderful things to be remembered for. Helga knew though that she didn’t deserve heaven for any of this. That the good works she did, did nothing for her where God was concerned. She knew this because she knew that she was a sinner too. The last thing she asked for on Thursday night when I was visiting her, so week she could barely utter a word, was confession and absolution. She wanted to hear again before she passed into slumber, and then sleep that her sins were forgiven. What a wonderful thing to hear. “Your sins are forgiven.” As you face death. Not because you have done all you can do. Not because you were a good person. But because despite all you could do, despite all you hadn’t done, despite the fact that you are not a good person at all, but a poor miserable sinner, Jesus Christ, left his heavenly throne and came down to earth, God became man, was born of a virgin, lived this wearisome life as one of us, and died in our place, that he might justify ungodly sinner like you and me, that is make them righteous with his blood, and declare there sins forgiven. And they are. Yes your sins, the sins that will carry you to your grave, as they did Helga, for the wages of sin is death, and we all face death. Today, tomorrow, the next day we all face death, because we are all sinners. Yet our sins have been forgiven in Christ, yes even yours, your sins are forgiven in Christ Jesus who died for you. Who died and lived again that he might be Lord of the living and the dead. Who died our death that he might give our souls rest in him, in the forgiveness of sins he promises. That same rest that Helga embraced in her death. Now not at all the end of everything but the door to new life, the full glory and weight of which we cannot comprehend in this life. And there she is now, living with her Lord in the glory of heaven that waits for us also, because of Jesus and his death and resurrection.

Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.


Steve Martin said...

Terrific message , Bror!

Law/Gospel all the way!

Death sure beats "have you ever told a lie" when it comes to bringing the law to bear in a sinner's life(for me anyway).

And that pure, sweet sound of the gospel, "Your sins are forgiven!"

Death and resurrection. A picture of baptism.

Nice job, Bror!

mollo said...

I love lutheran funerals.

Bryan said...

That, my friend, is a very good funeral sermon! I too love Lutheran funerals.

Anonymous said...

You wrote,
The last thing she asked for on Thursday night when I was visiting her, so week she could barely utter a word, was confession and absolution. She wanted to hear again before she passed into slumber, and then sleep that her sins were forgiven. What a wonderful thing to hear. “Your sins are forgiven.”
I am crying right now. That is a message for the living.
Mark Veenman

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