Scripture: Psalm 23, Psalm 111, Philippians 3:20-4:9, John 14:1-6
Hymns: LSB 744, 710, 685, 770, 748
Dear family and friends of Betty Luehrs: Grace mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
When Betty confirmed her faith in this congregation back in 1939, she was given Confirmation Verse from Psalm 111:10: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever.”
In 1920, Grace Lutheran Church was organized here in Lexington and their first meeting was held at the home of Herman Steffens. Betty’s dad, Joe, was in attendance. I believe Betty is last child of a founding member to still belong to our church. While many in our congregation have a lot of knowledge of our church’s past, Betty was the go-to person when you wanted to know about our church history. After all, she was baptized and confirmed in the original church on 14th and Franklin, before the building received its 1940 renovation and expansion. She was pastored by every resident pastor we’ve had, except the first one. Betty remembered not only great detail from things in the past, but also from recent things. I was always amazed at the many small things we would talk about, and she would follow up with me on them afterward. If some in my family even had a cold, she would ask a few days later how they are doing. She’d even ask if my chickens were still laying eggs this winter. Asking about even those little things indicates the great care that she had for me and for others.
It also indicates the amazing memory she had throughout her life. She remained as sharp as a tack. And she remained a willing servant to God, her church, her family, and her community. For a few decades, Betty volunteered in Concordia to assemble braille Bibles. Even this past year when the team of volunteers from our church were short a person, she wanted to go help. From making apple butter to helping at church meals, one could count on Betty to be here.
She served in love. She loved her church and church family. She loved her community and country. And she loved her family dearly. This love drove her to be involved in so many ways.
The source of her love was found in Christ. She loved because He first loved her (1 John 4:19). God showed His love for her in that Jesus died for her sins on the cross (1 John 4:9).
Betty, like you and me, was a sinner. We all inherit sin from our parents. Our parents inherited sin from theirs, going all the way back to Adam and Eve who sinned first and brought God’s wonderful and perfect creation into sin. Ever since, the world has had toil and trouble, pain and heartbreaking. And the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). We all deserve not only temporal death but eternal death for our sin.
But that’s also why God promised His Son to Adam and Eve after they brought the world into sin. He promised that Jesus will defeat the Devil and pay for the world’s sin. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for His friends. You are My friends” (John 15:13). In love, Jesus went to the cross to make amends for our sin. In love, Jesus died in our place. In love, Jesus opened the gates of Heaven to all who believe, for He has cancelled out their sins through His death and resurrection.
Because Jesus has risen triumphantly from the grave, we can be confident that He will grant eternal life to all who call upon Him. He has defeated sin, death, and Satan. Death, which seems so final, is now temporary. We will soon go to the cemetery to tuck Betty’s body in for her rest to await the day of Christ’s return in which He will raise Betty’s body and all who have died. And God will give to Betty and all who believe in Jesus the gift of eternal life. God will transform our lowly bodies to be like Christ’s glorious body (Phil. 3:20-21).
The foes of Jesus thought they could gain the upper hand by killing Him. Shockingly, some hated Jesus and thought death would solve their problem. Satan, in particular, thought he could rule in terror over this world and all who dwell here. But the sacrifice Jesus offered to atone for the world’s sin—the shedding of His innocent Blood—is the acceptable payment for our sin. God the Father accepted Christ’s payment, and so Jesus rose from the dead on the third day.
Today is the third day since Betty breathed her last and her soul was received into Heaven. She is with the Lord and set free from the world’s toil and trouble, pain and heartbreaking. On this third day, we will go to the cemetery to lay her body to rest. She will face east, looking toward the rising sun in anticipation of the return of the Son of God. And when Jesus returns, she, like her Lord, will rise. And she will be perfect in every way. God will make the world perfect and, she, along with all believers in Christ, will live forever in perfection. There will be no sin or suffering or death.
We look forward to that glorious day in which Jesus will judge us righteous and He will acquit us of all wrongdoing.
But in the meantime, we remain here. We will live our lives to the fullest, as Betty did. She not only served her Lord, family, and her community in love, but she also loved God’s creation. She not only loved her plants and flowers, but she also loved seeing her country. She and Henry travelled to all 48 states in the continuous United States.
We live our lives to the fullest when we are, above all, hear God’s saving Word and go to the Lord’s altar to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. We continue to live our lives to the fullest, having received from Christ His love and forgiveness, His wisdom and knowledge, as we live in love toward our neighbor.
Yet, lurking behind this, is the reality that some of our loved ones, who made it possible for us to live our lives to the fullest, are no longer with us. It is painful when loved ones depart and be with the Lord. We long to hear their voices. We would enjoy their company and the many blessings they have brought into our lives. There’s an emptiness that arises when each loved dies.
And so, we are permitted to grieve. We may weep and lament. We can shed our tears of sorrow. In this life, we never really get past the pain that death brings.
And that’s why we should do as Betty did. As her Confirmation verse stated, we should fear God, learn His wisdom, have a good understanding, and practice it. For when we abide in Christ, we are truly His disciples. We shall know the truth and the truth shall set us free (John 8:31-32). We then have the sure and certain confidence that we will be reunited with our loved ones in Heaven. We can live out our days knowing that the time of our separation is temporary, but the time together with our loved ones in Christ will be eternal.
God bless each and every one of you with comfort He provides through our Savior, Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen.