Saturday, October 27, 2012

Homily for the Christian Funeral for Flossie Ballard (1/14/1921–10/24/2012)


John 10:14-18, 27-30; Philippians 2:1-11; 1 John 3:1-3

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The Old Testament closes with these prophetic words of Malachi describing what would happen when the promised coming Messiah arrived: The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. Indeed, once Jesus had come and begun His ministry, He comforted His own forerunner John the Baptist by sending His disciples to remind Him of what his own blind eyes had seen and heard. For, the light of Jesus, who is the Light of the World, the Light which no darkness may overcome, had brought light to John’s darkened eyes, and had brought the knowledge of salvation through faith in Jesus to the darkened eyes of many.

Blindness is a terrible handicap. As you all know, our dear sister in Christ, Flossie, was born blind. Her mother was blind, and her father was deaf. She had a brother, Byron, who was blind as well. However, though she was legally blind, I tell you that Flossie could see much better than most seeing people. And I can tell you that, spiritually, her vision was 20/20. For, her eyes had been opened long ago by the Word of the Lord, which the Holy Spirit sowed in her heart, which He guarded, protected, and nourished so that it grew strong and produced a harvest a hundredfold. The Lord called dear Flossie through His Word, and He made her a Christian, a precious lamb restored to His heavenly Father’s flock. And so, today we take comfort and even joy in the knowledge that Flossie now stands in His holy presence, where there are no tears or sorrow, no hunger or thirst, and no blindness in the full-glorious presence of the Lamb of God Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, upon His throne. Flossie dwells where God’s sheep may safely graze. We would not wish her back, but our wish and our hope is to be with her there one day. That God has promised. That Jesus has died to win and secure. That the Holy Spirit has called you to by the Word of the Lord, sealed you in faith and Holy Baptism, nourished you in Jesus’ body and blood, and will deliver you unto when your pilgrimage through this Valley of the Shadow of death has ended, and you have passed through and dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

I met Flossie when she was living at the King’s Apartments in Pawling. I was freshly ordained and installed as the pastor of the Lutheran Church of Christ the King next door, and I quickly assumed the ministry of providing a Bible study at the apartments. Flossie was a member a small but devoted group that met every Thursday at 2:00pm. One day after Bible study, Flossie invited me to her apartment to see her Bible. I was surprised when she showed me a Bible set that looked like the Encyclopedia Britannica! It was an eighteen or more volume set of the King James Version in Braille, and it took up an entire bookshelf! I’ve often thought about that set of books and about Flossie, about how she was proud of it and wanted to show it to me, how she obviously loved and cherished the Word of the Lord, and I imagine her sitting with an open volume and her fingers running over the cells and raised dots, reading the Word of the Lord. Then I think about myself, and about so many others having the gift of sight that do not cherish and read God’s Word which is readily, easily, and abundantly available to us. Indeed, often the blind can see better than the seeing.

However, truth be told, Flossie could see better than many imagined. She wasn’t completely blind, but she was legally blind – which is blind enough for me. She wore here characteristic very, thick-lensed glasses, and she could make her way through large print books and magazines well enough. But, she could also spot a person she knew from several feet away. No doubt, her poor vision was aided by superior hearing and other senses. It was foolish for someone to think that because Flossie couldn’t see well that her hearing was not sharp; indeed, she could hear extremely well, and her mind was sharp, and she knew when people were trying to pull a fast one. But that truth hits on something sad about Flossie’s life. Flossie knew more than the darkness of blindness, she knew the darkness of sin and evil that still dwells in men’s hearts. She had met betrayal and even violence in her life. Those of you who knew her closely, she may have shared with you some of the emotional pain that she bore and suffered. Yet, despite that pain, indeed, through it and even because of it, Flossie was an optimistic, joyful, grateful, kind, and compassionate soul. Sometimes those who have been hurt so much by others are careful to not hurt others at all.

A funny story about Flossie: As I already indicated, I met Flossie shortly after becoming the pastor of the Lutheran Church in Pawling. Flossie came to worship every once in a while. She certainly came to all of our functions – potlucks, fairs, etc. Everyone at the church knew her. Truth be told – I assumed that she was a member of my church! I always considered her that way. However, some time later – I don’t remember when – she told me that she had been the secretary at the Methodist Church for eighteen years. It was then that I looked Flossie up in our church registry, only to find out that she was not a member of the Lutheran Church. Thenceforth, I considered Flossie to be a Methodist – no problem. Then, some time later, Pastor Mark Allen came to the Methodist Church. In a conversation with him he mentioned his dear member Flossie. Ah, I thought, there’s the proof – Flossie’s a Methodist! But then, later still, after a Bible study, Flossie spoke to me privately and said, respectfully and with tender kindness, that she wasn’t sure if she should keep coming to my Bible study. Surprised, I asked her, “Why?” I’ll never forget when Flossie said, “I don’t think that I believe what you believe.” You see, I’m a Lutheran pastor, and, as a Lutheran, I believe and teach the baptism of infants and young children along with the baptism of older children and adults; I was surprised to hear that Flossie didn’t believe about baptism as I was accustomed to teach it. I remember saying to her, “Flossie, you’re a Methodist. Methodists and Lutherans share a similar understanding of baptism.” She looked at me with a strange expression and said, “But, I’m not a Methodist. I’m a Baptist.” Thoroughly confused, I assured Flossie that, yes, she should continue to come to the Bible study, and that I would be sensitive to the fact that not everyone at the study was a Lutheran. Actually, I’ve never had more than one or two Lutherans in the group the entire time I’ve lead it! Flossie did continue to come, and I learned much from her and from the other perspectives of Christian faith and life that made up our little study group. Such is the family of faith and the body of Christ that is His Church. Thanks be to God that, in heaven, we will not be Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Catholics, or any other denomination, but in Jesus Christ, God will have finally made us all Christians.

Dearly beloved, family and friends of Flossie Ballard, brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus our Lord, today we say goodbye to our dear sister in Christ, Flossie. Though we will miss her terribly, though we will weep and mourn, we do not mourn like those without hope. We have the same hope that Flossie had throughout her earthly life – hope in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to redeem us from our sins, who rose victorious from the dead to defeat death and give to us eternal life. He is our Good Shepherd, and we are His precious lambs. He will never leave us or forsake us, and nothing can separate us from God’s love, which is in Jesus Christ. This is our hope, this is our faith, and this is God’s promise to us, and to Flossie, fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Flossie has joined the holy company of heaven. We look forward to that day that we will join her before the Lamb of God on His throne in eternal worship, peace, and joy. Even so, we pray, “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly, come!”

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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