Monday, July 9, 2018

Christian Funeral for LeAnn Lois Meier

John 14:1-6; Revelation 7:9-17; Isaiah 25:6-9

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
There are a whole lot of things that we take for granted in life, are there not? When we are young, we take it for granted that our parents will always be with us. As we grow up, we take it for granted that we will get a good job when we graduate high school and college. As we work our adult lives, we take it for granted that social security will help us out when we retire, and that our kids will be there to support us. Of course, it’s easy to see, when you think about it, why it is extremely foolish to take any of these things for granted. How about water, and sunlight, food, and air to breathe? Yes, we too often take these things for granted as well. However, if you’ve ever had to go a day without water, or a couple of days without food, it becomes all too apparent how desperately we need them. And, if you’ve ever been forced to hold your breath for more than a minute, it becomes all too apparent how desperately we need and depend upon fresh air to breathe, to live. Not being able to take in enough air to breathe is a terrifying feeling, as countless younger siblings can attest to from a childhood swimming experience. Truly, there few more terrifying feelings than not being able to breathe.
Our dear sister in Christ LeAnn knew that feeling as she battled with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) these past five years. Simple tasks like walking to the restroom or even repositioning herself in a chair would affect her loss of breath and her inability to regain it again quickly. Add to that the looming knowledge that things were only going to get worse and it is easy to imagine how very frightening LeAnn’s condition truly was. Something as natural as breathing – That’s a saying we use for things that are supposed to be easy and thoughtless, something we take for granted, “It’s as natural as breathing – for LeAnn became an ever-present struggle, a continual concern and need, and a matter of life and death.
However, for most of us, talking to LeAnn, visiting with her, you wouldn’t know it. You wouldn’t know that something as easy and natural, something so taken for granted like breathing was a terrible struggle and all consuming concern for LeAnn. Sure, maybe those closest to her, Charlie, Chad, Kristin, and Nicole, saw her in a moment of unmasked discomfort and even distress, but for most, and for most of the time, LeAnn showed little evidence of the true struggle she was facing simply to breathe. However, that was LeAnn – always concerned about others, their needs, their comfort, their happiness and welfare. She didn’t want to be a burden to others, but she wanted to serve them, to care for them, and to make them happy and comfortable. Thus, it is not really ironic that LeAnn’s symptoms began to manifest when she was serving as caregiver for Charlie during his battle with prostate cancer. Pushing Charlie in a wheelchair at the hospital, LeAnn began to huff and puff and wheeze, all out of breath. Charlie thought she sounded like a horse and lovingly joked, “The old gray mare just ain’t what she used to be!” Neither of them could have guessed the reason or cause of her shortness of breath. Didn’t matter, there was a job to do. Onward she pushed, right through the huffing and puffing.
But, that was LeAnn – always concerned about others, their needs, their comfort, their happiness and welfare. LeAnn loved her family, she loved her grandchildren. She loved attending their school events, she wrote poems for them with clues for scavenger hunts. What she enjoyed most in life was being with her family: Being a homemaker, boating, and bowling, just hanging out around the house with her family and her friends. When her IPF made it difficult or impossible to do those things, LeAnn apologized to her family and friends for being a burden. Of course, she wasn’t a burden, but she wanted them to be happy, because she loved them – she loved you all so dearly.
When the diagnosis came five years ago, you were informed that IPF is a relatively slow-progressing, but terminal, disease. I know that five years doesn’t seem all that slow, especially considering LeAnn was only in her early 60s. And yet, there were five years, and that was time to reflect and prepare, time to spend together and really grow, not taking anything for granted, not even breathing. Most of those years weren’t really too bad. And, while, the last couple years were a bit more of a struggle, it’s really been since your premature return from Texas this Winter that the symptoms have really become more severe. Now on the highest level of oxygen assistance, a trip to the kitchen or restroom became too much. And in the last month or so, an adjustment of position in a chair would leave LeAnn breathless, even with the highest level of oxygen. That is truly terrifying, and it would not be wrong to say that LeAnn began to suffer. They said the disease was relatively slow-progressing, but terminal. It was becoming clear that the terminus was on the horizon.
Why does God allow suffering? Philosophers and theologians alike have been asking that question for millennia.  While God does indeed allow suffering – He allowed, even willed, that His own Son suffer and die for our sins and the sins of the world – it is simply wrong to conclude that God created suffering. He did not. Suffering was introduced into the world because of the sin of our First Parents, a sin that we have inherited and are equally guilty of with them. The wages of sin is always, and only, death. Why is there suffering in the world? Because of sin. Why do we die. Because of sin. Did LeAnn suffer and die because of her sin? Well, yes, but not any specific sin. We all die because of our sin, and because of sin in general. This is not the LORD’s doing, but an enemy has done this, God’s enemy and our enemy, Satan. Satan causes suffering, and he uses it to destroy your faith. And, God permits Satan to cause suffering, but He uses it to create and strengthen faith, in ways we most often never know or realize. For a Christian, the diagnoses of a terminal disease can be a very faith-affirming thing, for it motivates us to hone in on what really matters in life, and in death, with a laser-like focus. What mattered to LeAnn? Her faith, and her family; that’s what mattered. LeAnn’s faith permitted her to put others first and her personal needs second. And, her beloved family became most important. She was intent to enjoy the time that she had and to take nothing for granted.
“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.” Not a sparrow falls to the ground without His knowledge. God so loved the world, God so loved LeAnn, and God so loved you that He gave His only Son into death and raised Him up again that you might so pass through death with Him and live with Him in His kingdom forever. Our enemy Satan was defeated in Jesus’ death upon the cross, and in His resurrection He left death and the grave abandoned and powerless. They could not hold Him, and they cannot hold those who trust in Him, those who have been baptized into Him; they have died with Him in His death, and they will be raised with Him in His resurrection. Isaiah foreshadowed this saying, “He will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces.” Likewise, Jesus said “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many rooms. 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, that where I am you may be also.” And, our Lord Jesus revealed to St. John in the Revelation a preview of the saints in heaven, a multitude in white robes, saying: “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. [They shall breathe freely and shall not suffer pain, or sorrow, discomfort, or death.] For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” That countless multitude in white robes has grown by one precious soul in the sight of the LORD. Thanks be to God in Jesus Christ.
Our heavenly Father has seen fit to call His precious saint LeAnn to her heavenly home, prepared for her by Jesus her Savior and Redeemer. As painful and real as her loss is, and as much as we will miss her, in faith and truth we do not wish her back. No, we do not wish her back, but our only wish and hope is to be with her where she is. And, that is precisely the promise our God and LORD has made us in His Son. We will see LeAnn again. Charlie, you will see your wife again. Chad, Kristin, Nicole, you will see your mother again. You will see your grandmother, your friend, your sister in Christ again. You will see LeAnn with your flesh and blood eyes. You will hear her with your flesh and blood ears. You will touch her and hug her with your flesh and blood hands and arms. Each of you had a private moment to say goodbye, to reassure LeAnn that you would be ok, and then LeAnn went to Jesus. That goodbye is temporary. You will see her again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you ever again.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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