Monday, March 23, 2020

Christian Funeral for Edna Ruth Hoffman

John 14:1-6; Romans 8:31-39; Job 19:21-27

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Your beloved Edna was an eternal optimist, to a fault, says Brian. Berdene’s husband Jim used to say that she was a stubborn, hard-headed Kraut, just like her sister. I suppose that one can choose to be optimistic, and in that regard, it may be helpful to be stubborn as well, but I also have experienced how firm Christian faith and conviction can create optimism as well, perhaps even better than stubbornness alone.
Edna was born at the tail-end of the Great Depression. Such folks typically understand the value of things better than most, and they take nothing for granted. Undoubtedly, Edna’s early childhood was shaped by frugality, perseverance, hard work, and faith born of getting by with little and gratitude for what she had. After high school, Edna worked for over thirty years in offset printing, first for Shield Bantam in Waverly and then for Matt Parrott and Sons in Waterloo. We were created for work, lest the devil find work for our idle hands to do. Those were the days in which the American dream was born, the conviction that, if you work hard and manage your finances well, you will succeed. And, by all counts, Edna did succeed. Edna succeeded in having a family: Married to her beloved LeRoy forty-five years. Two beloved children, Lynn and Brian. A successful career. And five grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren whom she loved to spoil with sweets, making divinity and homemade bread.
Edna had a notorious sweet tooth. She was a good-enough cook, but sweets and desserts were her specialty. In her later years, the only way she’d take her medicine was if it was mixed with something sweet. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. I’m sure that a piece of candy or a slice of pie or cake was a real treat in her childhood, and something that she could enjoy more freely and frequently in her adult years and lavish upon her family with joy. In addition to being an eternal optimist, Edna was full of good humor, good manners, and simple grace, which are all evidence of her faith and trust in the Lord and her Savior Jesus Christ, along with her God-given peaceable nature.
It was around the turn of the century, about the time that LeRoy died, that Edna first began to develop symptoms that would later be diagnosed as Parkinson’s Disease, which would challenge her optimism and her faith. Edna persevered through great suffering. Brian aptly compared the disease to a giant snake squeezing the life out of its victim; but the snake was more merciful, he surmised, for in the end it would kill and devour its victim. Not so Parkinson’s, which slowly steals everything but life itself, until there’s nothing left. Still, through over a decade and more Edna kept her good humor, manners, and grace. She did not complain, but she continued to think more of others than herself. Then, to add insult to injury, Lynn died four years ago to the day that Edna died in the Lord. Edna’s condition had deteriorated such at that time that it wasn’t clear that she understood that Lynn had died. Edna seemed in a dream state much of the time, a state in which she could still see and talk to Lynn. Edna’s dream state had become her reality, and perhaps that wasn’t such a bad thing for her.
The Lord never promised that things would be easy. We have to understand and accept the fact that suffering, disease, and death are not part of God’s original creation but they are the result of sin – Adam’s sin, your sin, my sin, and Edna’s sin. God did not create Edna to suffer and die but to live and to flourish in His kingdom. And that is what she will do when Christ returns and her body is raised, glorified, and reunited with her immortal soul born in baptism and faith. Indeed, what gives us great comfort and hope right now in the face of grief and loss is not merely that Edna’s soul is with Jesus in heaven – for it surely is! – but that her body too will be raised glorified and reunited with her immortal soul so that you will see and know Edna again as you knew her in life – flesh and blood and soul and mind – and you will see her with your own flesh and blood eyes, hear her with your own flesh and blood ears, and hold her with your own flesh and blood arms. And, that joy no one will ever take from you!
That is what Job confessed nearly two thousand years before the birth of Jesus, “I know that my Redeemer lives,” “And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” And, even though we must face tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger and sword, St. Paul assures us that, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And, our Lord Jesus Himself says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. […] 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.” Jesus is the Way to the Father and to the Father’s house, and Edna believed and trusted in Him who prepared a place for her there, who has also prepared a place there for you.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! That is the resurrection cry of Easter Sunday. The tomb is empty. The stone is rolled away. Christ is risen, and we are no longer in our sins. Because death could not hold Jesus, it cannot hold us who are baptized into Him and trust Him. Today we are in Lent, a penitential season, and we are struggling with uncertainty and fear at a worldwide viral pandemic. But, Lent is just a human construct, and the pandemic will eventually pass. Easter is forever, and those who die in the Lord shall live forever. That is our great comfort and hope. That is our peace and joy even in the midst of grief and sorrow. Our Good Shepherd Jesus has shepherded His faithful lamb Edna through this valley of the shadow of death into His Father’s house forevermore. Blessed are those who die in the Lord, for they are with Him. Edna is with Him. LeRoy is with Him. Lynn is with Him. And, if we trust in Him and His Word, we would not wish them back, but our wish and our hope is to be with them in the presence of Jesus. We will be with them if we trust in Him. That is His promise.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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