Psa.23, Leona Feuerborn
A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I could tell you a bunch of good things that people told me about Leona, but somehow that seems to me to be just a little bit disingenuous. I didn’t know Leona. I never met her. I don’t know what she was like other than from the correspondence that I received in preparing for this service.One thing I’ve learned about funerals is there is no lack of good things that are said about the person who has died. It’s one thing that we do very well these days. We speak well of the dead. This past week you’ve heard great things about Leona. You’ve laughed about some of them. You’ve cried about some of them. You’ve begun the process of living the rest of your life without… The process isn’t over. That hole in your heart isn’t ever going to be completely gone. The questions you have in your head aren’t all going to be answered. The questions like, “Why did she have to die?” “How am I going to live without her?” “How long do I have to wait to see her again?” When my father died I kept saying to myself, “I want him back.” I’m sure you feel that way too.
I can’t answer your questions, really. I can’t fill your loss with cleverly crafted words. I won’t even try. What I will do today is talk about Jesus. I’ll do that because He is the only one who makes sense out of suffering. He’s the only one that takes the sting out of death. It is Jesus’ death that makes sense out of our sitting together today around this casket. That’s because of all the things people will talk about today, all the talk about Leona isn’t likely to include the fact that she was indeed a sinful person. She was born that way, she lived that way and she died that way. I know it’s true because we are here today looking over her body. St. Paul calls this the “wages of sin.” And a part of our mourning today is the idea that someday we’ll all be in Leona’s place. We might have nothing else in common, we might not know anything at all about each other, but that’s one thing we do. We know our lives will all end in death, a deserved death for sin. This is something that our Lord, our Shepherd Jesus Christ, has done something about.
Well, we’ve chosen the Shepherd Psalm to talk about. We did that because even though Leona lost a lot of things to her memory she remembered this psalm and could say it right up till the very end. She didn’t know how old she was, she didn’t remember who her husbands were but she knew Jesus her Good Shepherd was leading her in the journey through life. When she had forgotten almost everything she confessed faith in the crucified Savior for sin, through this psalm.
It is a journey, you know, this psalm. A journey with a shepherd that cares for us so that we lack nothing we need; a journey through restful green pastures and beside quite waters; a journey where he leads us even through the deepest darkest shadows of death, like today, but we are not afraid because He is here. Through his death he has destroyed death. Through His resurrection He promises life. Just as Christ was raised from the dead… we too will have new life. That’s the comfort of the Crucified and Risen Savior. The destination lies ahead; a banquet hall; a never ending feast were goodness and mercy are ever present. Where there is no more mourning and tears. No more separation. No more forgotten memories. No more death; the house of the Lord, forever.
That’s that part that strikes me today, the banquet hall. When Leona was asked if she was ready for communion she’d say, “I’m always ready for communion.” Even when everything else was clouded in doubt and memory loss Leona could see the heavenly banquet laid out before in the body and blood of her Savior. Sometimes when I read the Psalm I wonder about that “in the presence of my enemies” part. I’m uncomfortable feasting in the presence of my enemies… but not today. If the Leona’s enemies were the cobwebs in her mind that kept taking away precious memory, Jesus clearly set the Lord’s Table in front of them. She wasn’t going to forget that, the enemy didn’t get that one. Her Shepherd was there, with her, present for the forgiveness of her sin; to tell her of his love and care; To tell her of His broken body and blood poured out for her; to lead her right through the valley of deep, dark death, right to His table where she sits right now probably displaying that kinky sense of humor I was told about. And if you think she had a great time at your family gatherings, if you think she smiled when you were all together, you can just imagine the smile that’s on her face right now… and the joy. And as much as we miss her, she’d not come back for all that the world has to give.
Is there more to say. Well Addie as you can see I believe too, that your grandma is in heaven with Jesus. I believe that he led her on the whole journey of her life right through all the dark shadows, of the death of two husbands, right through the good times of midnight telephone talks with grandchildren, extra double mint gum, bologna white bread and sugared cereal. Right through to His house where she’ll be happy and complete forever.
And there is one more thing. We’re on the journey too. And it ends in the same place, with Jesus as our Good Shepherd. We can’t get there on our own. Our sinful nature doesn’t deserve it. We don’t live the lives that we should live. We sin against God in thought, word and deed. We see it pretty clearly on days like today. Our sin pokes itself up in our faces and says, “you’ll pay for your sins here.” But, Jesus whispers in our other ear. “No, I’ve paid for your sins already. I took your punishment for them to my cross and grave. And my resurrection is your promise of a happy destination, at end to the journey.” To say it another way
In Holy Baptism [you] were clothed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covers all your sin. “Do you not know that all of us who were baptized with Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just a Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we to may have new life. If we have been united with Him in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection.”Your death, my death, Leona’s death isn’t the end. Through faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin, and the resurrection that He has promised we’ll see each other at a great family reunion called the resurrection of the dead. As the Psalm says it… the house of the Lord, where our cup overflows. And so death isn’t the end, it’s just the final leg on the journey home. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.