Funeral Sermon For Ann Schwartz / Saturday July 9th 2016
Funeral Sermon For Ann Schwartz at Mount Olive Lutheran Church Saturday July 9th - 2016 / Rev. Ted A. Giese / 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. One of the first times I visited with Ann we ended up talking about our family histories and personal experiences. Ann was raised Roman Catholic and then when she married Dwayne Schwartz she ended up joining the Lutheran Confession of the Christian Faith; in my family my grandmother had done the same thing and I knew a little bit of what that transition was like. So I told Ann this little story, it's one of those two men come to the pearly gates and talk to St. Peter kind of stories, little did I know how well it fit Ann and her way of living. Here's the little story:
St. Thomas Aquinas labours under the heavy load of a great weight. He carries on his noble and stately back a very large sack crammed full, practically bursting at the seams, and huffing and puffing Thomas makes his way to one of the twelve pearly gates of heaven and there he finds St. Peter waiting to receive him. St. Peter says, "Tom! What have you got there upon your shoulders? What's in the sack?" Thomas replies, "Peter these are my good works! All the good I did in my life." Peter responds and says, "OK Tom, put them over there and you go on in through this pearly gate into heaven, to your eternal rest in Christ Jesus."
Now not too far behind Thomas had come another man and this dishevelled wreck of a man, a man who looked more like a beggar than anything else, had over his shoulder an empty sack, there was not one thing in it, it was completely empty. This rough looking man was Martin Luther the Augustinian monk turned Reformer and St. Peter said to him, "Martin my boy, what have you got there hanging over your shoulder?" And he replied, "A sack," and Peter jumped in, "Martin look over there, look over there by the gate, do you see that sack? It's Thomas' sack and it's crammed full of his good works, crammed full of all the good he did in his life, but your sack is empty, where are all your good works?" Martin with great respect said, "Dear Peter I left them down there with the people who needed them." Peter smiled and said, "Very good Martin, you can put down that empty sack of yours over there and you go on in through this pearly gate into heaven, to your eternal rest in Christ Jesus." And so it was that both Thomas and Martin entered into heaven but not on account of their good works.
Now that's just a little story, but it illustrates the different approach that people take to the things they do in their life. For some people the good things they do, they do for brownie points, to curry favour, this might be for the here and now or it might be good works meant to gain merit in heaven before God, it comes out when people - talking about going to heaven - say things like "I hope I've done enough." Meaning "I hope I've done enough to get in." In Ephesians 2:8 Scripture says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God," in other words, the works we do - the good works we do - don't contribute to our personal salvation. Being saved, like we were singing, is the result of the amazing grace of God towards us even though we are wretched, miserable, broken sinners. 'But, doesn't doing good for others count for something? Can't I contribute to my salvation?' Such a desire is an appeal to the law of God not to the grace of God.
Jesus when talking about loving everyone in an equal way, even our enemies, said, "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." But who can do that? Who can follow that law perfectly? Who loves like that? "The law says, do this, and it is never done. Grace says, believe in this, and everything is already done." Dear Christian, "the law commands what faith obtains. [Remember by] faith Christ is in us, indeed [He is] one with us. Christ [Jesus] is [the pinnacle of goodness] and has fulfilled all the commands of God, [for this reason] we also fulfill everything through Him since He was made ours through faith." The love of God in Christ Jesus is flawless and as Scripture says, "We love because [God] first loved us." And while Jesus said, "be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect," Jesus also says, "Come to Me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Ann took her rest in Jesus and she believed firmly that she was loved by God, that Jesus loved her and that her love for others was simply what came from the love she'd received from God, the love she'd received from Jesus.
Of love St. Paul said, "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." Now we normally hear that passage from 1 Corinthians at weddings, and it is great for married couples to hold this up as a measure and guide as they love one another, however St. Paul wrote this not primarily for weddings and married couples but for all Christians in their daily life. The more I've grown to know Ann, the more I've seen how it is that she lived by this way of loving others, whether it was family or friends, or the people she looked after in the care homes that she worked in made little difference, everyone was someone who needed love. Everyone was someone who needed patience and kindness, who needed to be forgiven and encouraged, to have their successes celebrated, everyone was someone who needed the ear of a good listener who would hear your troubles and bear them with you in love.
In our Christian life, as part of the body of Christ Jesus in this fallen world, we are Jesus' hands and His feet, and Ann knew this. It might as well have been Jesus on His knees cleaning out the 48 toilets at the Shalom home Nursing Home in Cupar, yet because of Jesus' love for Ann it was Ann who day in and day out patiently cleaned those 48 toilets because the residents there couldn't do it for themselves, because they needed it done, and done well. Love is in the joyful and fun things but it is also in the hard things, the sacrificial things, even in the mundane and boring things that we do for people - and for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear - the love that Ann showed others points past her to the one who first loved her, to Jesus. St John therefore says, "let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." St. John continues saying, "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son [Jesus Christ] into the world, so that we might live through Him." Ann lived through Him, and while she didn't make a big deal of it all the time the truth of the matter is this: That faith in Christ crucified is always active love, it is "faith working through love," regardless of whether the person (in the eyes of the world) deserves it or not, such love is based on the fact that the one being loved simply needs to be loved. Ann was quick to put herself second and put others first. Jesus told His disciples, "If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” This is why we think so highly of Ann because took this to heart and lived it as best she could.
'Well I don't always love like that,' you say to yourself, 'Truth be told I'm selfish with my love, I often love others and do good to get a reward, I don't put myself second, I mostly put myself first.' When she fell short of loving perfectly Ann trusted in the forgiveness of Jesus: And this forgiveness is not only for Ann, Jesus gives this forgiveness to you, He gives it to you as well, ask and you shall receive it, stand firm upon it, hold fast to it. With gladness, in Holy Communion, Ann received the forgiveness given to her by the all availing sacrifice of Christ Jesus.
Jesus put Himself dead last taking all our sins, your sins, my sins, Ann's sins, all the sins of the whole world, all the sins of all time onto Himself; Jesus made Himself nothing so we could be something; Jesus "emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, [Jesus] humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on [Jesus] the name that is above every name." In Holy Scripture Jesus has been called by many names, He is "The Prince of Peace," He is "The LORD of Lords," He is Immanuel" which means God with us, and yet in the Book of Revelation Jesus is also given these simple but powerful names He, "is called Faithful and True."
Therefore, take the example of Ann, "consider the outcome of [her] way of life, and imitate [her] faith," put your trust in Jesus as she did and show the love of God, the love of Jesus, in the way you love those around you. She didn't regret putting herself last so that others could be first and neither will you. God is love and we love because He first loved us. The love of God in Christ Jesus is perfectly patient and kind towards you; And for your sake Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things (even death upon a cross) in love. He is "the Resurrection and the Life" and His love for Ann, His love for you never ends. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Revelation 21:21
 Revelation 21:12-14, Matthew 19:28
 Matthew 5:48
 The Heidelberg Disputation, Martin Luther, April 26th 1518.
 1 John 4:19
 Matthew 11:28
 1 John 4:7-9
 Galatians 5:6
 Mark 9:35
 Philippians 2:7-9
 Isaiah 9:6
 Revelation 19:16
 Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23
 Revelation 19:11
 Hebrews 13:7
 John 11:25