Funeral Sermon For Anne Ostlund / Saturday June 24th - 2017
Funeral Sermon For Anne Ostlund at Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Terry Defoe / Saturday June 24th 2017: Pentecost 2017 / Philippians 4:4–7 "A Life Well Lived"
My message this afternoon is based on a letter the apostle Paul wrote to an early Christian congregation. His message to these Christian people included these words of encouragement –
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me —put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4–7)
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We are here this afternoon to remember one of God's children and to commend her to the Lord's care and keeping. Anne Ostlund was one of our shut-ins here at Mount Olive. She wasn't able to join us for worship. And so, starting about seven years ago, usually about once a month, I dropped by for a visit. We chatted about the weather and whatever happened to be the current topic of the day. I asked her about her family and how things were going. Anne look forward to those visits and so did I.
I told Anne that since she wasn't able to go to church, the church would come to her. She lived in a suite at the Wintergreen apartments. It was, as you might expect, neat as a pin. Anne almost always had the Weather Channel playing on the TV. She had a laptop computer on a little portable stand near her sofa. She usually had some knitting on the go. She would pass it along to the ladies at the church to be given to those in need. Anne did a great deal of knitting over the years. And most of it, she gave away.
In the time that I knew her, Anne's health was remarkably good. She knew that. And she was thankful to God for that. She was thankful for every day of good health she enjoyed and her good health, fortunately, lasted well into her 90's. On my visits, I brought holy communion. Anne always looked forward to that. I would sit on the sofa next to her chair and read the service for her. Anne's hearing wasn't very good so I had to speak up. She folded her hands and closed her eyes. I could tell she was following along with the words – words she knew by heart.
When you think about it, every person we meet in life is unique. A pastor I knew in Vancouver many years ago – Pastor Henry Treit – once told me that he never met a person he couldn't learn something from. One of the lessons I learned from Anne was the blessing of contentment. Anne was satisfied with her life and her situation. She was thankful to God for her many blessings. She never took any of them for granted. She was thankful for her family – and also for her church family. Each, in its own way, brought a blessing her way.
Another lesson I learned from Anne is that just because you're older doesn't mean you can't enjoy modern technology. Anne was very different from the rest of her age group when it came to her attitude about technology. Those who know me know that I am a bit of a technology nerd and I appreciate folks who are on the same wavelength. Anne was different from the other elderly folks I have known over the years, because, into her mid-90s, she used a laptop on a regular basis. At one point, Anne's laptop was getting old. And old laptops and computers, as you well know, tend to get slower and slower as time goes by. It was past time for Anne to get a new computer. So the next time I arrived, she had a tablet computer. I did my best to show her how it worked. But it was a little too different from what she was used to. The next time I visited she had a brand-new laptop sitting on the little portable table next to her sofa. She was thrilled. She could Skype with family members and keep in touch. There were times when I had to reschedule a visit and she would send me an email. How many emails do you get from people in their mid-90s?
The Anne Oslund I knew and respected was always kind. Always thoughtful. And always appreciative – very much so – of my visits. One time I came for a visit and Anne had a question for me – a computer-related question. She said, "Pastor, I want to listen to your sermon on the church website. But I can't make the sound work." So we took a look at the settings and we figured out the problem and we got it going again. Anne was absolutely thrilled. She was one of the many faithful listeners who check in on a weekly basis to listen to our sermons here at Mount Olive. That has been a great outreach for us – a wonderful way to share God's word in this modern age – with listeners not just in our own congregation – not just in Regina, or Canada, but around the world.
I said to my wife on the morning I started preparing this sermon that I had never met a person like Anne, a person who never said a negative thing about others and never complained. I asked my wife if she had ever met a person like that. And she said she had not. But I have. Her name is Anne Ostlund. Anne had the most amazing positive attitude. She knew how to count her blessings. When our visit was over and I was about to leave, she would always give me a little envelope to take back to the church. She wanted to support our ministry.
Anne's faith was a great blessing . She knew that from personal, long-term experience as a follower of Jesus of Nazareth. When you think about it, Anne had it all – Love, and joy, and meaning, and a peace that passes all understanding. She knew all about those things and experienced them on a daily basis. Jesus was her friend. Church members were her "other family." Her faith and the support and encouragement of other Christians brought her great comfort and a strong sense of peace.
I retired from active ministry back in October last year. I said to Anne on my last visit that I would make sure that the folks at the church knew about her and would continue to visit her. And I am pleased to know that in the last while Anne had visits from both of Mount Olive's pastors and she very much appreciated their support and encouragement. Recently I heard that Anne had hurt her back. And she broke her hip. She was hospitalized, and after her hospital stay was over, she couldn't go back to her apartment. She had to be moved to a nursing home -- which is never easy for an elderly person. I asked our church secretary to pass along Anne's address when it became available. I said that I would like to drop by and visit Anne sometime. So, on the 10th of this month, I visited Anne at the nursing home she had moved to. She was frail. And weak. We chatted for a few minutes. I read Scripture – one of the Psalms – and I prayed with her. She thanked me for visiting. Not just once, but five or six times. But that's the way Anne was.
Anne believed in Christ. She believed that he had died for her sins and for her forgiveness. She believed that he would bless her in this life and would prepare a place for her in heaven someday. She had no doubt about these things. They were absolutely real to her. She was an old-school person with a modern attitude. She was older but she wasn't out of touch with what was going on around her. Imagine the changes she experienced in her 96 years. Her faith was a blessing to her in her younger years – as a wife, and a mother. Her faith went everywhere with her. That was the kind of faith that permeated every part of her life. Not as a burden, but as a major enrichment.
In more than 30 years of pastoral ministry I have met literally hundreds of people. I met lots of special people. And right up near the top of that list would be Anne Ostlund. You know, when a pastor visits someone, they do that intending to bring that individual a blessing from the Lord. And when a pastor does a visit – especially with a person like Anne – that pastor receives a blessing in return. It's a two-way blessing - given and received. My ministry was enriched by people like Anne. I am honored that I can share these thoughts with you today.
Anne was a believer from a previous generation. She lived a good life. Hers was a life well lived. And the good Lord blessed her with 96 years on this earth. But Anne was ready for the end of this life. She had a reservation for a spot in heaven. As I have said many times, and in many contexts, Anne's ticket to heaven was bought and paid for, not by herself, but by her Lord and Savior when he died on the cross for her. And she had that precious ticket ready all these years. Spiritually speaking, she had her bags packed, as it were, for the trip. She put those things away and probably didn't think about them very often. But they were there when she needed them last Sunday.
"Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master."
Anne has now heard those words. She is now with her Lord. We can take great comfort in knowing that. Anne Ostlund's life was a life well lived. A long life. A life richly blessed by the Lord. With many blessings to count. I will never forget Anne Ostlund. She was a member of this congregation. But she was also a good friend. We say goodbye to a friend this afternoon. We say to Anne, "We will see you on the other side." We commend her to the Lord's care and keeping.
Anne's faith wasn't just for people in their 90's. Its blessings are available to everyone no matter what their age or gender or ethnicity. The blessings of the Christian faith are available to everyone -- rich or poor. I have a fairly good idea what Anne would want today -- at this funeral service. She wouldn't want a lot of emphasis put on herself. She would want us to focus on her Lord. She would want us to focus on her blessings. And, most of all, she would want to know that the folks at her funeral knew the Lord and trusted him as she did. She would want to be assured that they too had their bags packed and their tickets ready for a special journey someday. May God grant it. In Jesus' name. Amen.
And now may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and your minds in this same Christ Jesus. Amen.