Funeral Sermon For Wendy Heuchert / Friday January 20th - 2017
Funeral Sermon for Wendy Heuchert at Mount Olive Lutheran Church Friday January 20th - 2017 / Pastor Ted A. Giese / 1st Corinthians 13:4-8a
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. Anyone who works in the health region can tell you that a major diagnosis, a major illness can prompt a person to think about their life, their death, and for many of us our faith. Wendy had the gift of faith. The Holy Spirit gave her faith in her baptism, and all along the way the Holy Spirit kept that faith burning in Wendy's heart. Now you might have noticed that I said she "had" faith. That's a past tense way of talking, but here I do not want you to grieve the way that the world grieves, as others do who have no hope. There is good reason for why I say that she "had," faith. We hear in the book of Hebrews, in the New Testament, that, "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
After her diagnose, there were times when her eyes in faith looked past this life to the life to come, we would talk about this. Wendy looked forward to seeing her dad, John, again. Yet this was hard because she also didn't want to leave any of you. I remember one conversation when she made a comment, the kind of comment that is born up out of faith, I had just read for her from the book of Job, in the Old Testament, where Job in his suffering says, "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!" And that's when Wendy said, "I will see Jesus' face." It wasn't a question, it was more of a comment, a realization, a saying out load of something great and wondrous. I simply answered, "Yes, Absolutely!" .... "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Saint Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians, "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then" [he says] "I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." This is why I say Wendy "had" faith, because now she needs no faith, she is with Jesus, just as Jesus promised, the promise we heard in the Gospel of Saint John when Jesus said, "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." She now knows Christ Jesus fully ... just as she has been fully known by Him.
Martin Luther said, "Whoever serves the sick for the sake of God's gracious promise ... has the great assurance that [they] shall in turn be cared for. God Himself shall be [their nurse] and [their] physician, too. What a [nurse] He is! What a physician!" While men and women who serve as nurses, while doctors are not able to know their patients fully, as Christ Jesus knows us, they none the less care for their patients. At every level of care, and administration, within the health region workers are called to give that care. It is their vocation. The root of that care is love. Love has bundled up inside of it all the aspects needed to be a good nurse, to be a good doctor. Saint Paul describes love in this way, he says, "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." What nurse can do their work without kindness or patients, how far does an arrogant attitude or rudeness get you in the work of nurse or doctor? Is not the care of others better when we bear each other's burdens? Caring for the sick requires putting yourself second and your patient first. To do this we must beat back the temptation to be irritable or resentful, all manner of things must be endured. In all of this Wendy was an overachiever, in fact when I would visit her she was just as interested in my wellbeing as I was in hers. Each visit would include a conversation about how I was doing when she was the one going through cancer treatments and not I. I appreciated this, her care for me, as I'm sure you did too when you visited with her over this past year.
Regardless of how exemplary a person is when it comes to the love and care of others, we in our weakness are not able to love without fault. Yes we falter and we hurt the ones we love the most, we fail in saying everything in the kindest ways. We need the care of Christ for us. That famous passage from 1 Corinthians 13, which you just heard, which we regularly hear read at weddings, which is for us in our lives together, which fits so well with the work of nurses and doctors, was not originally written for weddings. As Saint Paul writes it there is only one person who is capable of loving without fault and it is Jesus. We confess that Jesus is God and as Scripture likewise teaches, "God is love" Jesus is full of patience and kindness for you, He overflows with faithfulness towards you, He is the merciful one whose care is eternal, whose love for you never ends.
Wendy needed Jesus, as we all do and in this last year the intensity of her gift of faith burned bright. Jesus said in the Gospel of Saint Luke, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick [do]." We all need healing for our bodies, the final healing of which comes in the Resurrection on The Last Day, and we all need healing for our heart, for our soul, for our mind: We need this care in small and in big ways, whether the need feels great or small, we need it all the same. Jesus brings that healing, that care, to us even in our grief. Knowing and trusting this helped Wendy to continue to care for all of us right up to her last days.
Caring for the wellbeing of her mother Eleanor, Wendy, encouraged Eleanor to find comfort in this congregational community, in this church, in this her family of faith, where Jesus' voice is heard through His word, where He comes to physically be present in Holy Communion with His body and blood for the strengthening and perseverance of our faith unto life everlasting, where Jesus brings His forgiveness, and Life. This advice of Wendy's for her mother Eleanor, advice rooted in the love of Jesus, is good advice for us all. This love of God, this love we know in Christ Jesus, was first "made manifest among us, [when] God [the Father] sent His only Son [Jesus] into the world, so that we might live through Him." And it continues to be manifest, here in this place. Be encouraged in your faith, this faith that Wendy was baptized into, which she confirmed for herself, which quietly informed the work she accomplished in her career, which she showed to you in love, is not just for her but for you also. It has its source in Christ Jesus and as Saint John says, "if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." Today as we remember Wendy, we celebrate a life lived in the shadow of the love of Christ Jesus, sheltered in His mercy, so that Wendy could show that same mercy to others, even as she received it for herself.
In this life it seems like the work of nurses and doctors and health care professional is never done. But there is a Day coming, The Last Day and on That Day Jesus says, “Behold, I am making all things new.” On That Day the Book of Revelation says, "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Yes, Wendy's Cancer has passed away, along with everything that came with it, but in Christ Jesus Wendy does not pass away, her life is now hidden away in Christ and will be revealed on That Day, The Last Day. Until That Day, until that day comes love, love each other, love those who have been entrusted to your care, whether you are a nurse or not. And remember the love Christ Jesus has for you. Today, the Holy Spirit, by the gift of faith that He gives you, provides you with assurance that you will, in Christ Jesus, see Wendy again, along with all those who have gone on ahead with their faith in Jesus; and you can trust this with confidence, by faith, just as you can likewise trust, as Wendy did, that you will see Jesus face to face. The face that brings you peace, perfect healing and eternal joy. 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.
 1 Thessalonians 4:13
 Hebrews 11:1
 Job 19:25-27
 1 Corinthians 13:12
 John 14:2-3
 Luther's Works, American Edition, Volume 43, Devotional Writings II, Concordia Publishing House 1968, pg. 129.
 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
 Galatians 6:2
 1 John 4:8
 Luke 5:31
 1 John 4:9
 1 John 4:11
 Revelation 21:5
 Revelation 21:4