Funeral Sermon / Gertrude Lauridsen / January 6th, 2016 / 2 Timothy 4:6-8 / Pastor Terry Defoe
My message this afternoon is based on these words, penned by the Apostle Paul in his second letter to Timothy in the New Testament, chapter 4. Paul says:
... the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (N.I.V.)
Grace, mercy, and peace to you, from God our father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
The Bible text that I've chosen for this afternoon was written by a man who went through a great transformation after he met Jesus of Nazareth on the road to Damascus one day. I've chosen this text because I see some interesting parallels in it when I compare it to the life experience of Gertrude Lauridsen, the one we have come here today to remember.
The Apostle Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, was a man who experienced a dramatic transformation. As a young man, Saul was a zealous, hardline, religious fanatic, willing to use violence and coercion to achieve his goals. His encounter with Jesus of Nazareth changed him into a dedicated, gracious, hard-working ambassador for the Prince of Peace. As such, he trusted God's Holy Spirit -- not threats, intimidation, or violence -- to bring about needed changes in the human heart.
The Apostle Paul was an individual who wrote a good portion of the New Testament as we know it today. He wrote several letters to individual congregations or to individuals explaining and defending the faith he preached. This one man has had an incredible impact on the Christian church worldwide and on its teachings.
The Apostle Paul travelled extensively in the world of his day, often courageously facing great opposition on the way. He was often persecuted for the message of Law and Gospel he proclaimed. Our text for today brings us Paul's own words summarizing his thoughts when death came near.
"The time for my departure is near," he said. "I have fought the good fight. I have now finished the race. I have kept the faith." The Apostle Paul was looking forward to God's richest blessings in the next life -- blessings made possible by the life, and death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the One Whom Paul had been preaching so faithfully. The Apostle Paul knew very well that the blessings he looked forward to had been provided, not just for him, but for all who trusted Jesus Christ as the Lord of their life and the one who died on a cross to rescue them from the sins that had broken their relationship with God.
The Gertrude Lauridsen that I knew, and the Gertrude that her family speaks of with love and respect, was an incredibly brave woman. She faced adversity - and she knew more than her share during her 92 years - with undaunted courage and faith. Gertrude Lauridsen was an incredibly strong woman. She endured much. She was intensely dedicated to friends and family, and especially to her husband Norman. She had the ability to endure hardship without bitterness or despair.
The Gertrude that I came to know over the last 12 years was a strong-minded lady. She was refreshingly direct in expressing her opinions. Gertrude was matter of fact -- sometimes even feisty! You never had to guess what Gertrude was thinking. But, in line with a good Christian tradition, she always spoke the truth in love. She expressed her opinions firmly, but gently, and always with respect.
The other day, Brenda and Bill reminded me that Gertrude was married to Norman for 68 1/2 years. They were never apart for long. Gertrude and Norman made a good pair. They were good for each other. Each spoke highly of their partner to others. Gertrude and her beloved Norman were in it for the long haul -- you know the words -- in sickness, and in health, for richer, for poorer, until death parted them.
Norman and Gertrude, as I say, were a good pair. The family was worried about Gertrude when dad passed, back in April of 2013. But she soldiered on. In the last few years, and especially since Norm passed away, Gertrude fought a fierce battle with dementia. She had some lucid moments, but, as time passed, there were less of them. She had to trust others to take care of her. The staff at her nursing home were outstanding. Gertrude didn't seem to worry about things. For her, amazingly, things never got too bad.
In the last few years, the places she lived in never felt like home to her. In the last few years, she always wanted to go home. Now the Lord has granted her wish. Gertrude, as I say, had a matter-of-fact personality and that matter-of-factness applied to her faith as well. She trusted Jesus as the Lord of her life and her Savior from the curse of sin. She was absolutely thrilled when Christmas carollers from Mount Olive came by to sing the songs of the Savior. Gertrude's faith in her Savior brought her hope and much joy. And, to increase the blessing, she lived out that faith with her husband Norm. They were on the same page when it came to the spiritual side of life.
Gertrude always knew that the Lord had a place reserved for her in heaven. In that sense, the Apostle Paul's words of our text this afternoon were her words as well. She might have put it this way:
"The time for my departure to heaven has come. I have fought the good fight. I have kept the faith. Now, a crown of righteousness is reserved for me, and I know that a place has been set aside for me in heaven. And I also know that the Lord's promise isn't just for me, but it is for everyone who longs to meet Him as well."
Gertude Lauridsen's life was a life well lived. She received the blessings the Lord had placed into her life. Over a long lifetime, she managed those blessings to the best of her ability. And now, she's been called to her eternal home. I pray that Gertrude's faith, her dedication to husband and family, and her loving nature, would be an inspiration to each and every one gathered here today. Our God truly is an awesome God, as the Christian chorus says. May his blessings, seen so clearly in Gertrude's life, be yours in abundance. In Jesus, our Savior's name. Amen!
And now, may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in this same Christ Jesus. Amen.