Ruby Wolfe Funeral Sermon / January 29, 2014 / Psalm 46
My message this afternoon is based on these words from Psalm 46 – one of Ruby’s favorite Psalms. The Psalmist says:
1 God is our refuge and strength –
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear,
though the earth give way,
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
7 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
(New International Version)
At a funeral, we gather to remember a friend or loved one who has passed away. At a funeral, we gather to worship and praise God for His goodness and grace. A Christian funeral is a time of quiet contemplation. Christian people know that God’s word has the power to overcome despair. Our faith brings hope. At a funeral, as we are doing this afternoon, we turn to God's word for guidance and advice.
God's people remember what He has done for them. Experience has taught God’s people that He is a refuge in difficult times. God brings stability into the chaos of our lives. God’s word calms the uproar. It brings us peace. God’s blessing enabled Ruby Wolfe to live an abundant life, full of God’s blessings. Like all of us, Ruby Wolfe experienced her share of difficulties. But God was her refuge and strength. His presence accompanied her. His presence enriched her life in many ways.
In Psalm 46, the Psalm writer says that God is a “hiding place” for his people. He provides shelter and protection. He protects his people from their enemies. Psalm 46 compares God to a fortress. He is a fortified castle – a place in which his people gather in safety. It was this Psalm – some 46 – that inspired Martin Luther to write his famous hymn "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." When we dwell in that fortress, by faith, as Ruby Wolfe did, God protects us from life's flaming arrows.
In this Psalm, God is described as the strength of his people. His powerful word carries out his will in the lives of his people. He strengthens his people through His Word and through the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. As the beloved children’s hymn says “We are weak, but he is strong.”
This Psalm reminds us that God is an ever present help in times of trouble. He never takes a vacation. He's always "on call." We can communicate with him at any time through prayer. We will never get a "busy signal." According to the Psalmist, God makes wars cease. He overcomes the "wars" that sometimes rage in our hearts. He calms our anxieties. He grants us peace through his son, Jesus Christ, the Prince of peace. Christian people experience peace because they know and trust the Prince of Peace.
God makes wars cease. And he "breaks the bow." He overcomes those things that seek to destroy us. He overcomes those things that seek to separate us from him and from his love. He "shatters the spear." He "burns the shields with fire." God's people don’t look to instruments of war to save them. Instead, they trust in Him, through his Son, Jesus Christ. Christian people like Ruby Wolfe know that Jesus died on the cross to forgive their sins and to promise them eternal life. Everyone who knew Ruby knew for a fact that she trusted in the Lord. And that sincere trust enriched every single day of her life.
In the Old Testament, God ushered his people out of slavery in Egypt and brought them to the freedom of a Promised Land. In a similar way, God brings his people out of the slavery of sin, to the freedom found in His Kingdom. As the apostle Paul says: (Romans 5:8)
"While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
God’s love and grace in Jesus Christ have the power required to work an amazing transformation in the human heart. You could see that transformation very clearly in the life of Ruby Wolfe. Ruby trusted in the Lord. She took her burdens – and she definitely had her share of them – and cast them on the Lord. And he dealt with them for her. Jesus of Nazareth once said that when people seek first God's Kingdom, and his righteousness, life's priorities fall into place. Ruby took time to thank God for his many blessings. When she looked to the past, she saw evidence of his love. And when she looked to the future, she knew that God would continue to be with her. For Ruby, God's love and grace were the basis of her hope.
God’s love and grace were poured into her heart on the day of her baptism, on April 18th, 1933. She confirmed her faith in God just after she was married to Sig in 1950. And now, the Lord has taken her to be with Him in heaven. Just as God was with Ruby, He is with His people today. He dwells in the hearts of those who trust Him. And no matter what life brings, His people experience safety in His presence.
The Christian faith proclaims that the Holy Scriptures are God's powerful, life-giving, life-creating word. The Christian faith proclaims that the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, offered to his people in Holy Communion, are given for the strengthening of faith and for the forgiveness of sin. Ruby received the Lord supper often. When she wasn’t able to come to the altar at the front of the church, we would take communion to her in the pew.
Ruby Wolfe was on our "shut in list" here at Mount Olive. Pastor Ted and I visited her regularly. We prayed for her often. Like all of God’s people, Ruby was never forsaken. Her church as well as her family were her support system. Ruby was a woman of simple faith. She enjoyed life's simple pleasures. She was a true friend to many people. There was nothing ostentatious about her. She liked things down to earth, plain and simple. Ruby did things – all kinds of things – above and beyond the call of duty. The philosophy she lived by was that life wasn’t all about her. For her, real life and real living were always about others – how she could help them, care for them, and serve them.
Ruby received many gracious gifts from the Lord. Most important, of course, was the forgiveness of sins that she received from her Savior and His promise of eternal life. Two other gifts that she received from God – gifts that she used every day, were the gifts of caring and hospitality. Any time someone needed help, Ruby was there ready to do whatever needed to be done.
For Ruby, as I say, life wasn’t all about her. Ruby was a wonderful mother to her own family, but she was “mother” to others as well. That was just in her nature. Ruby was a loving person. The kind of love that she exhibited is called agape in the New Testament. It’s a sacrificial love that cares more about the other that it cares about itself. This kind of love is seen most clearly in the life, and death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Ruby’s daughters were incredibly important to her. The same was true of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Ruby loved to be involved in family activities. When I visited her condo, I noticed that she had an impressive collection of family photos posted on her fridge. It was like having a family photo album on display in her kitchen. I think it’s significant that when Ruby moved to the nursing home in Cupar five months ago, one of the first things her family did for her was to re-create that photo album in her room. There were two important families in Ruby’s life – her own family and her church family as well.
As you heard in the tribute, Ruby’s life wasn’t all good times. Ruby and Sig had to deal with hailed out crops, a serious car accident involving Sig, and several surgeries for Ruby. Sig passed away on Christmas Day 2004, after a prolonged battle with cancer. Ruby, as you would expect, was his number one caregiver. She was there every day for 13 months, caring for her husband and then later caring for her daughter Bev. Ruby never complained. It just wasn’t in her nature.
Ruby’s faith was as natural and normal to her as breathing. Her faith influenced everything she said and everything she did. Ruby had the God-given ability to say the right word at the right time. The way her family expresses it, Ruby was the kind of person anyone would want for a best friend.
I close with this. Ruby Wolfe’s life was a very clear example of the blessings and benefits that Jesus Christ bestows on believers. Her faith had a powerful impact on her life. And her life, as you can see from this gathering this afternoon, had a powerful impact on many others. I pray with all my heart that her faith would live on in her family. I pray that her faith would live on in her friends. I pray that God would remind all of us of the amazing things he has done for us in and through his Son. And I pray that this knowledge would transform our lives – now, and in the future as well. May God grant it. In Jesus' name. Amen.