Anne Thurm Funeral Sermon - Psalm 139:1-18 December 29th 2020 / Awake My Friend, Life Awaits You
Funeral Sermon for Anne Thurm Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Tuesday December 29th 2020: Season of Christmas / Psalm 139:1–18 "Awake My Friend, Life Awaits You."
O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
Where shall I go from Your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there Your hand shall lead me,
and Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to You;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with You.
For You formed my inward parts;
You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are Your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in Your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with You.
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, “we do not want you to be uninformed … about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep.” St. Paul says this to us in 1 Thessalonians, elsewhere in 1 Corinthians Paul provides this encouragement, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Death comes to us all, but in Christ that death is fleeting, the body sleeps, the soul lives with Christ, it is promised to us because of His victory over death that we will wake up from the end of this World as one who wakes from sleep, from a dream.
The end of the passage from Psalm 139 that we heard earlier concludes with these words, “How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with You.” These could be Ann’s own words. Jesus was very precious to Anne, she counted Him as her friend. And when we were planning things for today Faye and Craik talked about how Anne went to sleep in death and woke to her eternal life in Christ Jesus to celebrate Christmas, in that blessed place, surrounded by her friends and family that had gone on ahead of her with their faith in Jesus.
This is particularly poignant because, in the last years of Anne’s life, her dementia had advanced to the point where she didn’t really recognize everyone or remember much of, or understand much of, what was going on around her. So the words, “I awake, and I am still with You,” are a great comfort and paint a picture of what she experienced when Jesus called her to Himself on the day of her death “I awake from the trials and struggles of my life, and I am still with You my dearest friend Jesus.” A picture of the God who knows her, as the Psalm says, the God who formed her, and knitted her together in her mother Minnie’s womb, who knew when she sat down and when she stood up, who knew her thoughts and had searched her heart; that this friend Jesus was the one who took her to Himself and in so doing woke her up as one who is woke up from a dream, the fog of dementia fading like the memory of a dream at day break. In Christ Jesus she left a world of strangers and went to spend Christmas with her loved ones who went before her.
It was King David in the Old Testament that penned Psalm 139, and yet it is true for all of us, and we Christians can even more so say that it is true for us because in Christ, through Baptism, we have this relationship with God that is full of grace and mercy, these words then are for you, however your life might be, and they most certainly are for Anne. Even in the hardest times of dementia this Psalm reminds us that the LORD knew everything about her, Jesus knew who she was and cared for her even when Anne did not fully know herself: As the Psalm says, “In Your book [O LORD] were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” From before she was born, through her whole life, in these last years, on the day of her death Jesus knew her and cared for her no matter what came her way; again this is true for you: you might feel like God is far off, in the midst of your work, in the daily grind of life yet Jesus is not far from you and He knows you better than you know yourself.
Jesus who in the Gospel reading today tells Lazarus’ sister that He is the Resurrection and the Life also says in the Gospel of John, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends,” Jesus says this as He teaches them that they, and we, are to love one another as He has loved them, as He loves us. Here Jesus points to His cross and passion, His Crucifixion for our sins and for victory over death and the grave, and yet Jesus also commands us to embrace the work of sacrificing for each other when the need is great today. Shirley, Faye, Marlene, over the years Anne made many sacrifices in her life to care for you and for you all, both directly and indirectly and in her last years you were given opportunities to care for her in her time of great need, as you were able, in your own ways. Some will say that her quality of life was not very good however I want you to consider something important: caring for her, the opportunity to be patient and kind, to show love to Anne increased the quality, not only of her life but of your life too because the lessons learned in caring for Anne spill over into your care of others.
When we think of quality and value in life we need to take a step back and see the big picture. Her time at the Royal Oaks Care Home provided gainful employment to the staff there which then provided for their families needs. Anne was giving this to them with her presence there. Even Anne’s husband Albert’s service in the military, after his death, provided an opportunity for people to come and shovel the snow at their house on Hamilton Street when Anne was still living there. It may seem like a small thing but the honour shown to Albert for his service spilled over to his widow. When she couldn’t drive anymore she provided an opportunity for people to pick her up and drive her to the places she needed to go, like Church, and when she couldn’t come to Church anymore she provided opportunities for Pastors and Elders to bring her Holy Communion and the comfort of God’s Word and prayer. These are but a couple examples. When someone needs help they need a friend, they need people who will make sacrifices for their benefit. And when it comes to our Salvation from sin, death, the devil, the World and even from ourselves the only friend who can truly do this thing for us, the only one who truly sees our deepest needs and reaches out His hand, the only one who truly knows us well enough to care so much is Jesus. Jesus bears all our sins and griefs, He shoulders all our needs and cares, and knows our every sorrow and every joy and happiness. This is the friend we have in Jesus. This is the friend Anne has in Jesus, the one who laid down His life for her life and for yours. His love now spills over onto all of you through Anne and I pray it continues to spill over from you to those around you, that in this love you would know your friend Jesus the way she knew Him and that others would likewise learn to know Him through you. “You are my friends’ Jesus says, “If you do what I command you.” And what He commands us to do is to love one another, to be a true friend to everyone. Where we fail at this Jesus stands ready with His forgiveness.
The night before Jesus’ crucifixion, the night before His own death to conquer death, Jesus said to His disciples and He says to you, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. 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.” As Jesus reaches out His nail pierced hand full of forgiveness, grace, mercy and love to wake Anne up from her slumber she will open her eyes and say, “Everything is beautiful,” and so it is. And so it is.
“We do not want you to be uninformed [dearest brothers and sisters in Christ] about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep.”
We now with the Psalmist look forward to the day when we can say to our friend Jesus, “I awake, and I am still with You.” 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 4:13–14
 1 Corinthians 15:19–20
 John 11:25
 John 15:12–13
 John 14:1–3
Photo Credits: Blue Bed by Greg Rivers from Unsplash; Sleeper Fast Asleep by Maeghan Smulders from Unsplash; Hands with Bible by Kelly Sikkema from Unsplash; Christ Crucified Pixabay from Pexels; Beautiful Bridge by Martin Damboldt from Pexels.