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Funeral Sermon For Audrey Joyce Neiss / Saturday May 6th - 2017

Funeral Sermon For Audrey Joyce Neiss / Saturday May 6th - 2017

Funeral Sermon for Audrey Joyce Neiss at Mount Olive Lutheran Church Saturday May 6th - 2017 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / John 14:1-7

“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. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am The Way, and The Truth, and The Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.”

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. Jesus after the Supper, on the night in which He was betrayed, before He went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray, said to His disciples; “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me” The Christian life is often prompted to prayer in times of trouble. When we walk the valley of the shadow of death we pray; when someone we love, when a family member like Auntie Audrey walks through the valley of the shadow of death we pray for them. We pray precisely because our hearts are troubled and in our prayers we receive comfort. That comfort can sweep up upon us all at once or build and build growing over time. Christian prayer whether prayed in joy or sadness, whether prayed in distress or excitement, has an object just as our faith does. We do not pray into darkness we pray to God, in the name of Christ Jesus who is the light of the world. Jesus says, “Believe in God; believe also in Me,” and Audrey did. She believed in Jesus. She knew and trusted that her Redeemer, Jesus, lives and she looked forward to seeing Him face to Face. 

When Jesus said the words of our Gospel reading today He was about to go to the garden Gethsemane to pray and the word Gethsemane means “oil press.” The garden was found amidst one of the olive orchards on the Mount of Olives facing the City of Jerusalem. In the garden there would have been a press, a mill to mash the ripened olives and bring forth the olive oil. It is no coincidence, no accident that Jesus should pick such a place to pray. In the Gospel of Luke we hear what Jesus’ prayers were like that night, Saint Luke tells us that “[Jesus] withdrew from [His disciples] about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from Me. [now Jesus was praying about His coming death by crucifixion] Nevertheless [Jesus prayed], not My will, but Yours, be done.” And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”[1] A couple years earlier when His disciples had asked Jesus to teach them how to pray He taught them to begin their prayer “Our Father Who art in Heaven, Hallowed by Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus didn’t make rules for the Christian life that He Himself was somehow above. In the garden that night He prayed to His heavenly Father, saying, “Not My will, but Yours, be done.” And after His prayers His heart was no longer troubled. Jesus the Lord of Life walked the Way to the cross and His crucifixion with an uncomplaining heart, full of trust and love for you, for me for Audrey. We see here just how powerful a thing prayer is and Audrey knew this. It was a big part of her Christian life.

Daily prayer was an important part of Auntie Audrey’s Christian life. In addition to the shared community prayers of the church on Sunday where for years she prayed with the congregation at Trinity Lutheran Church in Saskatoon and in her final years with the congregation at Mount Olive Lutheran here in Regina, in addition to all of those prayers, Auntie Audrey from Monday to Saturday would pray every day. In the book of Hebrews in the New Testament you are told to “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” Dear ones as we gather to remember Audrey and her way of life, her way of Christian life, do not forget her love of prayer, her practice of daily prayer, and who it was she prayed to, and from whom she received her comfort in prayer: Imitate this faith. Pray and in your prayers listen to the voice of Jesus when He says to you “let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.” The book of Hebrews continues to say that this, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” He is as He says He is in the Gospel of John, “The Way, and The Truth, and The Life. [He is the one who says] No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Dear ones the Book of Hebrews provides this solid advice when it says, “Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace.”[2] Listen to the voice of Jesus, the voice of your Good Shepherd, in His Holy Word, in the Bible that brings His trustworthy graceful teachings to you, where He teaches you to pray.

For some of you, you - like Audrey - have know very well the grace that God gives in the midst of prayer, but for others you may say … “I don’t know where to begin … I feel so lost. I don’t know what to say, especially when life is falling apart, when I’m faced with grief and loss.” Saint Paul teaches us that “the [Holy] Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”[3] What’s more Paul likewise in his letter to the Roman Christians teaches us that Christ Jesus Himself who is the one who died and who on the first Easter morning was raised; who is seated at the right hand of God intercedes for us to His Father:[4] Which means that Jesus keeps you in His prayers yesterday and today and forever.

It is this same risen Lord Jesus who richly supplies you for this life, who shepherds you through the valley of the shadow of death so that you need not fear, who has gone (in His life, death, resurrection, and ascension) ahead of you, and has prepared a place for you in His Father’s house in heaven so that where He is you may be also. He promises His disciples, He promises you, He promised Audrey in Her baptism that He would come and take them, take you, take her to Himself so that Audrey, you and I and all Christians will be united in this life in Him and reunited in the life which is to come in Him too. In Christ Jesus Richard and Audrey are reunited and on The Last Day, on Your Last Day, when you die with your faith in Jesus then you too will be reunited with them and with all the faithful. 

So today we live our lives, we enjoy them in Christ Jesus, we pray in season and out of season, daily whatever comes our way, trusting in Jesus. We spend time with our family, with our friends, we relax by the pool, we raise a glass of wine, we gamble a little … but we do not gamble on Jesus. He is our sure and steady salvation from all that weighs us down: The pressures of the world; sin and yes even death. So today, let not your hearts be troubled, Believe in God; believe also in Jesus and His resurrection, believe also in the Holy Spirit and trust that God the Father hears your prayers, that Jesus - His only begotten Son and the Holy Spirit – are keeping you in their prayers, just as they did for Audrey all the days of her life. And remember every day they want to hear the prayers you offer up in your Christian life. Goodness and mercy have followed Auntie Audrey all the days of her life, and now in Christ Jesus she dwells in the house of the LORD forever[5] just as Jesus promises: This promise was for her, it is for 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]Luke 22:41-44
[2] Hebrews 13:7-9
[3] Romans 8:26
[4]Romans 8:34
[5] Psalm 23:6