Funeral Sermon for Madeline Sandoff / Saturday August 2nd 2014
Funeral Sermon for Madeline Sandoff / Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Luke 15
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
So [Jesus] told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbours, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
And [Jesus] said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
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. Who is the shepherd who goes after the lost sheep? Who is the woman who lights the lamp and sweeps the house looking for the lost coin? Who is the Father whose son was lost but now is found? Jesus is the Good Shepherd, Jesus is the Diligent Woman, Jesus is the Father who runs out with compassion to great his lost son. Jesus tells us these parables, these stories and in each one He tells us something about Himself, and something about us, and something about the World, and something about heaven.
The thing to know about Jesus is that He doesn't give up, He is diligent, He seeks the lost, He never gives up. The thing to know about ourselves is that no matter who we are or what the World thinks of us, we are the lost sheep, we are the lost coin, we are the lost son. Like the sheep and the coin sometimes we get lost by accident, we wander away, we fall through the cracks of life, and sometimes we are like the son who wilfully runs away. Sometimes we put ourselves in the circumstances of life in which we find ourselves and sometimes the brokenness of this fallen world puts us into our circumstances. Wherever we turn up Christ Jesus works to retrieve us. In the hymn Amazing Grace we will sing, "Amazing grace! How sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind but now I see."
Grace is unearned love. The twist in all those parables, all those stories told by Jesus is that the shepherd, the woman, the father all act out that same kind of love. They do it in an unexpected way. The temptation is to cut your losses and move on, you've got 99 good sheep take care of them, you've got 9 other silver coins count on them, you've got a hard working son who stayed back home to help you focus on him. Jesus never does this - No! He cares for all 100 sheep, He counts all 10 coins, He says to the son who stayed ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” He loves both sons.
In our world today there are many who would look at Madeline and be tempted to just cut their losses and move on; her condition, her trouble, her medical struggles tempt people to give up. Jesus would not cut His losses with Madeline, she is one of His sheep, she is one of His treasured coins, she is family to Him. He died for her that she would live and have eternal life. This grace has far reaching impact. Because of the love and grace of Christ Madeline had a patient, kind, loving group of people around her right to her last hour in this life - they were family and hospital staff and pioneer village care givers.
Now as we reflect on this it is true that our work was not always perfect as we cared for her, but in Christ Jesus there is forgiveness because His work on Madeline's behalf is perfect - ask and you shall receive. Remember that through her Jesus teaches us compassion, and patience, and kindness: Day in and day out she provided opportunity to learn, remember these lessons in the years to come.
When the lost sheep is back in the sheepfold, when the coin is safe in hand, when the son is home what does the shepherd, the woman, the father do? They celebrate. They throw a giant party. Everything is set to rights - everything is right that was wrong. In the Revelation of Saint John we see what that party will be like for Madeline, we see how it starts and what it will be like. Saint John says, "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. 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.”
And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I Am making all things new.” Also He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And He said to me, “It is done! I Am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment."
Unearned, without payment, made new, tears wiped away, no mourning, no crying, no pain, death shall be no more: Madeline reunited with John her husband and in that reunion, in Christ Jesus, all sickness and trouble, every former thing that caused grief or hardship will have "passed away." She does not pass away, in Christ, her troubles pass away.
We then are left to trust that however lost or broken we are in the eyes of the World it matters not because what matters most is how Jesus sees us. We are His redeemed and forgiven people. In grace, not because of our own works or merit, Jesus loved and loves you and me and Madeline with every step He took to the cross, with every drop of blood He shed for that forgiveness, with every breath He laboured to breath, He loved us as He rested dead in the tomb, He loved us as His nail pierced feet walked out of the same tomb that first Easter Morning and He promises us that, "Whoever believes in [Him], though [they] die, yet shall [they] live, and everyone who lives and believes in [Him] shall never die." Jesus says to you this day, “I Am the resurrection and the life." He asks, "Do you believe this?” Madeline did, and in her way she put her trust in God, and prayed the prayer Jesus taught her to pray. It was the last thing her and I did together, we prayed the Lord's prayer, I blessed her and said "I'll see you again." And when I too am with Christ and all my troubles have passed away I will see dear Madeline because like her I am the sheep, the coin, the son that was lost and now, in Christ Jesus, I'm found. 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.
 Revelation 21:1-6
 John 11:25-26