Blog / Book of the Month / Funeral Sermon For Rena Galenzoski / Friday January 30th 2015

Funeral Sermon For Rena Galenzoski / Friday January 30th 2015

Funeral Sermon For Rena Galenzoski / Friday January 30th 2015

Funeral Sermon for Rena Galenzoski / January 30th 2015 / Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese

Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there will My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honour him. (John 12:20-26)

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. These Greeks wanted to see Jesus, and when Andrew and Philip came to Jesus with their request you'd think Jesus would simply have said, "sure come on over and we'll talk," but instead Jesus starts off saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." It's a farming analogy that Jesus uses. A field needs seed, a field left to its own devices will grow something, really anything that falls onto it - weeds, wild grains, trees, grasses whatever ... but it will not produce wheat unless wheat is sown into it. No seed, no harvest.  

Read completely alone this passage won't have the full impact. This all happened during Holy Week right after Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, on what we now call Palm Sunday. By Friday Jesus Himself would be dead and buried, by the following Sunday He'd be risen from the dead and He would, in His resurrection, bear much fruit. Rena, you and I and all Christians with faith in Jesus are the fruit that Jesus' death and resurrection caused to sprout and grow.

Now on Palm Sunday, before the Greeks came to Jesus seeking to see Him, Scripture tells us that there had been a crowd of people who had cheered Jesus on as He entered the city of Jerusalem and Saint John in his Gospel tell us that, "[t]he crowd that had been with [Jesus] when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised [Lazarus] from the dead continued to bear witness [about Lazarus' resurrection]. [And that] The reason why the crowd [of Palm Sunday] went to meet [Jesus] was that they heard [that] He had done this sign."[1] That Jesus had risen Lazarus from the dead. No doubt the Greeks wanted to meet the man who had recently risen someone from the dead. These Greeks, along with the disciples and the crowds that followed Jesus and all the people of Jerusalem and Israel, had no clue that Jesus Himself that very week would die at the cross and "fall" into the earth of Joseph of Arimathea's Tomb and then like a grain of wheat bear much fruit as He came forth in His resurrection.  

As Christians we trust what Saint Paul wrote in Romans when Paul said, "all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with [Jesus] by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ [Jesus] was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with [Jesus] in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with [Jesus] in a resurrection like His."[2] Because of what Jesus has done for Rena, Rena now has this promise as her own. She and you and I live in this kind of "now not yet" world of hope, trust and faith. In baptism back in 1922 Rena was given her eternal life, at that moment she was dead with Jesus on the cross and she was alive with Jesus on Easter Morning as He came up out of the tomb. With every year that she lived her life, with every year she taught school, with every year that her and Ed farmed, with every year she waited to see Ed again after his death, Rena had that "now not yet" promise of Jesus. Today we continue to trust this promise, that Rena and all Christians are dead to sin, dead to the World, dead to our own flesh and at the same time alive to Jesus, a new creation in Jesus. Today we are called to fix our eyes, yet again on Jesus, "the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."[3] The Greeks wanted to see this Jesus, Rena wanted to see this Jesus, I want to see this Jesus. We as Christians are called to look to Jesus in our times of joy and in our times grief and to trust His promises in season and out of season as the case may be.

Leading up to the crucifixion, the Greeks who wanted to see Jesus and the crowds knew about this Lazarus who Jesus had risen from the dead. Just before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead Jesus talked with one of Lazarus' sisters saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”[4] sown into the midst of these words, like grain seed, is the promise of the resurrection. As we lay Rena into her place of physical rest we remember this promise. That promise of the resurrection is for Rena and for all who believe in Jesus.

But what about right now? In the Old Testament the Bible teaches us that, "the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it."[5] Jesus puts a finer point on this making the promise we heard in our Gospel reading today when He says, “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."[6] So where is Rena, she is with Jesus who has come to take her to Himself. On the Last Day, in the resurrection of all flesh, Rena will be made new and her spirit and her resurrected Body will be reunited. On that day the final harvest will be brought into the store houses of the LORD and we Christians will all be together made perfect as Christ is perfect.[7] On that day Jesus, "will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things [will] have passed away.”[8] In her resurrected body Rena will never suffer from the old ailments of this life, from the negative effects of age, all those things will have passed away. This is hers not because she worked hard for it, it is hers because it was given to her, given to her in her faith, in her baptism, by her Lord. She continually returned to Him as she was, and He faithfully made her His. It is all a gift as we confess in the Small Catechism where it says,

"I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.[9]

On the Last Day Jesus will make Rena new in body and in spirit and in mind.   

Jesus says, "If anyone serves Me, [they] must follow Me; and where I am, there will My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honour [them]." Rena followed Jesus, and in her way, in her vocations in life, she served Jesus by diligently serving others. In forgiveness and in the Blood of Jesus, God the Father places Jesus' perfect righteousness on Rena. This honour of being baptised into Jesus, and her holding fast to it throughout her life, is key to the enduring eternal future that is hers. It was hers in 1922 as a baby girl unable to do a thing to gain it, it was hers this year, at 92 years old, as she in her age struggled in mind and body, it was hers in the prime of her life and it is hers now in her physical death where she likewise can do nothing to gain it. She now hears her Lord Jesus say to her ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’[10] With joy she received Holy Communion when I brought it to her, with faithful hands she prayed with me the Lord's Prayer at each of our visits, with a happy heart she listened to me read to her from the Holy Scriptures, and with humility she gently brushed away concerns about her health.

It was not given to her to be a complainer Rena simply trusted in Jesus and would say, "I'm OK." And she was ok, because she had Jesus, and she was ok because Jesus had her, and she is ok - better than OK - because Jesus has her now and Jesus is the Resurrection and the life, the founder and perfecter of Rena's faith, in her spirit she sees Him now, and with her resurrected eyes on the last Day she will see Jesus face to face[11] just as you and I see each other now. Today Rena, one of Jesus' grains of wheat, has fallen to the earth ... I trust that, for Jesus' sake, she will bear much fruit, be therefore encouraged by her faith and place your faith where she placed hers ... in Jesus for He is faithful and true,[12] He keeps His promises,[13] He bears His harvest home.[14] 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.

Click here to see Rena's Obituary and to send your condolences to the family


[1] John 12:17-18  

[2] Romans 6:3-5   

[3] Hebrews 12:2

[4] John 11:25-27  

[5] Ecclesiastes 12:7  

[6] John 14:1-3

[7] In these days we look to the words of Saint Paul who himself struggled with a thorn in his flesh; Paul pleaded three times for it to be removed from him and the answer Paul received from the Lord was, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) and yet it will not always be so, for the final perfecting of the Christian is coming in the resurrection of all flesh.

[8] Revelation 21:4

[9] Luther's Small Catechism, Concordia Publishing House 2008, pg 17.

[10] Matthew 25:21

[11] Job 19:23-27,  “Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!"

[12] Revelation 19:11

[13] Deuteronomy 7:9

[14] Psalm 126:6