Lottie Leibel Funeral Sermon - Psalm 23 & Philippians 4:10–14 Nov 12th 2018 / Contentment in Christ Jesus
Funeral Sermon for Lottie Leibel at the Regina Memorial Gardens / Pr. Ted A. Giese from Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Monday November 12th 2018: Season of Pentecost / Psalm 23 & Philippians 4:10–14 "Contentment in Christ Jesus"
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for His name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
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. Psalm 23 is a Psalm of contentment. And contentment is one of the largest struggles that people have today in our modern North American Culture. We are prone to believe that happiness comes in the things we have or the things we can do. We have so many luxuries that quality becomes the panicle achievement both in our possessions and in our physical being, in our body, in our appearances; in fact we often hold dear what others think of our appearance so much so that we watch our personal statistics like a hawk, we strive to be better and better and when we fail to achieve what the World demands we feel guilty, we feel failure and sometimes we mask it to others and even to ourselves. We work at all this in a very independent way because the individual is more often than not prized over the team, over community, over even family, over the help of others which brings us finally back to Psalm 23.
Psalm 23 is a Psalm written by a king, King David, who turns his eyes to God and shows his acceptance of, and his appreciation for, the care and help that he receives from the Lord and his personal contentment in God. As a young man David had been a shepherd, he had cared for sheep and now even as a King, David, lead by the Holy Spirit, was inspired to see that he was cared for by God in a similar way to how he himself had cared for the sheep in his pasture many years earlier and David having reached the top of the heap didn’t resent this, no David was content with this. “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Perhaps you know where I’m going with this.
Lottie had ALS and over the last 10 years she needed more and more care, this had a tremendous impact on her and her family and those who provided her that care and some people might imagine that if they themselves were placed in a position where they lost all their muscle strength and their ability to care for the most basic needs in life that they would become bitter and angry, discontented with their life. This was not so for Lottie. She took it all in stride and only grew in contentment and trust.
ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease after the Major League Baseball first baseman that played his entire professional career for the New York Yankees. He was a high profile individual for whom his livelihood had depended on his muscles and coordination, his physical athleticism, now Lottie was no professional athlete but she had raised children and put in the physical work of doing so. ALS doesn’t much care if you are Lou Gehrig or Lottie Leibel so a person’s faith, their attitude their personal approach to life will make all the difference in the world. Their ability to see the care and compassion of the Lord worked out through the hands of caregivers will make all the difference in the world. When a person has faith like this, when they have trust like this, when they have contentment like this, in the care of the Lord, then they can even joke and smile and enjoy life whatever the circumstance.
This is not found only in Psalm 23, in his letter to the Christians in Philippi Saint Paul wrote, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.” Saint Paul wrote those words to his fellow Christians there from a prison cell which is no green pasture, where there would have been no still waters yet he like King David knew and understood contentment. As ALS damages and deteriorates the nervous system of the body the person with ALS in a way becomes a prisoner in their own body yet for Lottie she had all the contentment that Saint Paul expresses in his letter to the Philippian Christians.
“I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” This Him who strengthens me is Christ Jesus the Good Shepherd, the Lord, and it is this Jesus in whom Lottie placed her faith and trust. In her long walk through the valley of the shadow of death Lottie knew that Jesus was with her. She received His grace and comfort; she came to Him just as she was and He made her cup overflow even in the midst of her trouble giving her the strength of spirit she needed for the trial she endured. Saint Paul also says to the Philippians, “Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble,” this is key because Lottie was never alone in her trouble, the Lord provided her company, and help and care along the way and all of those who were with her in that capacity shared in her trouble. How does the saying go, “A burden shared is a burden halved.” Elsewhere Saint Paul writes, “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” and what is the law of Christ Jesus? Jesus says, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” And Jesus continues to say, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down His life for His friends,” and who is this someone? It is Jesus Himself: Jesus then concludes by saying, “You are My friends if you do what I command you,” which is to love each other. Lottie appreciated the time and effort, and love of all who cared for her and in her contentment she displayed a kind of dignity that the World doesn’t quickly understand the dignity and peace that one who accepts and gladly receives care displays. All of this was a gift she received in Christ Jesus.
Jesus understood suffering, He understood the shadow of death, He carried His cross through it to the place of His Crucifixion at Golgotha outside the walls of Jerusalem on that first Good Friday, and in His physical weakness he took the help of another to carry His cross, one who kindly shared in Jesus’ trouble, we are told in the Gospel of Saint Luke that as the Roman Soldiers led Jesus away to His Crucifixion, “they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed [Jesus and this Simon] a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for [the death they knew Jesus was about to experience].”
Whether you have been blessed with much in life or whether you have been blessed with little, whether you have suffered loss along the way, in whatever and in any and every circumstance, whether brought low or lifted up you can have the same contentment that King David, that Saint Paul, that Lottie knew and relied on in Christ Jesus. You may suffer grief; you may suffer even in the midst of great success, but you as a Christian do not suffer alone, Christ Jesus suffers with you and has suffered for you. Remember you baptism into Jesus and remember the promises you have in your baptism, Saint Paul says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into [Jesus’] 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 [this same Jesus] in a resurrection like His. We know that our old self was crucified with [Jesus] in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. “For [Saint Paul says] one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ [Jesus], we believe that we will also live with Him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death [Jesus] died He died to sin, once for all, but the life [Christ Jesus] lives He lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
With these words and with many other promises from Scripture I can confidently say to you today the Lottie rests safe in secure in the hands of Christ Jesus, in whom she placed her trust, in whom she had her contentment even in the midst of her trouble and as King David says this very same Lord and Shepherd prepared a table for Lottie, and graciously and lovingly followed her all the days of her life with goodness and mercy. David confidently ends his Psalm, his prayer saying, “I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” And what did we hear Jesus says in the Gospel of John this afternoon … “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.” These promises and not for Lottie only they are for you and for your children. Life with Jesus is paradise and on The Last Day Lottie will receive in full her resurrection in which she will never struggle the effects of ALS ever again.
In the mean time, do you want to “learn the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need?” Consider Lottie’s life, look at the outcome of her life and remember that she had her eyes focused on Jesus “the founder and perfecter of [her faith, of your faith, of] our faith.” Therefore dear brothers and sisters in Christ no matter what circumstance you might find yourself in remember to “Rejoice in the Lord always; … [and] let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;” and as Saint Paul says, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 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.
 Philippians 4:10–14
 Galatians 6:2
 Luke 23:26–27
 Romans 6:3–6
 Romans 6:7–11
 John 14:1–3
 Hebrews 12:2
 Philippians 4:4–7