Marlene Elizabeth Leir Funeral Sermon – Ephesians 3:14–21 January 25th 2024 / Jesus, Family and Faith
Marlene Elizabeth Leir Funeral Sermon -Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Thursday January 25th 2024: Season of Epiphany / Ephesians 3:14–21 "Jesus, Family and Faith"
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
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 and family of Marlene Leir, Saint Paul in our Epistle Reading from Ephesians says, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,” for what reason? Well in the passage just before that part Paul says that he was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace “to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known.” Wrapped up in this Epistle reading from Ephesians are three things 1) the active providence of God, 2) the gift of family and 3) the gift of Christian faith. These three things were of high value to Marlene.
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,” we heard how Marlene was not one to miss church; after her confirmation of baptism she regularly bowed her knees before God the Father at the Communion rail to receive the gift of forgiveness and life in His Son Jesus’ body and blood in Holy Communion. And she and Don, her late husband, over the years counted the members of their congregation at Mount Olive here as their church family, brothers and sisters in Christ, children of their heavenly Father. For this reason she would be happy to see you all together today gathered around God’s Word for comfort as you remember the gifts God the Father generously poured out on her life over the years.
In the Small Catechism we believe teach and confess that God the Father is the one who "provides [us] with all that [we] need to support this body and life" and that "He does [this] only out of Fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in [us]." He gives different gifts to different people as His providence and will directs, everything from our “body and soul, eyes, ears, and all [our] members, [our] reason and all [our] senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives [us] clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all [we] have.” For some He gives nine children, for some He gives no children, for some He gives a wife or husband for some He does not. Even still God the Father provides family, so while Marlene was provided with Don and Don was provided with Marlene God provided them with no children of their own, yet they were never without family. God the Father “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,” made sure that Marlene was not without family in her natural family and in Don’s natural family, within her community and within her church among her fellow Christians, in fact she would count you all as family even those who didn’t know her as well as you’d liked to have. That is what Marlene was like as you well know: generous and caring toward you because the LORD had been generous and caring toward her in Christ Jesus. “We love because [the LORD] first loved us.”
Yes Marlene was happy to make sacrifices for her family because of the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus, the Son of God, made for her. This gets us back to both the providence of God and the reason someone would bow their knees to God the Father in the first place. I’d mentioned that Saint Paul had said that he was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace in order “to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known;” we are an extension of that here at Mount Olive and “the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God,” is the long promised coming of Jesus whose birth we celebrated at Christmas and who’s divinity was made know in His public ministry. A plan and revelation that included Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice in your place at His Good Friday Cross for your sins, and for all of the times we’ve all failed both God and each other with our thoughts, words and deeds. A plan and revelation that was made crystal clear in His resurrection from the dead on that first Easter Sunday morning. “Rooted and grounded in [this] love” of God towards her, in Christ Jesus, Marlene has then been granted spiritual strength with power through His Spirit in her inner being. I witnessed this in these last days as it began to setting in that her time to depart was at hand. The last day I spent with her where she was still able to converse and speak we talked about today and she picked her funeral hymns, we shared in Holy Communion and talked about how she would soon be with Jesus on the other side of the cup and that while it was bitter sweet, because she didn’t want to leave all of you, she was also looking forward to seeing Don again and the rest of her family who’d departed this life with their faith in Christ Jesus.
When death looms right in from of you, what do you have but the faith you’ve been given by God; she’d said a number of times “I don’t know how people go through this without their faith,” so what Saint Paul says in Ephesians about the blessing of the Father “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, [in order] that you may be filled with all the fullness of God,” was something that I saw in her, especially at the end. Marlene went to her rest as one “filled with all the fullness of God” in Christ Jesus.
Dear ones, you may be saying to yourself, ‘I want this, I want this faith of which you speak. How do I get this for myself,’ like I said it’s a gift … so then you might ask, ‘how is this gift given?’ You are receiving it right now. Saint Paul teaches, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Hold fast to what the LORD is putting in your hands today, Hold fast to what the Holy Spirit is implanting in your heart today, this is not only for Marlene it’s for you. And where it has already been planted remember it is the work of the Holy Spirit to cultivate, and prune and bring forth the fruits desired by God the Father in you. Listen, Scripture calls out to you saying, “Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;” His love in Marlene’s life abounded; He was ever steadfast and faithful to her. Jesus shows her and you steadfast love in the face of adversity, suffering and death and in His resurrected life Jesus provides grace and mercy in our sufferings. And He promises in our Gospel from today to be “with you always, to the end of the age.”
The thing to remember here is that Jesus is with you today and tomorrow and always until your last day and beyond into eternal life: which means He is with you today in your grief and He is with you in your times of joy and happiness, He is with you as you gather together as a family and as we gather together as the family of the church baptised into Him. He promises to be with you at the moment of your death, just as He was with Marlene at the moment of Marlene’s death. As I said in Don’s funeral sermon I will say again here today, in Christ you are never alone because Jesus promises to be with you always. This was His plan for Marlene, and for you who are listening to this today … this is His plan for you. You may feel like it’s been hidden for ages in your life, yet today you can say that the Holy Spirit has assembled you here to bring this plan of God the Father’s love in Christ Jesus to light for you. It would please Marlene to no end that you have heard this Good News of Jesus for yourself and that you believe this and that this faith implanted in your heart was made stronger today. “To [God the Father] be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.” 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.
 Ephesians 3:9–10a
 The First Article of the Creed, God the Father, Luther’s Small Catechism, Concordia Publishing House 2017, Page 16.
 1 John 4:19
 Romans 10:17
 Joel 2:13a
 Matthew 28:20b