Blog / Book of the Month / Sylvia Walter Funeral Sermon – Matthew 23:37–39 June 9th 2023 / Gathered Together

Sylvia Walter Funeral Sermon – Matthew 23:37–39 June 9th 2023 / Gathered Together

Sylvia Walter Funeral Sermon – Matthew 23:37–39 June 9th 2023 / Gathered Together

Sylvia Walter funeral Sermon - Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Friday June 9th 2023: Season of Pentecost / Matthew 23:37–39 "Gathered Together"

[Jesus said,] “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name 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 and family of Sylvia Walter. Jesus’ time in Jerusalem is almost over, it’s Tuesday of Holy Week and He’d been teaching in the Temple that day with some eagerly listening and others challenging everything He was teaching, so as He wraps up for the day Jesus says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” The end of the week would see Jesus’ Good Friday death upon the cross and His burial in the Tomb and the first day of the next week would see His Easter Sunday Morning Resurrection from the dead. The day Jesus says the words of our Gospel reading today He knows His death is coming, and that it was coming at the hand of ungrateful people who could not see the true nature of what He was about to sacrifice for them, and what that sacrifice would win for them and for all people. Prophetically looking forward to Jesus’ death the Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote about the promised Saviour Jesus saying how “He was despised and rejected by men, [how Jesus was]   a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and [how] as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we [Isaiah says] esteemed Him not.”[1] When Jesus had entered Jerusalem at the beginning of that week there had been a crowd of excited people lining His way greeting Him with palm branches crying out, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”[2] Hosanna means “please save us now!” but alas not all of the people of Jerusalem desired to be saved, so again listen to these words of Jesus “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

Sylvia kept chickens on the small family farm and sold the eggs this was one of the ways that she made ends meet and took care of her family especially after her husband Lawrence died. Her diligence in her work with the chickens and the garden and all the rest of her labour was recognized by her family as part of her loving care for them. She herself was very much like the mother hen that Jesus speaks of happy and willing to gather you together under her wings as best as she was able. And when you have chickens and live around them and observe their habits the purpose of the hen gathering her chicks under her wings becomes apparent. It’s not to give them warm hugs; it’s to save them from predators, from danger, from harm. Whether that’s to protect the chicks from weasels, hawks or eagles the hen puts their life on the line for the chicks.

This is what Jesus was doing during Holy Week, and while some of the “chicks” of Jerusalem couldn’t see it at the time this is what He was doing as He went to the cross of His crucifixion. As Jesus was nailed there to the old rugged cross with His arms outstretched He made a place for you and me and for Sylvia under His “wings.” A place where we are gathered together and protected from the weasels, hawks or eagles, protected from the predators of Sin, Death, the Devil and the World, even from ourselves. Jesus sacrificed His life to protect you from these enemies and give you life in the face of those who want to see you dead. The Christian who understands this has the potential to become one willing to make sacrifices for others. Sylvia for her part understood the necessity of being a mother hen willing to make sacrifices for her chicks, and this love for you is rooted first and foremost in Jesus’ love for Sylvia. Dear ones Saint John, one of Jesus’ disciples who literally stood under the outstretched arms of Jesus at the cross of Good Friday as a witness to the fulfilment of Jesus’ words from our Gospel today says how for the Christian, “We love because [Jesus] first loved us.”[3] Learn from Jesus and stretch out your arms to gather your chicks under your wings as Christ Jesus gathers you under His. Unlike Jesus we are not perfect at this, neither was Sylvia, yet we like her are called to stretch out our arms in love each day.

While it is true that Jesus died doing this for us and we are gathered here today to lay Sylvia to rest in Jesus, it is also true that Jesus did not stay dead, on that first Easter Sunday three days after His crucifixion and death Jesus was risen from the dead and because Sylvia is baptised into this same Jesus and her faith was in Him this means that Sylvia has the promise of resurrection and eternal life in Jesus. Saint Paul teaches this in His letter to the Christians of Roman saying, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For [Saint Paul says] if we have been united with [Jesus] in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with [Jesus] in a resurrection like His.”[4]

Learn from Jesus, don’t worry what the World thinks of you as you care for those around you, and be willing to sacrifice yourself for others. Have your faith in Jesus, rest under His outstretched arms at His cross trusting that you are also held in His risen and ascended hand safe and secure. On a day like today we can be thankful for all that the Lord has accomplished through Sylvia and we can take a moment to contemplate what the Lord may be accomplishing through us, what the Lord Jesus may yet accomplish through us. If you have yet to be baptised into Christ Jesus, if you are not yet one nestled beneath His “wings” talk to me, talk to me today, or if not today come find me in the days to come: in the Book of Acts following Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and His ascension into heaven His disciple Saint Peter said to a crowd of folks who were not yet believers, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise [of Christ Jesus and His Salvation] is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.”[5] The mother hen calls her chicks to herself to nestle under her protective wings, today listen carefully as Jesus calls you to Himself. Don’t worry what the World thinks of Jesus, what do you think of Him? Think about what Sylvia thought of Him. By the grace of God she’s gathered there beneath His “wings,” you be gathered there too. 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] Isaiah 53:3
[2] Matthew 21:9
[3] 1 John 4:19
[4] Romans 6:3–5
[5] Acts 2:38–39

Photo Credit: main photo provided by family and Mount Olive; detail of chick with mother hen from pexels; detail of chicks under mother hen's wings from pixabay; detail of stained glass window of Jesus on Good Friday at His crucifixion from pexels; and Jesus' resurrection illustration Easter Sunday Morning from pixabay