Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
Christian Funeral of Helen May Daily – October 18, 2017
Text: John 10:11-16, 27-30
Helen was a woman who was full of service. From her twenties on, she served in this congregation, working in the Ladies Aid. She loved gardening, so she helped with the flowers and bushes around the church. She helped prepare and serve meals both at church and to those she invited to her home. Best of all, she loved doing it. When I would visit her while she was homebound, she always mentioned how much she missed being at church, being involved in the activities and the fellowship, serving together with others.
With such a fervent desire to serve, it was painful to see her health ailing so much that she couldn’t be where she wanted to be, doing what she was so inspired to do. I would tell how everyone missed her and was thinking about her and praying for her. But I would also tell her that sometimes the Lord takes our ability to serve away. (In fact, this is what makes the way for new faces to be inspired by the Lord to serve!) But for Helen, it was still sad to know that time had passed, and all she wanted to do was have liberty to be at church!
Where did this spirit of serving come from? What made her so generous with her time and enlarged her heart to do what she did? It came because she knew her Good Shepherd, Jesus. Who is He? Hear Him tell it, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Of all the serving that Helen did, Jesus served first. Of all the love that she showed her family and others, her Savior loved her first. The Son of God saw the world in its need—every person—and He entered our world on Christmas to serve us. He says, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” And serve He did, completely, and to the very end.
If there would be any hope of being saved from condemnation, every person needs to be pure and holy before God. If someone asks, who deserves to be with God in heaven, you might get a lot of answers. Helen, someone might say, because of all the good that she did. Maybe great philanthropists who gave and gave to others would also make the cut in our opinion.
But what does God say about worthiness? In Psalm 15, He says, “O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart.” But God excludes every person except One in Psalm 14, “The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” If we, who are flesh and blood, are indeed to “dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” (Psalm 23:6) it must be on the merits of Jesus alone. And in Him, we have been clothed in the holiness needed to live in God’s presence.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd came seeking the lost. He found us just as we are in our sin, and He served us in this, our greatest need. Without a hint of deserving it—even before we might ask Him to—He laid down His life on our behalf; He gave everything He had for our good.
It’s this love that filled Helen with gratitude and inspired her generous service to others. Her service was not anything extraordinary by itself. Rather, it was the amazing result of being one who is redeemed by Christ the Crucified. So she simply served with the abilities with which God had gifted her, and she was happy to do it—after all her Savior had done for her and her family.
When Jesus laid down His life for Helen and all His flock, He not only served our greatest need, but He also gave us eternal hope. Jesus says about His flock, “27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” Everyone who the Lord has gathered around Himself in faith has this firm bedrock for their life.
Helen had a very slow decline of health, but even as her body withered, she drew nearer to what the Lord had won for her—eternal life. This she could confidently hold to, because as Paul says in Romans 8, “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
This hope is also what undergirds all our life, for there is one flock under one Shepherd. We’ve seen a lot of our brothers and sisters leave this life, who have served for many years. Yet the Good Shepherd is still with us, just as He is with them. We believe; they see Him face to face. The one flock spans heaven and earth, and in that we have confidence for today and whatever may come in the future. Just as the Good Shepherd was faithful to lead Helen and others we know who have fallen asleep in the faith, He will still guide us. Whatever may come in this life, whether prosperity or affliction, we will follow because He goes before us.
Commend your lives into the care of Helen’s Good Shepherd and yours! Serve Him gladly out of the great love He has shown you. He is always faithful, and always strong to comfort, restore, and strengthen His flock to follow Him. Amen.
 Matthew 20:28