Funeral Sermon for Lenora P. Hanna (Schmidt)

Funeral of Lenora Pauline Hanna – June 17, 2021

Text: Psalm 139:7-18, 23-24

“In the Uncertainty of This Life, God is the Solid Rock upon Whom We Stand.”

This is where Lenora was raised.  She was born May 31, 1956, but soon after born from above by God in the precious waters of Holy Baptism in this congregation (at the old church on 2nd street).  Wally and Jean raised her in the Christian faith, and nearly 14 years later, Lenora made her own confession of faith on May 17, 1970 before this altar.

When young people make this confession before the congregation and, by God’s grace, vow to remain faithful to God until death, none of us knows what the future years will bring.  This life is full of uncertainties: future plans changing drastically, grave illness for a beloved spouse, marriages broken by divorce or death, and life ending suddenly.  All this and more are the things which break our bodies and crush our spirits.  Some of them come on gradually, and others hit out of the blue.

When these tragedies come, we long for some kind of answer, some comfort in understanding why, so that we can have some glimpse of good coming out of the evil.  But more often than not, the answers don’t come, or they’re not satisfying.  That isn’t to say God isn’t able to bring good out of evil [Genesis 50:20], but in the moment, we don’t know how that can be.  Why, when things were going so well—when she loved her family, she loved her job, had plans for a big family birthday party, when she had joined her sister, Betty, in coming back to church regularly, and was even looking forward to retirement next September—was Lenora’s life cut short?  The only answers we can find leave us weeping.

But there is still certainty even in this hour.  It doesn’t come from the chance and changes of one’s life, in the choices one makes or potentially dodging hereditary disease.  That certainty is from the Lord God who says to His children: “But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.’” (Isaiah 43:1)  The Lord called her through His servant, Pastor Kratzke, as he said, “Lenora Pauline Schmidt, I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  There in the baptismal waters, Almighty God gave her a treasure that outshines anything this world can imagine: union with His Son, Jesus Christ, in His death for all her sins and sharing in His victory over death!  God the Father adopted Lenora, and gave her the privilege to be called His beloved child.

Even though we don’t have answers for why Lenora’s life was ended so soon, God has given this sign to us: Lenora died on June 10th, the very day she was baptized in the Name of the Jesus 65 years earlier.  By this, I believe, the Lord is pointing us to where we can have certainty in these times: in His sure work that forgives sins, restores peace with God, and assures us of an open heaven and the resurrection to everlasting life.

In the midst of our days and because our sin darkens our understanding, we don’t always recognize and appreciate what a gift is delivered in Baptism.  It’s far more than a sterile, ancient rite of the Church.  It wasn’t appropriated from other religions just to have something unique to do.  Baptism is a gift which the Lord Jesus gave to the world after He died for the sins of all and broke the power of death and the devil.  Baptism is the good news, the Gospel of God, delivered through water, as the Apostle Paul tells us:

“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:3-7)

God chooses to become the Heavenly Father of His children, and in that He is no slouch!  Earlier this morning, we prayed together a portion of Psalm 139, which beautifully illustrates the God who claimed Lenora in Holy Baptism.  And before I read it, I also want you to know that this isn’t just about her.  This is true for every one who believes in God’s work.  Lenora saw to it that her children were each given this very same treasure: Kenneth on April 3, 1982; Joseph on April 22, 1984; and John on December 26, 1999.

 So, listen to how intimately acquainted God, who made Himself your Father, is deeply concerned with each of His children’s lives:

7Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?

8If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

9If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

10even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

11If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,”

12even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.

13For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

14I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

15My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

16Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

17How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

18If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.

No matter how far one has strayed, how estranged one has been from God their Father, how you may have even despised your Creator and the Lord who redeemed you with His blood—as many days as you have on this earth, God never stops seeking you.  He has known you since before your parents even did, and He knows your inmost being, and your life from beginning to end.  So knowing this treasure which God the Father desires for each of you, stop neglecting it, resisting it, and going on in darkness.  On that road, the only thing that’s certain is death which leads to judgment and hell.  That would break your Father in heaven’s heart, Who has done so much that you might know everlasting life.

The All-powerful Creator of the universe is seeking you out to keep you through this life, passing through the Judgment Day, and into eternal life.  This is how He is able to call you back when you stray, strengthen you when you’re ready to fall, wipe away your tears, and raise you from your graves.  And the conscience who trusts in this Gospel can gladly say,

23Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!

24And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Thanks be to God! Amen.