Funeral of Helen M. Vorderstrasse (Luke 23:33, 39-43)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
Funeral of Helen M. Vorderstrasse + March 15, 2017
Text: Luke 23:33, 39-43

Someone told me this week, “Helen remembers everything she forgot.”  Because she has been granted rest from her labors, free from the effects of sin and death, she remembers all that vascular dementia covered over.  But, these past 4 years did not define who she was.  They were like a shroud, cast over her.
In the words of Ken, she was beautiful—the only daughter in a family of boys, a wife, a mother, a leader, a friend, a servant.  This is who she was and this is how we remember her.
She is beautiful because she is still living, no longer with us but with her Lord Jesus Christ.  She is with Him in paradise not because of how beautiful a person she was to us, but because the Lord remembered her.
42 And [the criminal] said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Helen wrote in one of her journals, “I have no recollection of anything…Lord, help me.”  The Lord answered that prayer.  He answered it by remembering what He did in the waters of Baptism on July 23, 1948 when she was baptized in this congregation.  “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 if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”[1]  She was united through faith to her Lord, so that His death was her death, and His resurrection is also hers.  And the Lord never forgot that promise and grace which was Helen’s through faith.
Through Baptism, God remembers His mercy.[2]  Yet in remembering His mercy, God also forgot: “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people…I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”[3]  In Jesus Christ, crucified, dead, and buried, God remembers His mercy and forgets all our sins.
God was faithful to Helen her whole life through.  He is faithful in His promises to you, too.  In the distractions and mess of daily life, you may have forgotten the Lord who purchased and won you on the cross and claimed you in Holy Baptism.  In forgetting what God the Father did, you might think all He can remember are your sins.  You may be ashamed that you have forgotten of God.  But He remembers His mercy and what He has done for you.  God is faithful.  God remembers His mercy for all who fear, love, and trust in Him.  He remembers the salvation He has wrought for you, the living hope, and the imperishable, unfading inheritance He has laid up for all who hope in Him.[4]  He forgets all your sins, because He has taken then from you, and nailed them to the cross.
Therefore, through Christ we are privileged to pray, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  And He surely does.  Amen.
[1] Romans 6:3-5
[2] Luke 1:72
[3] Jeremiah 31:33-34
[4] 1 Peter 1:3-9