Archive for the ‘Psalm 130’ Category

A TRADITION THAT CONTINUES TODAY!

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

A Christian Funeral
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Rev. Brian T. Henderson, Pastor Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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A Song of Ascents. Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! 2 O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! 3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. 5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. 8 And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

Grace, Mercy and Peace to you, from God our Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Long ago, a family tradition was started in a small Wisconsin town called Wild Rose, but the one who helped start it has left us; the tradition was helping the Sorenson family find peace and confidence in God’s Word, specifically with the familiar John 3:16 passage: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”  That tradition continued on to other towns with names like Wisconsin Rapids, and Steven’s Pointe.  Oh it was a marvelous tradition of demonstrating exuberant love for God, family, church, and neighbor—the very same love that continues on through all of you who remain here still centered in God’s Word and the forgiving love of Jesus Christ.  A love, which the Sorenson children learned as their mother demonstrated it in a self-giving way; much like the description of the “Proverbs Woman” that we heard described in our Old Testament Lesson.  Yes it is quite a tradition, but the Christian woman, the loving mother who helped start that tradition has left us.   

God’s peace to you, children of Jeanette Louise Sorenson, to you Judy and Dale.  And God’s peace to you Patricia Sorenson, loving and devoted Sister-in-law.

God’s peace to all of you who are part of Jeanette’s Trinity family.  God’s peace to all the rest of you who are Jeanette’s friends, and that peace comes to all of us through the Word of the Lord.  If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings, who would stand a chance?  As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit, and that’s why you’re worshiped.” (Psalm 130:3-4 NLT)

Thank God for that! Because if God kept a record of our wrong doings, if He counted our sins, if He judged our hearts, who would stand a chance? No one would!  We would all be doomed. We cannot stand against the holy and perfect Law of God, because all of us have sinned and fallen short. No one has obeyed his conscience. But there is forgiveness through Jesus Christ. There is reconciliation to the Father, a cleansing of souls in grace, a bestowal of mercy through the death and resurrection of the Son.  Death has been put to the death. The devil has been trounced and Heaven is open, because there is forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

And so it is that Jeanette and so many others, who have gone before her can say that whatever mistakes they may have made, whatever weaknesses they may have struggled with, whatever they may have been guilty of, they have now found peace and grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  You see, it is only with our Lord that any of us—no all of us can finally find God’s undeserved kindness and love. Thank God for that! For without that, there would be no hope for any of us.

This forgiveness, won and paid for by Jesus, is complete for all of us who believe in Him. It is valid, true and its real and Jeanette knew this to be so beyond any doubt, and God wants us to know and believe in this as well.  God’s Word assures us that no matter what sins may have entrapped us in this life, eventually there will be peace and forgiveness because of what Jesus did for everyone. 

You can take great comfort today knowing that Jeanette was rescued by God’s work of forgiveness in a font much like this one, in a little church called Immanuel Lutheran Church of Grand Rapids, Wisconsin.  In 1922, when she was just an infant, Jeanette Louise Sorenson was put to death in the waters of Holy Baptism, and from those Holy waters, through the power of His Word, God raised up a new Jeanette; a person that would forever be loved and who could love Him and all of you in return.

While it is true that Jeanette was a woman loved by God and changed by His grace through Jesus Christ, she would not want you to think that she was some kind of angelic presence.  You see, like the rest of us here today, she also struggled with putting to death her old sinful nature, but it is also true that  she never forgot just what God had done for her at that font in that little church back in 1922.  How do I know this?  Because she told me so many times!  You see I am her pastor, and it was my privilege to minister to her as she courageously fought her battle with brain cancer.  Each day that I would visit her, we would always celebrate some sort of divine service.  And in each meeting, before we heard the Word of God, before we prayed or celebrated Holy Communion, we would enter together into confessions before God.    

At first, before her illness began to really debilitate her, she would recite the confession by memory.  You know it, don’t you?  “O almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and eternal punishment.”  But after a couple weeks, as the disease began to advance, it became harder for her to remember things that earlier came so naturally from her lips.  So to compensate, I used the question and answer form of our confession, and it was in these moments that Jeanette Louise Sorenson began to truly teach me just what a strong and steadfast faith and tradition she really passed down to her children.  “Jeanette, do you confess to almighty God that you are a poor, miserable sinner?”  “Well sure.  We better all admit that or we’re in big trouble.”  “Do you confess to our merciful Father that you have sinned against Him in thought, word, and deed?”  “Oh my, yes!”  “Do you believe that our Lord Jesus Christ died for you and shed His blood for you on the cross for the forgiveness of all your sins?”  “I should say so!  Can you believe it?  Isn’t that a wonderful gift!  That’s just what I’ve always taught my children!”  At this point, I would start to fight a little chuckle that was bubbling up, because I wasn’t quite use to a running dialogue during confession, but she tolerated my hesitation as I found my place in rite and continued.  “Do you believe that our Lord Jesus Christ died for you and shed His blood for you on the cross for the forgiveness of all your sins?”  “Oh sure”, she would say.  “What a mess we’ve all made of our lives.  We all have.”  “Yes Jeanette,” I would reply, “all of us have”.  “Well that’s what I always taught my children!”  “OK sister, do you pray God, for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of His beloved Son, to be gracious to you?”  “Oh my, that is exactly what I pray for every day.”  “Finally sister, do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?”  “Well of course!”  “Then let it be done for you as you believe. In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  “Amen.  Can you believe it?  Just like that.  Isn’t God’s love something pastor?”  Yes sister, it sure is!”  “Honestly” she replied, “I don’t know how some people can even live without that kind of good news!”

That was Jeanette; a faith so simple yet so strong; a faith so childlike and yet so mature.  What a wonderful question she poses to us this morning.  “Honestly, how can anyone even live without believing in that kind of good news?”  Dear friends, on this side of glory we all live in the midst of temptation and sorrow. Like King David before us, we all must learn to live with our past, but also like King David we must learn to look to the future and proclaim, “As it turns out (O Lord), forgiveness is your habit, and that’s why you’re worshiped.” We need God’s forgiveness, his undeserved kindness every day, every hour, and every minute. And without fail, God is always ready to give it. His forgiveness is constant and unchanging. He gives us all that we need for this faith. He calls us to hear His Word and receive His Holy Supper right here in this very church, and churches throughout this World, so that like Jeanette, we too may come to know His peace. 

Long ago, a tradition was started in the ancient church, through the work of God the Son alone.  And the one who started that tradition still lives with us and reigns as almighty God today; and that tradition was to announce and provide God’s peace to all of you who believe in Him.  To all of you who have come to mourn the loss of Jeanette Louise Sorenson, –your Mother, your Sister,  and your Friend: God the Father’s peace be upon you to enlighten your heart to His Word of truth about eternal life for His children–even for His beloved Jeanette. Christ’s gracious peace shine upon you to bring the light of everlasting gladness to break up the gloom of your sadness over the peace that Jeanette has now received from her Savior. The Holy Spirit of God dwell within you, that you may know the peace that He brings to you on this day and for all of your days–and even forevermore.   In Jesus’ Name. Amen.