Saturday, January 4, 2014

Funeral sermon for Ruth K Schutz 1.4.14

Audio Ruth K Schutz

It doesn't matter if we are fully prepared for the death of our loved one, or if it is a surprise, it's still hard. But, being here, in the church, is a good place to be. You see, here we believe that Love wins. We believe that God loves us abundantly and absolutely. We believe that in the muck and the mess of this life, in the midst of our brokenness, our strength, our fragility and fortitude, God is. We believe that God is in our midst, Jesus. And we believe that everyone matters, because every one of us is created in God's image, no matter what. 

So when we say these words, and read these stories, we believe that all of our grief, and all of our love, and all of our hope, and all of our sadness, is held, and honored, and healed. What that means is that each and every one of us is God's beloved. We know that because we experience the reality of life and all that it brings to us. We experience the joy and the suffering, we experience the happiness and the pain, we experience our own giftedness and shortcomings. We miss the mark, we are not perfect, but we are perfectly loved. When we miss the mark we ask forgiveness. Life is messy, but we know that the we are loved, and when we cannot remember that, and we do often forget, we gather together. We know the story of Jesus life, suffering, death and resurrection is true because it is the reality of our lives. 

We experience our own suffering, and deaths all the time. Loss and grief are prevalent in our lives, but so is resurrection. So is the new life that always arises out of our losses and our sadness. And that is where we put our hope today. 

God came into this world, into our midst, to show us that death does not have dominion, that the material demise of our bodies is not the ultimate story and that there is a place prepared for us 
where there is no more pain and suffering. The ultimate story is the story of resurrection and new life. 

And so today we celebrate Ruth's life. Ruth touched us all in so many ways through the things she did. Ruth's early working life was as a hairdresser. After her diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, she was active at Working Against Violence, and actively looked for peaceful solutions to this violent world we live in. Ruth has been involved at St. Andrew's forever, it seems. She was director of the altar guild for years. What that means is that she made sure that all of the things that show us that this is church were well cared for and in the right place. She and the others she lead made linens for the altar table, they washed and pressed, they cut and sewed. No matter how important all of that was, and it was important, it's still not the most important thing to me. That, is Ruth's spirit. Ruth truly lived out her baptismal promises. Ruth's life was challenging, and her response to that challenge was to be merciful and compassionate. We all know Ruth was fiesty, she stood tall in her chair and demanded respect. She always asked to be called by her name, not honey or sweety, it was about dignity. And she was quick to offer that same respect and dignity to everyone who crossed her path. Ruth listened well, and responded with wit and wisdom
And always took the opportunity to instruct young women to live fully into their womanhood and power.

All of this is to say that this is the celebration of Ruth's life, and it attests to the hope we have in the new life that is given by God through Jesus Christ. What God brings to us is change. Death is the penultimate change, resurrection is the ultimate change, and that is what we celebrate today. As we celebrate this life well lived, we are sad, and in the midst of the sadness, the good news remains. We hear scripture today full of good news. The good news is about the absolutely new life that God gives to us in Jesus. 

Our hope rests in new creation. Our hope rests in the story that the work Jesus does on the cross matters. And what Jesus does on the cross is to collect all of the pain and suffering of this world, and take it and hold it so that the stream of pain or sadness or hurt will flow no farther. 

Jesus doesn’t take away pain and sorrow. You and I both know that reality. To be human is to feel, to feel pain, to feel joy, to feel fear, to feel intimacy. Being human means being born to die, and only a God who is willing to share that can actually help us face our own mortality 
and that of those we love. 

Jesus is the reason we rejoice today. It is this truth of what God in Jesus does in life, and on the cross, and in the resurrection that we celebrate Ruth's life today. It is the truth that God lived and died as one of us, that connects us to each other, and gives us the strength and courage to love one another in our sadness and in our joy. God came to be with us, so that we may be new creations. God came to be with us, so that our pain and suffering, and joys and celebrations are made absolutely new. God came to be with us to show us that Love heals, and that Love wins.

Amen

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