Monday, May 23, 2011

Linda Schoeffler Funeral

Sermon on John 10:11-15, 27-30
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
May 23, 2011 (Funeral of Linda Schoeffler)

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” With these words our Lord tells us who it is that He is looking out for. He isn’t looking out for “number one,” as so many in today’s society are. He’s looking out for His sheep. He is giving His life, not for Himself, but for others. This is in direct contrast to so many in today’s world, who are mostly concerned with, “number one,” namely themselves. Of course, this selfishness is not really anything new in contemporary society. Jesus describes just such a person in the Gospel lesson when he talks about the “hireling” who flees when danger threatens the sheep. Fortunately, Jesus is not like that. He is the Good Shepherd who goes even so far as to lay down His own life so that the sheep might be saved.

From what has been told me by Linda’s family, she was a person who tried during her life to follow our Lord’s example in this. She was constantly giving of herself to serve others. But that’s not what saved her. As are we all, Linda was born of parents who were by nature sinful and unclean, as we all must confess to God that we are, and her good works, her works of service to her neighbors could not undo that basic fact. Linda’s selfless service to her neighbors was not what has now caused her to be blessed forever in our Lord’s presence.

If it wasn’t her selflessness and service to others which has gotten her into heaven, then what was it? The answer is in the first verse of the Gospel lesson. It wasn’t Linda’s selflessness and service in others’ behalf that earned her eternal salvation; it was Christ’s selflessness and service to her and to all mankind that has caused her to be blessed in Christ’s presence forever. As noble and sacrificial as Linda’s life of service was, Christ’s sacrifice on her behalf was infinitely greater. He gave His very life so that she could be saved. He rescued her from the jaws of sin, death, and the devil and delivered her into the hands of His father, by dying on the cross for her sake. His entire life became hers through Holy Baptism. And all of her sins, and all of the sins of the whole world, became His to pay for through His suffering and death. I don’t think we can imagine how unselfish, how absolutely contrary to all the selfishness that we all display every day, this is. Nothing that Christ did throughout His entire life applied to Himself. It was all for us. Even His death was not for Himself. It was for us. Nothing Linda did in her life, and nothing any of us do in our lives, can even begin to compare to what Christ did so that we might be saved.

And not only does the Good Shepherd lay down His life for the sheep, He also cares for them and guards them and watches over them during the course of their lives. Through the Word and Sacraments He feeds His sheep so that they can grow up into the full stature of those who have inherited eternal life. Even though we pass through the valley of the shadow of death, the Good Shepherd comforts us with His Word and His presence.

The psalm which we prayed together at the beginning of this service, Psalm 23, speaks of this care and protection which our Good Shepherd gives us throughout our lives. As most of you know, Linda had cancer three years ago. She thought they had gotten all of it, but cancer is almost impossible to get 100% (it’s kind of an illustration of original sin itself in that way). She spent the last few months of her life in a nursing home, knowing it was unlikely that the cancer that had quietly grown in her spinal column for the last three years would be able to be removed. She knew death was coming. She lived in the valley of its shadow, especially these last few months. But her Good Shepherd was with her. His rod and His staff comforted her even in the midst of the suffering she endured. Now, after this most recent cancer was diagnosed, I didn’t know she had moved to the nursing home in Union Grove. I had tried to call her at her apartment several times but never heard back from her. But the Missouri Synod pastor out there, Pastor James Keuch, found out she was from Holy Cross and was visiting her often (he didn’t contact me because he didn’t know I was helping out here). Finally, only a few weeks ago, I found out where she was and went to go see her and bring her Holy Communion, and I talked with her about what she was going through. It happened to be mother’s day, and even though she was never married and had no children of her own I wished her a “happy aunt’s day.” She knew where she was going, not just to death but to what our Good Shepherd has won for us by laying down His life. She knew she had eternity with that Good Shepherd in store for her. Despite what she suffered, goodness and mercy has followed Hazel all the days of her life. What we celebrate today is that she now dwells in the house of the Lord forever. Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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