Saturday August 28th, 2010
In Memoriam + Milda Elisabeth D' Angelo +
Text: Psalm 121; Isaiah 25:6-9; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:11-16
Grace Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ + Amen.
When little children want you to know something belongs to them…they let you know. A scribbled name on the foot of a toy. A warm, slobbery tongue on the top of a Coke can. A proud, but not too harshly spoken, "Mine!"
Milda was no different. If you were friend or family of Milda you knew it. She wouldn't let you forget how much she loved you. She may not have scribbled her name on your foot, but she wouldn't forget to send a card on your birthday or just to say hello and God Bless. She may not have slobbered on your forehead to claim you, but she wouldn't let you leave without a warm hug and friendly kiss. Yes, Milda loved. Milda was compassionate. Milda was kind and caring. She all of these things and more.
But her love was not her own, it was Christ's love. Her compassion, kindness and caring were not her own, but Christ's kindness and compassion.
The real reason that Milda has made such an unforgettable mark on all of our lives is because of the mark that she was given by her dear Lord and Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. And this is the most important mark of all – the sign of the Cross given to her in Baptism. For this is no ordinary sign, just as the cross of Christ is no ordinary cross. In Holy Baptism Milda was clothed with the robe of righteousness that covered all her sin.
That's the real reason Milda was full of compassion and joy and love because her Good Shepherd had rescued her from sin, death and the devil. She who is forgiven much also loves much. Milda knew she was a sinner. But she also knew she was a saint. Her sin was great, but she knew Jesus her Savior is far greater, even than her sin. She knew the voice of her Good Shepherd – that's why her well-read Bible next to her bed always had a bookmark tucked in the pages of the Psalms. The Psalms were Milda's prayers. They're our prayers; but they're also Jesus' prayers. In the Psalms we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd just as Milda did.
The Lord is Milda's Shepherd; He is your Shepherd. There is no want. What else could you want? Who else could you need? Of course that doesn't stop us from trying. For we, like Milda, are also sinners. That was her confession. It is also our confession: If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities; O Lord, who could stand? We, like Milda, need a Shepherd.
Milda knew her Good Shepherd. She trusted in His mercy. Milda wore her faith in Christ on her lips. And just like her love and compassion her faith is not her own, it is a gift, a Mark made by the Good Shepherd. And greater love has no one than this, that the Good Shepherd lay down His life for the sheep.
That we might lie down in green pastures; He laid His body in the tomb. That we might rest beside still waters, He thirsted upon the cross suffering only to drink the Father's wrath against our sin. That He might restore your soul, He gave up His spirit. That He might lead you in paths of righteousness the Good Shepherd walked the agonizing, suffering road to Golgotha. For the sheep the Lamb was slaughtered. For you who live in the valley of the shadow of death, He walked the road ahead of you into death. That you might dwell in the House of the Lord forever.
The Lord is my Shepherd, Milda's Good Shepherd, your Good Shepherd. And in this way, with water and word He marked Milda in Holy Baptism. He clothed her with His righteous life and death and resurrection. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Jesus declared a big, forever "Mine" on Milda's life. That's the Shepherd's Mark of baptism: a simple sign of the cross; some plain ole' ordinary tap water and a divine flood of forgiveness. Washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb.
This Good Shepherd declares: "Fear not, Milda, I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. Fear not, you who mourn and weep today – my death is your death; my life is your life. Trust in Me."
Christ is not dead. He is living. And because He lives, so does Milda, and so do all who believe in Him.
When God wants you to know that someone belongs to Him…He lets you know. He declares His forgiveness to you this day. His Son has borne the marks of your iniquities with every stripe plowed into His flesh. Jesus died so that where He goes you may go also: Baptized? Jesus is there. Suffering? Jesus is there. Life and death? Jesus is there for you. "I AM the Good Shepherd, the sheep hear my voice and He calls His own sheep by Name," His Name. You are His – through His word and promise. You are His –soaked and sopping wet with forgiveness. Marked in baptism. You are His – scribbled with blood in the Lamb's book of life.
One day I told all of this to Milda, to which she replied, "Well, He just marks us all over doesn't He?!" Yes, he does. Lays down His life. Marks us with His cross. And He calls Milda, and all of you His own.
In the Name of Jesus + Amen.