Saturday, December 15, 2012

Memorial Service Sermon for Pauline Kalthoff: "Service in the Blood"

+ In Memoriam: Pauline Kalthoff, December 15th, 2012 +
September 20, 1923 – November 22, 2012
Psalm 121; Isaiah 12:2-6; John 14:1-6

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 “The Lord God is my strength and my song and He has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2

             This was most certainly true for Pauline, especially in recent years. Plagued by recurring illnesses and a host of medical issues –the eyes of the world would look at Pauline and see only weakness and frailty. But that’s not what Christ, our Savior saw.

            He saw a sinner forgiven and redeemed by Christ; a child of God, holy and precious in his sight. He saw the mark of his crucifixion imprinted forever on her forehead in Baptism. Her heavenly Father looked upon her with favor even as her earthly father, a Lutheran pastor, drew water from the wells of salvation, washing away her sin.

            He saw his Word deeply rooted in her heart and mind as the Holy Spirit sowed the seeds of faith that sprouted and grew in her. He heard her faithfully confessing His Name from the same mouth into which he placed His own body and blood. He saw the love he freely gave her freely and joyfully given to others.

            And that’s the way it is for all who are called by Christ. The Father looks not at your strength and power – not at your great works and merits – but at Christ’s work and merit on our behalf. When the Father looks upon you, He no longer sees your sins or Pauline’s. He sees His Son, Jesus, standing in the sinner’s stead; He sees Jesus keeping the Law, living a perfect life and giving up his strength to save you on the cross. Your sin, guilt, illness, and death all belong to Jesus now –and you can’t have them back; they are buried forever in His tomb. And he is risen. And you are forgiven. Baptized. A holy child of God.
            And that’s why, despite all the doctors’ visits and medications, despite all earthly appearances, Pauline was one of the spunkiest, toughest ladies I know.   

            For she knew that her strength, health and life, her body and soul and all things– were not her own. She was bought with a price: Christ’s redemption. Jesus’ death and resurrection were all the strength she needed – for this life and the next.

             That was Pauline’s hope: the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. And this unique Christian hope is especially poignant during Advent: we wait as Christ prepares us for His glorious return and gives us a living hope in Christ’s promises.

             And no matter how long you were blessed to know Pauline, you knew this about her: that living hope and trust in Christ also bore living fruit for others. She organized one joyous adventure after another, delighted in family and church gatherings and greeted anyone she saw who needed a proper welcome, whether it was her turn to greet them on Sunday morning or not. For many years the church secretary desk was her post – and she manned it well. And after Len died, the church continued to be her family. She sang hymns with us. Read the Scriptures and studied the catechism with us. Just another day in the life of a Lutheran pastor’s daughter.

             That’s the Christian life. “It does not mean that we are to leave this present world as it is. For if you read history you’ll find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 134).

            That’s Pauline to a “T.”  Service was in her blood, you could say. She loved because Christ loved her. Service was in her blood because Christ had served her so richly with His. His blood, shed on the cross. His blood, poured out in the Sacrament of the Altar. His blood, coursing through his living, resurrected body. That’s what gave Pauline, and gives us, hope – that one day, together with her and all the saints will come to the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting – all because of the blood of the Lamb and his great service for you.   

            And so, it was no coincidence that the last time I saw Pauline before she died, she received the Lord’s Supper, Christ’s Divine Service in His blood.

            And though the world only sees only sickness and death, Christ sees something far different. He sees Pauline and all the faithful gathered in peace around his throne in heaven. We confess the same thing here during The Holy Supper: “with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.” Our visit that day closed the same way communion ends here: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace.”

            That is what Christ saw: Pauline departing in peace, asleep in Jesus. Therefore, let not your hearts be troubled. Christ is for you what he is for Pauline, your strength and your peace. He is your way when you are lost, your truth when you are in doubt, your life in death. That was Pauline’s hope and ours.

            One day we will see what Christ sees. We wait together with her for the resurrection of the dead and a joyful reunion in heaven. And we depart in peace. Go in peace, your sins are forgiven. Go in peace, knowing Christ will come again. Go in peace, for “The Lord God is your strength and your song and He has become your salvation.”

 In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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