Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
June 19, 2008
Funeral Homily for Gloria Marie Rushing
For an audio MP3 of this sermon, CLICK HERE
TITLE: “The Way, the Truth and the Life”
Family and friends of Gloria, grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Our text for today is from the Gospel of St. John chapter fourteen as follows, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 ESV)
Gloria Marie Ricchio Rushing was born on September 12, 1932. She was baptized into the Holy Christian Church at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Union Grove. She was confirmed in that same Christian faith here at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on February 28, 1965. She joined Messiah Lutheran Church in 1969, where she remained a member until after her daughter, Debra, was confirmed. Gloria died in Christ on June 13, 2008.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember the way things ought to be. How does God intend the world to be? No sin, no sickness, no disease, no family fighting, no Alzheimer’s or dementia. No untimely deaths. No divorce. No pain. But God’s intention isn’t that we just be without things. No, our heavenly Father wants our joy to be full in Him. He wants us to be in Him, and to live and rejoice in the salvation that God’s Son, Jesus, won for us on the cross and in the empty tomb. God wants you to live and to rejoice in Him forever.
But of course, that isn’t life, is it? Gloria had her fair share of trials in her life. Sickness, especially a dreadful disease like Alzheimer’s, sucked much of the life out of her. I won’t claim that I knew her well. Most of the visits I had with Gloria over the years were, um, colorful. Some were civil, but some were a lot darker than that. Most people who knew Gloria over the past ten or more years would have said she was crabby at best, bitter and difficult to be around. I can understand not wanting to go see her in the various nursing homes she resided in over the years.
Now I don’t bring this up to paint a dark and dreadful picture of Gloria. I bring this up because we need to know who it is that Christ redeemed. With some funerals, it is easy to get the impression that the person worked themselves into heaven. They are in heaven, because they were so nice, did so many good deeds, or were always so kind and caring to everyone around them. Thankfully, we have been spared any kind of false impressions or hopes today.
So how is a sinner like Gloria saved. How is a sinner like you or I saved? If we are honest, we a little better than her. Where Gloria was crabby, we ignored her. When she was sick, it was oh too easy to look the other way. When she was dying, praying with her or for her seemed like too much work. So when we ask the question, how could God save her, we are asking ourselves the same question: How can God save me?
So how does God save you? He saves you through His Son. When Jesus was preparing for His death on the cross, His disciples didn’t understand that He would die and rise again from the dead. They were afraid that He was leaving them for good. It is then that our Lord said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 ESV)
Jesus is the road to heaven. He is the truth, reality as God sees it. He is life, real, eternal life. Gloria is saved through Him, and only through Him. She was baptized. She confessed the Holy Christian faith at her confirmation in 1965. While I wish that she had been more faithful in coming to God’s house to receive His gifts, God does not abandon His children. I visited with her. My elders visited with her. Our choir sang to her. I believe she put her faith and trust in our Lord, Jesus Christ. That is how she is saved. That is how you are saved.
There are no doubts that her life has been rough, and that it has been complicated and messy. Life is like that. But God’s love shines through. When God looks at her, He sees Jesus. She is holy, perfect, at peace in His holy presence. She is not simply in a better place. She is with Jesus, and at the Last Day, our Lord will raise up her and all the dead, and give eternal life to her and all believers in Christ.
This is our hope. We grieve at her loss, but look forward to the day of resurrection. Trust that the promises our Lord made at her Baptism are true. I will never leave you nor forsake you, He says. That is true for Gloria, and it is true for you.
So rest well, sister Gloria. Rest well until we meet again in the arms of our Savior, even Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Believe it for the sake of Him who died and rose again, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.