Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
October 13, 2010
Funeral Homily for Sandra Russo
TITLE: “A time for Life”
Family and friends of Sandra, especially, Caroline and Cara, Carolyn, Bette, friends and other family: grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Our text for today is from Ecclesiastes chapter 3, and was chosen by Sandra for this sermon. I would direct your attention to the front cover of our bulletin. We focus especially on the phrases a time to be born and a time to die, as well as a time to mourn and a time to dance.
Sandra Jeanne Russo nee Delcorps was both on March 2, 1941 in Racine to William and Amanda Delcorps. She was baptized on April 20, 1941, and was confirmed in the Lutheran faith on May 29, 1955, at which time she received Christ’s body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar for the first time. She married her dear husband, Gary, on September 25, 1964. St. John writes: “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”” (Rev. 14:13 ESV)
It should come as no surprise to any of us that God’s sense of timing is not ours. Sixty nine years is not that old. Sandy had so much to look forward to, by the mercy of God. Add to that is the sad reality that her husband, Gary, died already eight years ago. In every way that we can see and feel and understand, it makes no sense, and it certainly does not seem fair. Not as we think of it, at least.
Solomon in Ecclesiastes teaches us a little bit about God’s timing, though. There are times set aside for all things. Birth and death, mourning and rejoicing, seeking and losing, the list goes on. One thing is for sure, though, is that Sandy was not stingy about her time. She was always giving to others, be they friends who were sick or in need, family members, her daughters, and especially her grandchildren. That was what made her tick through thick and thin.
Then she got sick. Her body, once full of life in service to others, could no longer even care for itself. This was a source of great frustration for Sandy, as I’m sure many of you know. She wanted to care for her family, not be cared for. Sandy always seemed to have a quiet stubbornness about her that wouldn’t give up. I’m sure her daughters could tell us more about that. On at least one occasion if not more, it seemed as though through God’s grace she had licked this disease.
But that dreadful thief of time, cancer, would not be denied. It seemed to chip away at her, letting up and them coming back with a vengeance. And of course, as any of you who have suffered through cancer well know, sometimes it seems like the so called cure is worse than the disease! Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, pills to counteract other pills, none of us will ever truly understand how hard she fought to remain with us now. It is a testament to her love for all of you all that she fought as long and as hard as she did.
Her time, though, had come. A time to live, and a time to die, as Solomon reminds us. The circle of life is complete. Or so it may seem.
But that, dearly beloved, is not the end of this time worn story. For God, who is rich in mercy and whose timing is always just right, was thinking about Sandy long before she was born. He knew her struggles, her battle with sin and death. St. Paul wrote,
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:4–7 ESV)
So what does this mean doe us sons and daughters of Adam and Eve gathered here his day? It means that Sandy’s death, as sad and tragic as it is, also will last for but a time. Sandy was not a slave to cancer. It has not defeated her, or you. Jesus Christ died at just the right time, and rose again from the dead, so that Sandy’s time would not end at her death here today. Job, in the face of death, reminds us of this as well:
“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25–27 ESV)
The time will come when the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible. That means Sandy, and that means you. God’s timing may not be our timing, but it is good. We weep for a time now. We will miss Sandy, her love and care and devotion and so many other things we cannot even name them all. God has called her to Himself, and she is safe in His arms even now. And the time will come when God will call you to Himself, and me, and that the dead in Christ will arise again. Her body will be whole, free of the ravages of time and cancer and death. Christ has triumphed! He is living! And because He lives, Sandy will live again. Comfort one another with these words.
Believe it for the sake of Him who died and rose again, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.