Gary and Carol, Bruce and Monica, family, friends, and all those who knew our dear sister Marian: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our text for this morning is the Gospel from St. John chapter ten. We focus on the words of our Lord, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:14).
Marian Emilie Winegar neé Schroeder was born on January 5, 1920 and grew up in Grand View, Minnesota. She was baptized into the Christian faith on April 1, 1920, and was confirmed in the Lutheran Church on May 1, 1934. In 1940 she moved out to California, and met her husband, Cliff Winegar. They were married on December 17, 1943. They settled in Sacramento, and were founding members of Our Savior Lutheran Church. Marian died in Christ on March 5 in the year of our Lor, 2012. **“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!”” ** (Revelation 14:13)
It hardly seems possible to summarize and hold together in our hands a life of ninety-two years and more. From Minnesota to California. From San Diego to Sacramento to Sun City. Two children. Grandchildren. Caring for those in need and selflessly giving to those around her. All of these could describe Marian’s life. I’m sure there are many more words that could be said, stories that we could tell, and pictures we could look at to try and capture what makes Marian so special. It will be different for each on of you, I’m sure.
I don’t know Marian very well personally. The last time I saw her, I gave her Holy Communion around a friend’s dinner table. She was there, but you could tell that her mind was just beginning to slip. That was just a couple months ago. It seems as though age and a lifetime of care for others had finally caught up with her.
But we are not here today to simply eulogize Marian, to remember the good times and bad. There is some of that, and that is okay. But the sad reality is that we are here because, for all of Marian’s great traits, she was still a sinner. Marian was broken and in need. Her slowly deteriorating body points us to the simple fact that St. Paul is right, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Slowly or quickly, easy or hard, we are all dying. We all live under the curse of sin. And that is not how it is supposed to be. Not for Marian, not for her dear husband, Cliff, not for you,and not for me.
This is why we grieve. This is why we weep and are sorrowful. It is not right. God did not create us to die, and frankly, it stinks. Jesus Himself wept at the death of his friend, Lazarus (John 11:35). If Jesus recognized that this is messed up and not the way it is supposed to be, then it is okay for us to feel this sorrow and pain as well.
But that is not the end of Marian’s story, or yours. You see, Marian actually died a long time ago. She died at the baptismal font on a spring day in Minnesota 92 years ago. She died there, and her life is now hidden with Christ in God (Colossiand 3:3). For her entire life Marian was hearing the voice of her shepherd, her Savior, her Jesus. She raised her children in the Christian faith. She and Cliff were instrumental in starting Our Savior Lutheran Church in Sacramento, and in working with their school to teach that faith to the next generation, including her own children. Week after week, year after year, decade after decade, Marian heard the voice of her shepherd. In Church, in Bible class, at the font, at the altar, in the voice of preaching and in the mutal conversation with fellow redeemed sinners like you and me.
St. Paul said that the wages of sin is death, but that the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord (Romans 6:23). Those aren’t just words, beloved. Marian believed with all her heart that her end would not be at her death. That happened long ago. Marian believed with Job, that *“…after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God,” * (Job 19:26) Marian believes in the resurrection of the dead. Marian believes that you and I and all who rejoice in the death and resurrection of Jesus will rise from the dead. It’s irrational. It’s crazy. It makes no sense to all logic. But it is true as surely as I am standing before you today. It’s what made Marian tick, and what drove her to give of herself so selflessly.
But until that last day, at the resurrection of all flesh, until that last day we wait. We wait, and we weep. We weep because we miss Marian. And Cliff. And all those sons and daughters who have gone before and are with Christ. We miss them. There is a hole that cannot be denied. Don’t be afraid to weep. But we weep with a twinkle in our eyes. And that twinkle says that this isn’t the end. That twinkle says we will be reunited in Christ at the Last Day. We get a taste of that at His heavenly banquet here Sunday after Sunday, and we will taste it in full on the Last Day.
So rest well Marian. We grieve and sorrow. We miss you and love you. Rest well in the arms of your Savior, until the day of His reappearing, and we are reunited again.
In the strong name of Jesus. Amen