Saturday, September 12, 2015
Funeral Sermon for Carlene Constable
Title: Loved and Forgiven
1 Timothy 6:12 (English Standard Version)
12Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
Dear friends, family and loved ones of our beloved Carlene,
“You tell the people at Peace that I’m praying for them!” Those were the words Carlene shared with me a number of times on our visits where I would come, talk and bring her the Lord’s Supper. This wonderful mother, grandmother, sister and friend, was committed to those she loved. And that didn’t just stop with family. Carlene loved all of those she came in contact with. She cared for her pastors, Pastor Merrell and myself and little Mocha, better known as “Honey Bun!”
Carlene was transferred to Peace on April 30th, 1997 from Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church in Clarkston and was formally received at Peace that November, but she had been a Christian for many years before that.
She confirmed the faith that God bestowed on her at her own confirmation all the way back in 1944.
For me as a pastor, Confirmation is a joyful time. We get to see our students or Catechumens as they are called, confirm what the Lord had done for them in their Baptism, in front of the congregation. They had been taught, and instructed in the Christian faith, and now it was time for them to confess what they believed. For a pastor the Rite of Confirmation begins:
“You have been baptized and catechized in the Christian faith according to our Lord’s bidding. Jesus said, “Whoever confesses Me before men, I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” Lift up your hearts, therefore, to the God of all grace and joyfully give answer to what I now ask you in the name of the Lord.
And then just before the student’s confirmation the pastor asks:
“Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all … even death … rather than to fall away from it?”
Sometime, all the way back in the spring on 1944, Carlene answered to that very same question: “Yes, with the help of God.”
Carlene was a wonderful testament to the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer.
Jesus tells us in John chapter 15:
1"I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes … that it may bear more fruit.
Carlene loved to sew and made beautiful quilts for the children who were baptized at Peace. So many smiles I’ve seen on the faces of parents at this wonderful and beautiful gift! And you could see the work of Our Heavenly Father in her, by the power of the Holy Spirit, as she used her gift for his greater glory. One mom in fact said can I have her number so I can call and thank her for the beautiful quilt.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides (or lives) in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Carlene bore much fruit, as can be seen in the pictures of her life, especially the children and grandchildren that she was so proud of! But it didn’t stop there, her love was infectious for all she came in contact with and that too includes the members of her church family … but also the many friends she had and even the two pastors who had the pleasure to see her and visit her. I had the joy of seeing Carlene on August 13th. She as usual was in the chair and always would remind me to “Come in, ‘cause I don’t do stairs!”
God comforts us … as we go to comfort others.
This past December I visited a number of our shut-ins with gift baskets and Carlene was on the list. She at times would remind me, “I’m old! I don’t remember how old but in the 80’s somewhere!”
Christ tells us:
7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
Carlene told me that she was ready to go to heaven and to be with the Lord. “But, she said, he must not be ready for me as he keeps leaving me here!”
I told Carlene that Jesus will take her to heaven in His time and in his way but for now we who love her need her more and maybe just a while longer he’ll keep her here. But on last Wednesday night … Carlene got her wish and Jesus called her home. Quietly and quickly Carlene went to heaven.
And even though to me Carlene had a good life and a loving family that cared for her she was called away from you … her loved ones, family, friends and this life that she loved very much.
Despite our grief Jesus’ words still can comfort us all:
7 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
I had an opportunity to bring the Lord’s Supper to Carlene on Thursday august 13th and anoint her with oil as a reminder of the Holy Spirit, who lives and works in and through her. She was a wonderful lady who loved life, sewing, her family, friends, and loved ones including Honey Bun the little dancing dog. As Carlene told me a number of times how blessed she truly was.
Today we honor her life, as we say our goodbyes. But, the grief that fills us all with loss and sorrow who knew her as beloved relative and friend will one day be replaced with our blessed reunion in heaven for all who believe. Our loving God in Christ Jesus will wipe away every tear of sadness that we have today and in that day replace them with tears of joy, as we together rejoice in Heaven with our resurrected Lord who has come to conquer sin, death and the power of the Devil – not only for Carlene - but for you and for me as well.
In Christ, death is not the end for we who cling to the blessed hope of reunion in Heaven one day. But, it is only a time of parting … for a while.
For the Apostle Paul brings great joy when he says in the Epistle to the Romans in chapter 8:
38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:38-39)
Heaven is now Carlene’s home.
You too, who trust in Christ, have this home waiting for you. The blessed Good News that Jesus died for your sins - is the wonderful Gospel message Carlene trusted and you too can trust. He has forgiven your sin and has called you to faith by the Gospel and through the power of the Holy Spirit, and has given you faith to believe in Christ’s blessed saving work.
There is a place that has been prepared for Carlene that she has now taken possession of and there is a place waiting for you too and for all who believe by faith the Good News that in Christ, you are:
Loved and Forgiven and will be with Jesus Forever!