Thursday, December 23, 2010

Melba Brehmer Funeral Sermon

Sermon for Melba Mabel Brehmer Funeral by Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-
Hanson; based on Eccles 3:1-15; Philip 2:1-2, 4:4-7; Matthew 5:14-16,
Saamis Chapel, Medicine Hat, one o’clock, December 23, 2010.

One thing we cannot predict is the time of death. Death often comes at

an unexpected time. Who wants to deal with death during such a season

as this? After all, Christmas is supposed to be one of the most joyful

times of the year. For us Christians, Christmas is a time for rejoicing by

celebrating the birthday of Christ our Lord and Saviour. As members of

Melba’s family, you folks were likely expecting to celebrate Melba’s 87th

birthday today—instead, here you are, attending her funeral. Death

during this Christmas season can be the most unwelcome intruder of all.

We might ask: “Why now? Why did death have to come now and rob us

of Christmas joy?”

   The answer to such questions, in part, comes from the Bible. The

author of Ecclesiastes chapter three tells us that, for every occasion in

life, there is an appointed time. As you know, we all have appointments

in life. So, too, from the spiritual perspective, God has an appointment

for every thing in life. Each one of us has an appointment to be born. We

all have an appointed number of days and years in which to live in this

world. The author also tells us that we all have an appointment to die.

Melba’s appointment came earlier this week. If you’re like me, you may

not have expected it. On Sunday, the last day I saw Melba—the day

before her passing, she seemed to be her usual lively self. She attended

our Sunday afternoon worship service at The Good Samaritan Society’s

facility, South Ridge Village, and was in good spirits. My last words to

her on Sunday were: “We’ll see you Melba.” To which she replied: “Yes,

you will.” I know that you and I, if we have faith in Christ, will see her,

however, now it may be awhile—at the appointed time, when we will join

her and all of the other faithful members of God’s people in heaven.

   When I think of Melba, and the times that I was privileged to spend

with her as the chaplain at our facility; the passages of the Bible that

were read earlier come to mind.

   In the words of Ecclesiastes 3:12, speaking of our life in this world, the

writer says: “I know that there is nothing better for them than to be

happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live.”

   And the apostle Paul, who seems to have both given joy to and received

joy from the Christians at Philippi, writes them saying: “…make my joy

complete….Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”

   If you are an observant person, often you can tell who a person is by

looking at their face. I know, judging from the face of your beloved Melba,

that she radiated happiness and joy. I loved looking into Melba’s eyes;

they were so expressive and so joyful. Her smile, which always seemed to

be on her face, was so kind and loving. Melba had a wonderful sense of

humour; she knew that laughter was the best medicine; she knew what

it was to be happy and joyful, and enjoy life right up to the end. What a

gift and blessing that is!

   One of my fondest memories of Melba is when she was still living in

cottage C. I came over to the cottage and had a weekly worship service

with the residents there. Melba would always be ready and willing to

worship with much joy and enthusiasm. I have a box of percussion

instruments that I give to the residents while we worship. Melba just

loved to play a little drum. She drummed out those hymns that we

played with much vigour and delight. Her joy was contagious; it couldn’t

help but rub off on you. We certainly made: “a joyful noise to the LORD!”

(Ps 100:1) Speaking of those old familiar hymns that we played; Melba

also loved to sing them. She knew them all by heart, without even

following along in the book—having learned them in her youth, when she

sang in her church choir.

   Melba was a lively, vibrant person. In our passage from Matthew’s

Gospel, Jesus says a light or lamp that is lit is not meant to be hidden

under a container. No. Rather, Jesus tells us to: “let your light shine

before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to

your Father in heaven.” When someone is baptized into the Christian

faith, the baptismal service includes these very words from Matthew’s

Gospel as the baptismal candle is lit and passed on to the baptismal

party—reminding everyone that our calling as baptized Christians is to

be a light of God’s kindness and love to others.

   I know that Melba was such a light to many residents and staff at

South Ridge Village. Whenever I was up on the second floor of our home;

I would inevitably meet up with Melba navigating down the hallways in

her wheelchair. She ambled about quite merrily; bright-eyed, with her

face joyfully shining—being a bearer of light to all who walked by or

stopped to greet her and chat. Melba’s lit-up, smiling face, with eyes of

love and laughter meant so much to our residents and staff.

   As family members, I know that you too were inspired and loved by

Melba. She was so joyful when she could spend time with you. She was

always happy when she could entertain; she was a people person; being

a good neighbour to others by caring for them in time of great need; not

thinking ill of others; rather, offering them encouragement. Yes, Melba

lived a very full life, and I thank the LORD for the honour and privilege of

having known her—as I’m sure you do.

   My hope and prayer for each of you today is that, like Melba, you could

let your light shine; be as committed to your family as she was; be a good

neighbour to others; not think ill of others; and offer them

encouragement. Most of all, my hope and prayer for each of you is that

you would be inspired by the joy that was given to Melba from Christ and

that she shared with others; that you too would be gifted with joy to

celebrate the birthday of Christ this Christmas. Even though you will not

be celebrating Melba’s birthday today; may you find peace and comfort in

knowing that she is now celebrating with Christ in heaven. Amen.

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