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.