Funeral Sermon for Violet Boraas, based on Ps 23 & Ps 46:1-7, by Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson, Burgar Funeral Chapel, Camrose, September 13, 2017, eleven o’clock.
A wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, friend, neighbour, resident of Bethany Meadows Oak Cottage, and child of God, Violet Borass, has left this life for her eternal home in heaven. Life will not be the same without her, and you will miss her.
God blessed Vi with 91 years, a long, full and content life. During those years she was able to inspire many of you and pass on to you her values of enjoying life, and loving her family, especially the large family gatherings; of loving God and going to church; of making things by embroidery work and knitting; of being generous to others sharing such things as her cooking and baking; of appreciating God’s creation and being able to work in the garden, pick berries, and do some canning; and going to Bingo as often as possible.
During Vi’s time living at Oak Cottage Bethany Meadows, she was also able to enjoy life and be content as much as possible. She liked the music with Harold’s Band; she also enjoyed attending the Sunday Church Services and Wednesday Devotions in the chapel. Even toward the end, she made the effort to come. For her age, many of our staff and the residents were quite amazed how well she could scoot around in her wheelchair. In my conversations with Vi, I experienced her as a quiet person with few words and quite soft-spoken.
In Psalm 23 we have a beautiful picture of the LORD our Shepherd who provides for all of our needs throughout life and who protects us even as we face the darkest valley—death itself. Listen to the promise of God’s word: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.”
According to tradition, the Valley of the Shadow of Death is a real place in Israel.
It is a valley, or a mountain pass, that got its name from shepherds
because of it's steep sides and sheer rock walls. But it was a pass that enabled the shepherds to lead their sheep from one mountain pasture to another. However it was a terrifying place for skittish, defenceless, fearful sheep: for in the steep cliffs on both sides of the valley there were numerous caves and rocks and crevices that were the perfect hiding place for animals of prey - and for people who meant harm to passing travellers. Sounds would echo and amplify in the valley, making it a terrifying place for sheep. The psalmist is saying that death can be a scary reality—yet, even at the most dangerous and scariest times of life we don’t have to fear because the LORD our Shepherd is with us. We are safe with Jesus. Notice the Psalm says the LORD walks through the valley with us; it is not a final destination. The LORD is with us, that is why we can walk through the valley of death. The LORD was with Vi too as she walked through her valley of death. Our Good Shepherd loves all his sheep; that’s why he leads us through death into heaven. So we take comfort in those words.
Another picture we have of our God in Psalm 23 is that of a banquet host: “You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows.” Loving, caring, loyal wife, mother and grandmother that she was—I’m told that Vi loved to bake and to share her German dishes and prepare meals for her family and sitting down to enjoy eating them together. The picture in the psalm is that our God also loves to prepare a meal for us. The psalmist tells us that there was plenty to eat and drink at the meal. “My cup overflows” speaks of God’s generosity and abundance. Most likely Vi provided generous meals with an abundance for you too as a sign of her love and care for you. I’m sure that you found much joy and comfort at those meals in Vi’s home.
In Psalm 46, the LORD our God the psalmist tells us is: “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Or as Martin Luther re-worded Psalm 46 in his most famous hymn: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” The confidence expressed in Psalm 46 may have been based on God’s protection of Jerusalem during the time when the powerful Assyrian army failed to capture the city around 701 B.C. More than the walls around the city, God was Jerusalem’s Mighty Fortress. Why? Because “The LORD of hosts is with us.” The LORD Immanuel—God with us. God who, in the vision of the psalmist sees a future filled with redemption of all creation when God’s kingdom will come and bring complete peace; the Shalom of God by making wars cease to the end of the earth; destroying all weapons of war.
God was Vi’s Mighty Fortress, giving her 91 years to live a life filled with blessing upon blessing; giving her that peace which passes all understanding right up to the end. The LORD was Vi’s refuge, Vi’s fortress—protecting her from danger and harm and keeping her safe and secure. God was Vi’s Source of strength, making it possible to live a long and fruitful life. The LORD was Vi’s very present help in trouble so that when there were challenges and hardships, times of discouragement and disappointment, God was right there seeing Vi through them all, giving her the love, care and grace that she needed to endure and successfully carry on with living her life as best she could.
So, as we remember Violet today may we too turn to the LORD our Shepherd; may we turn to God as our Refuge and Strength-our Fortress to provide for our needs; to guide us in our living; to protect us from danger, evil and harm; to give us faith to trust that whatever God gives us in life serves his purposes; to give us love and grace to share with others; to give us the hope of victory over death; that one day we too shall be reunited with our loved ones in heaven and see our LORD and Saviour face-to-face. Amen.