"Forever With The Lord"
In loving memory
Betty J. Schroeder
Day of Pentecost/Mothers' Day Sermon
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
I Peter 1:3-9; 23-24 Sermon
May 11, 2008
126 "Come, Oh Come Thou Quickening Spirit"
129 "Spirit Of God Descend Upon My Heart"
235 "Jesus Tender Shepherd Hear Me"
---- "Mothers' Day Hymn" (see Mothers' Day 2007 for text)
470 "Breathe On Me Breath Of God"
THE BIRTH OF THE FLESH AND THE BIRTH OF THE SPIRIT
TEXT: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For all men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands for ever. And this is the word that was preached to you."
There is an occurrence happening today, the likes of which you've never seen before, and you will never see again during your lifetime. What is happening, are two different events sharing the same day. Those two events are Mothers' Day and the Day of Pentecost. This is happening because Easter Sunday was very early this year, and it won't happen this early again for many hundreds of years. And since Easter was early, Pentecost is also early.
I'm happy that this has happened, and that I'm able to take this opportunity to correlate the two events. The notable similarity is that both events have something to do with birth. A mother can't be a mother without some sort of birth taking place, whether it is a child she has borne naturally, or one she may have adopted.
And a Christian can't be a Christian without another birth taking place, a birth that comes from the Holy Spirit. This birth which comes from above is what brings a person to faith. Through this gift of faith, which is purely an action of God himself, a person comes to know and accept Jesus Christ as their Saviour from sin and the Lord of their life.
Both of these births are crucial too. A mother gives birth to a child, and therefore brings another life into the world. There are the usual share of the parental duties a mother has to do; such as to provide for a child's physical and emotional well-being-food, clothing, shelter, love, support, understanding, etc.
But the mother also has her share of parental duties on the spiritual side of things. The first thing that comes to mind is the child's baptism. Through the waters of Holy Baptism, the Holy Spirit works in a young heart to create faith in Jesus. Even before the child's first words are formed or their eyes can clearly focus, God gives them the gift of faith. As St. Peter says in our text for this morning, "For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God."
A mother giving birth to a child is the most natural thing in the world. It happens all the time. However we all know that life on this earth is limited-St. Peter calls it "perishable." However the spiritual rebirth is imperishable and is something that will endure into eternity when our earthly lives will come to an end.
This past week, a lot of this came together for me in a very real way. As some of you are aware, I left last Sunday to make a trip to Clear Lake, Iowa. A week ago Friday, my Aunt Betty was called from this life to her heavenly home at the age of 84. Her funeral was this past Monday.
Indeed she was quite a lady, and I am very thankful that she was a part of my life for the past 53 plus years. During the lunch after the funeral, various people got up and shared some memories and stories, which included some reflections of my own.
I won't bore you with the details of my stories, other than to tell you how much my Aunt Betty and Uncle Ralph helped us out when my father passed away almost two years ago. We certainly appreciated their presence, help, and support during that time.
The memories that were shared all reflected upon her faith and the fine Christian woman she was. Her family and friends shared many things that gave evidence of the love of Christ that permeated her very being.
The church was very central in her life, beginning in her earliest years. She grew up in Holland, Nebraska which is just south of Lincoln about halfway between Hickman and Panama. The church was easy walking distance from her house, where she eventually became the church organist.
She never lost her love for worshipping in God's house either. In her home, when Sunday morning came, everybody went to church. It didn't matter if they had company from out-of-town, or there were other things which might have given them an excuse to miss church. Everybody went to church on Sunday in that house, and that was that. The whole family was involved, from Sunday School to confirmation to Bible Studies. And of course Betty still played the organ and piano and otherwise shared her gift of music.
Even in her declining years when her health was failing and the aches and pains of age were beginning to take their toll, church was always a must. Although she couldn't be as active in things as she once was, she still did what she could, like writing birthday cards to all of the senior citizens in her church, and being involved in the church's senior citizens fellowship group called the "Elder-berries."
My Uncle Ralph said that even when they were taking a trip out-of-town and were in unfamiliar territory, they always had to locate a church where they could worship on Sunday. It was that important to her.
As a mother, bringing up her children in the faith was a duty she took very seriously. Proverbs 22:6 says: "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." And I know she believed that with her whole heart.
My Aunt Betty knew her Saviour well, and she wanted her children to know and love him the way she did. There were the Bible Stories, the prayers, and the ever-present devotional book on their kitchen table which they used every evening. And when she tucked her boys into bed, she would sing this song to them: "Jesus tender Shepherd hear me, bless thy little lamb tonight; through the darkness be thou near me, keep me safe ‘till morning light." This song is very familiar to me, because that's the very same song my mother sang to me when she put me to bed as a little child. It wasn't until it was mentioned at her funeral that I realized she did this too. It was a nice coincidence.
Christian funerals are intended to be a witness of a person's faith, and not a mere reciting of meaningless platitudes. Many people attended my Aunt Betty's funeral for a variety of reasons. They knew her as a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister-in-law, aunt, or a friend. Whatever the relationship was, nobody had any doubt in their minds that she was first and foremost a Christian.
The text I have chosen this morning is one that I feel is not only fitting for the Pentecost/Mothers' Day theme, but is a good one for my Aunt Betty as well. Peter begins his first general epistle with these words, because he is writing to other Christians. He wants them to be reassured in their faith even though there may be hardships and struggles along the way. But more importantly, he expounds on this correlation between a physical birth and a spiritual birth, and how important that gift of faith is.
Human life is compared to flowers and grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall. Earthly life is a temporary thing. But the rebirth from the Holy Spirit is everlasting and enduring. In verse 6 Peter writes, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials." And in verse 9 he continues, "...for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
After the funeral was over, and the lunch was done, and the church full of people had gone home, and we were visiting at the house, my uncle Ralph made the comment: "I know what Betty would say...she would say, ‘I don't deserve this.'" I know what he meant too; she was a very humble person, and there were a lot of people and a huge outpouring of love and support.
But you know something? My uncle Ralph was right, and I don't know if he realizes how right he was. She didn't deserve any of this. Now before you think I'm being cold and cruel with this comment, there is another aspect we need to consider too.
The thing we need to consider is the concept of grace. The very definition of grace is getting what we do not deserve. That's the way that God deals with us. We, who are believers in Jesus Christ as our Saviour, know that God will not deal with us as our sins deserve, but rather he deals with us according to the righteousness of Christ.
I know that my aunt Betty didn't show up in heaven with a list of her accomplishments demanding entrance because of them. She knew that being a good wife, mother, grandmother, etc. wasn't the kind of righteousness that would pass muster.
All of the great and noble things she did were out of a thankful heart for what God did for her. God looked at her according to his grace. He loved her to such a degree that he sent Jesus to die for her sins so she could be the recipient of his grace. Through faith, through this rebirth that happened in her life by the Holy Spirit, she accepted Jesus as her Saviour. This didn't come about by anything she did herself, or by any self-generated decision, but what God did in her life. God alone worked that miracle of faith, which Peter describes in our text today as being "...of greater worth than gold..."
As we look at our own lives, we know we aren't perfect. We haven't been the husbands, wives, sons, or daughters we should have been. We are sinners who daily sin much. But when we recognize our sin, as Christians we are driven into the arms of our Saviour Jesus Christ. It's there where we receive what we don't deserve, and that is God's unfathomable and unlimited grace.
These past days have been difficult for my uncle Ralph and my cousins Ralph Jr., Reg, and Randy and their families. Today is the first Mothers' Day they will observe without their wife and mother. And tomorrow, Monday, May 12th is their 63rd wedding anniversary. This will certainly bring about some heartache and sorrow.
But they can be thankful that God gave them my aunt Betty for the time he did. All of our lives have been blessed by her time on earth. And they can rejoice with the words of hope from the Apostle Peter in verses 3 and 4 of our text today: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you..." My aunt Betty may have protested that she didn't deserve it, but thanks be to God, she received it according to his grace.
Pentecost and Mothers' Day is a day we can be thankful for two births. We thank and honor our mothers for giving us our physical birth, and we thank God the Holy Spirit for giving us our spiritual birth. And as we know, the first birth is meaningless without the second birth.
In our text for today, Peter wants to leave us with a positive outlook on things. He assures us that what is coming in the future is the blessed goal of our faith, and worth whatever we may have to endure on this earth. Through the Holy Spirit, we are born-again people, born into God's holy family through faith in Jesus our Saviour.
Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will use us as a means to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the community around us, and to the world. Therefore, we yield ourselves to him, praying that he uses us in whatever way he sees fit, for the advancement of his kingdom here on earth, regardless of our position in life.
Click here for Betty Schroeder's full obituary.
Note to our website readers:
A memorial has been established in Betty Schroeder's honor at Opportunity Village in Clear Lake, Iowa, which is a non-profit organization for the developmentally disabled. If you so desire, memorials may be sent directly to the village. Please clearly indicate "Betty Schroeder Memorial" on your gift.
Opportunity Village (click for website)
P. O. Box 622
Clear Lake, IA 50428-0622