Beverly Hansen Funeral
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Matthew 25:34-40 Sermon
January 2, 2013
How Great Thou Art
I'm But A Stranger Here, Heaven Is My Home
(solo) Amazing Grace
TEXT: “34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
“The church is full of hypocrites!” Have you ever heard anybody say that? I know that I have, and it happens often. The reason people usually say this, is because they have an idea in their mind that they have generated all on their own. People who are outside of the church have somehow convinced themselves that a church should be full of perfect people who never sin, who never speak a cross word, who never have an impure thought, and who always do the right thing. And if they see somebody doesn’t measure up to this rather unrealistic standard they have set, well then the church is nothing but a bunch of hypocrites, and they want nothing to do with it. If they don’t see this imaginary museum of perfect people on the other side of the stained glass windows, well then the church is nothing more than hypocrites, and it’s just not for them.
I’m not sure, but I’m guessing that you’ve heard somebody complain that the church is full of hypocrites. You might have even said it yourself; I have no idea.
If this seems like a strange way to start a funeral sermon, I do have my reasons. And I’d like for you to keep this in mind as we continue.
Today we are gathered to celebrate the life of a very special woman. We all knew Beverly in different ways, and we all have our own memories of her. For me personally, I’ve known her for the last 50 years, and that’s a long time. And yes, I’ll share some of those memories today. But that’s not the most important thing.
We are having a Christian funeral service, because Beverly was a Christian. A Christian funeral serves two main purposes: First, it is a testimony of the person’s faith; and second, we come to receive the comfort of the promises God gives us in his Word. And because of these two reasons, we give thanks to God in return for the blessings he has given Beverly throughout her life, and we give thanks for how we have been blessed by having Beverly as part of our lives.
Beverly’s faith is shown in part by her life-long membership at Trinity Lutheran Church here in Lincoln. Here is where she learned about her Saviour Jesus Christ. Through Word and Sacrament, the Holy Spirit worked the miracle of faith in her heart.
For Beverly, Jesus wasn’t just this great moral teacher or part of some abstract philosophy. Christianity wasn’t this set of dead and distant rules of conduct. And Trinity Lutheran Church wasn’t this impressive structure full of hypocrites either.
Through faith, Jesus Christ was Beverly’s personal Saviour. Jesus was the object of her faith; and as such, she had a very real relationship with him. Jesus knew her personally too, and he accepted her just the way she was. And through her church, she met this Saviour who loved her time and time again. Every time she received the Lord’s Supper, her relationship was strengthened and renewed. Through the preaching of the Word, she heard the comforting Gospel message that assured her of God’s promises. Jesus says in John 6:37: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” And then if we look at Hebrews 8:12, we see one of God’s promises that is repeated throughout Scripture: “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
Beverly’s life was that of a forgiven sinner, which is the life of somebody who has been born again from above. That gift of faith from God himself is what gave her hope and purpose during her life on earth.
Today, I have chosen for a text some famous words Jesus speaks in Matthew’s gospel. I did this because I couldn’t think of any better words to describe the type of person Beverly was.
In this section of Scripture, Jesus is describing the unselfish actions of a Christian. In verses 35-36 Jesus says, “35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” These are very real actions Jesus is talking about.
But the believers find this sort of puzzling. They can’t think of any occasions where they actually saw Jesus thirsty, or hungry, or naked, or sick, or in prison. So they wonder what they could have done to get this kind of reaction from Jesus. And to this, Jesus responds in verse 40: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
What Jesus is describing is the natural reaction of a Christian. This is a fruit of their faith. Doing good things and being unselfish isn’t something a Christian consciously does. It’s an automatic response of faith. It’s the practice of giving love out of thankfulness for the love God has shown us.
In the years I have known Beverly, I have never ever known her to be a selfish person. She always remembered birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. If she was part of a holiday celebration, she always had some sort of gift to give, even if it wasn’t much. If there was a dinner, she was more than anxious to bring whatever food item was needed. When it was time to clean up, she was the first to help clear the table. She was certainly the “give you the shirt off her back” kind of person.
Family meant everything to Beverly, which extended way beyond those in her household. When she got married, it meant that her extended family circle just got a bit wider. To her, it didn’t matter if you were a blood relative, or one by marriage, she loved you just the same. There were no specific lines drawn or degrees of acceptance. And even at those times when people weren’t exactly nice to her, she still loved them just the same. And that isn’t easy.
As a young boy, I remember the first time I saw Beverly, which coincidentally was at Trinity Lutheran Church on her wedding day. I was 8 years old at the time. I was sitting about halfway up on the aisle on the right side. I remember looking up at that huge tall ceiling and wondering how they replaced the light bulbs. But then I heard this lovely organ fanfare, and saw Beverly walking down the aisle; and she was absolutely radiant. And after the wedding, I remember her giving me this great big hug as I kind of got lost in the folds of her wedding dress.
And then I remember Mike and Beverly visiting our house in Emerson. I was having trouble with my arithmetic, and every night while she was there, she very patiently tutored me and helped me get it right. And we had fun too; we played games and all of us had a good time.
Beverly demonstrated the love that comes from being part of a family. She was able to accept people for who they were and what they were, and she did so without giving it a second thought.
But as most of us know, things weren’t all sunshine and roses for her either. Beverly’s mental health issues were a constant thorn in her side. I mention this today because I think she would have wanted me to say something, and she was always rather forthright about it. People who suffer from mental illness are very often in denial about it, but Beverly certainly wasn’t. She recognized the problems she was having, and I know that it frustrated her no end that she couldn’t help the way she was.
Beverly not only got regular counseling and treatment, but she worked to educate herself about her psychological issues. And she was able to reach out to others who were having the same problems she did. She believed in the “people helping people” principle, with the hope that somebody could benefit from her experience.
So you see, even through the cloud and turmoil of mental illness, Beverly’s faith was always intact. The words Jesus speaks in our text today were certainly not lost on her: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
So now I think all of this has brought us around full-circle; we have the testimony of Beverly’s faith in word and action. Where do we go from here?
If we look at our text for today, Jesus says in verse 34: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” We know that Beverly is in heaven right now. We know this for two reasons: We believe Beverly’s testimony of faith in her Saviour, and we believe that what God promises us in the Bible is true and certain.
In our Gospel lesson for today from John chapter 14, Jesus gives us these words that are both comforting and precise. "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you….I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
If you recall at the beginning, I talked about those who refuse to set foot in the church because, according to them, it is full of hypocrites. Was Beverly a hypocrite because she was a Christian? We know that isn’t true. Beverly was a sinner in need of forgiveness, and that’s what she had in her Saviour. She found love, acceptance, healing, and restoration. So for somebody to say that they don’t go to church because it is full of hypocrites is like somebody saying that they don’t want to go to a hospital when they’re ill because it is full of sick people. It makes about that much sense. And it’s those same people that will run around trying to find a pastor to do a funeral for a loved one, with the hope that if he mumbles a few meaningless platitudes over the casket, then everything will be fine.
Today you are sitting here looking at a casket. That’s the reality of things. The mortality rate amongst human beings has always been, and will always be 100%. There’s no escaping it. What’s waiting on the other side for you?
Make no mistake about it. Beverly isn’t in heaven because of the words I am saying today, or because she was a member of Trinity Lutheran Church, or because she did a lot of good things, or because she was a pretty good person, or because she loved her family, or for any number of things that are reflections of her own goodness. Beverly is in heaven only because of her personal faith in Jesus Christ her Saviour, and that’s it.
Jesus says that nobody comes to the Father, except through faith in him. Heaven is something that only a Christian will see. One religion is not as good as another, and there aren’t many roads to the same god. Heaven is exclusive to Christianity. We can’t pray a deceased person into heaven, we can’t wish them there, and we can’t bargain their way through the pearly gates. A person’s faith in Christ while they’re on this earth is what will take them to their heavenly home. This is true for Beverly, and it is true for each and every person in the world. This is our hope, and someday we can inhabit our mansion in eternity just as Beverly has inherited hers now.
Today, allow me to share a short poem with you. It’s most appropriate since we’re still in the Christmas season. It’s called “My first Christmas in Heaven.”
I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below,
With tiny lights, like Heaven's star, reflecting in the snow.
The sight is so spectacular; please wipe away the tear,
For I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.
I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear,
But the sounds of music can't compare with the Christmas choir up here.
I have no words to tell you, the joy their voices bring,
For it is beyond description, to hear the angels sing.
I know how much you miss me, I see the pain inside your heart;
But I am not so far away, we really aren't apart.
So be happy for me, dear ones, you know I hold you dear;
And be glad I'm spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.
I send you each a special gift, from my heavenly home above;
I sent you each a memory of my undying love.
After all, love is a gift, more precious than pure gold,
It is always most important in the stories Jesus told.
Please love and keep each other, as our Father said to do;
For I can't count the blessing or love he has for each of you.
So have a Merry Christmas and wipe away that tear.
Remember, I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.
Beverly Ann Hansen (nee' Irons), daughter of Clyde E. Irons and Louise Rose nee' Sachse was born on November 17, 1944 at Lincoln General Hospital in Lincoln Nebraska. She grew up as the youngest member of the family with her parents and ten siblings at 5235 Cooper Street in College View. She attended Calvert Elementary School, and Lincoln Southeast Junior-Senior High School, where she graduated in 1963.
Beverly was instructed in the Christian faith at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lincoln, receiving the Sacrament of Holy Baptism on May 25, 1962. She subsequently affirmed her faith through the Rite of Confirmation and received her first Communion on May 27, 1962. She remained an active member of Trinity throughout her life, witnessing the love she had for her Saviour in many ways. She was an active member and participant in the Trinity Ladies' Aid and LWML. She volunteered many hours of her time in helping others. She also enjoyed singing hymns; and even though she might not have always sung on key, it was her way of praising her Lord with all her heart.
Beverly had a variety of different work experiences in her life. As a young girl, Beverly was one of the first volunteer Candy Stripers at Lincoln General Hospital. And one of her most notable jobs was during High School as a carhop at the A and W Root Beer Drive-In on 48th and Van Dorn Streets in College View. It was there where she earned the nickname of "Sam." "Sam" caught the eye of a young mug washer at A and W by the name of Mikel Hansen, who constantly saw her at the order window as they were working; and they began dating. On July 21, 1963 Mikel and Beverly were united in marriage at Trinity Lutheran Church; and to this union, two children were born. Mikel remained Beverly's life companion for almost the next 50 years. (Mikel confesses that he still has a strong affinity for root beer floats!) When Mikel was hospitalized in South Dakota, Beverly wrote him a letter every single day. And she was even successful in getting Mike to go to TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) meetings with her.
Beverly also worked at the S & H Green Stamp redemption center at Gold's Department Store. She was a sales clerk at Woolworth's. She was a cafeteria worker for Lincoln Public Schools where she floated between the various schools, as she was needed. She sold Mary Kay cosmetics, where her sales won her a trip and she actually met Mary Kay herself (but she didn't get the pink Cadillac!). She organized Tupperware parties and had a collection of containers for virtually everything there is. And for a time, she was a dietician for the food service at Bryan Memorial Hospital.
Beverly had a love of arts and crafts. As a child, she appreciated the drawings of horses that her father did. In later years, her love of art was rekindled, so she began learning to do oil painting in addition to her drawing. She supplemented her income from the sale of her drawings. She also did ceramics, macramé, and a variety of other craft projects. She volunteered her time doing arts, crafts, and cooking with the residents of Haven Manor; and as a resident of Madonna Home, she continued doing these things as well as playing bingo and singing.
Beverly had a keen interest in mental health issues, and she sought to more fully understand and deal with the difficulties she faced all the time. She dealt with her illness head-on, and became a strong advocate for mental health. As a result of wanting to help others who shared her illness, she started her own support group. She was also a very active member of NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness). Additionally, she participated in the "Drop-In" program, and was a member of Homer's Hangout.
As Beverly's health continued to deteriorate, she was placed in Hospice care. During the last month of her life, she stayed and received care at her daughter Julie's home. Beverly treasured her family ties, and she was the happiest when she was amongst them.
Early on Christmas morning, on December 25, 2012, at her daughter Julie's home, Beverly was received into the loving arms of her Saviour and entered her eternal heavenly home at the age of 68 years, 1 month, and 8 days.
Left to mourn her passing are: her husband and life partner LeRoy Mikel Hansen of Lincoln, NE; daughter and son-in-law Julie Ann and Christopher Sandin of Lincoln, NE; daughter and son-in-law Jennifer Lee and Jimmie Jones of Montrose, CO; grandchildren Alexander and Zachary Sandin of Lincoln, NE; brothers and sister-in-law Orville "Pete" and Mary Irons of Lincoln, NE; Raymond Irons of Dothan, AL; brother-in-law and sister-in-law Mark and Patricia Hansen of Lincoln, NE; step grandchildren Traci (Douglas) Thoe of Battlement Mesa, CO; Trevor (Nellie) Jones of Grand Junction, CO; Jacob (Andrea) Jones of Denver, CO; Jessica (Kevin) Jones-Rainey of Seaside, OR; step great grandchildren Rachael and Kyle Thoe of Battlement Mesa, CO; Landon Jones of Grand Junction, CO; and Patrick and Logan Jones-Rainey of Seaside, OR.
Beverly was preceded in death by: her parents; brothers Chester Irons, Clyde Irons Jr., Carl "Bud" Irons, LeRoy Irons, and Jimmy Irons; and sisters Louise Hatfield, Eileen Klopfenstein, and Alice Daharash.
BLESSED BE HER MEMORY