[This was shared during the funeral for Dorothy, a member of Saint Matthew Lutheran Church in Logan, Ohio. Dorothy was 98 years old at the time of her passing.]
In the past four years, I’ve gotten to know Dorothy fairly well. Not as well as you who are her family and friends who loved her and knew her best, of course. But I came to know something of her personality and of her character.
I can tell you that Dorothy loved her family. In the nearly monthly visits we shared, no visit went by without Dorothy telling me about how her parents taught her to believe in Christ and how that belief sustained her even when she went through bleak times.
She always loved telling me about her husband Alec, his kindness, his sense of humor, and the life they shared. (She also told me that Alec, eleven years her senior, used to say that he raised her.)*
She loved to talk about her boys, Greg and Kirk. “I was so grateful to have them,” she would say, “that I spoiled them and I don’t think that it hurt them at all.” Then, she would always tell me how wonderful they were.
I came to know that she appreciated her family and her friends--like Bessie, with whom she had a more than eighty year friendship, loved Logan, and enjoyed baseball, especially the Pittsburgh Pirates.
And, almost from our first visit, Dorothy also conveyed the strong message that she was a red-hot Democrat. She still thought that Franklin Roosevelt was the greatest and, though John Edwards had been her first choice in the most recent election, came also to be a fan of Barack Obama. She was ready always to discuss current events with me when I arrived.
Above all, I learned that Dorothy was a person of deep faith in Jesus Christ.
But during almost every one of our visits, Dorothy seemed to return to the same question again and again. “Why am I still here?” she would ask.
Sometimes, I would honestly say that while only God could answer that question, I could say that I was personally glad that she was around. Dorothy and her faith inspired me and I told her so. She was surprised to know that I found her inspiring, but my answer never pleased her. She was ready to leave this life and though she respected and accepted that her life was in God’s hands, she found God’s logic hard to comprehend.
Dorothy had these thoughts not because she was morbid, but because she had a deep and confident faith. She knew well the words Jesus spoke to His disciples that we read a short while ago. He says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places...I go to prepare a place for you...And...I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”
Dorothy knew this promise.
She knew that Jesus had prepared a place for her, just as He had for every believer she’d known and cherished most—Alec, her parents, and others.
She knew that Jesus’ death on the cross, where He took the punishment for sin we all deserve, was not the end of His story.
On the Sunday following His Good Friday death, Jesus rose from the dead and even today offers to all of us what we cannot and could never find on our own—not through religion, not through worldly achievement, not through satisfying personal relationships, not through our own efforts to combine what we think is best in all the world’s religions and philosophies.
Jesus offers us the only way for any of us to connect with God, the source of life.
Here’s how Jesus puts it in our reading from John's gospel in the New Testament: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus made the same point in His conversation with a man named Nicodemus. “For God so loved the world,” Jesus said, “that he gave his only Son [Jesus Himself], so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
Several months after Jesus was killed on a cross and then raised again to life by God the Father, two of Jesus’ disciples could confidently say of Jesus, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”
Jesus saves us from the ravages of sin, death, aging and all that bedevils us here. This world, as wonderful and as blessed as it can be, is not all that God has in mind for us!
He wants to give us new and everlasting life in direct fellowship with Him, a life so abundant, so full, so rich and real that we can hardly imagine it now.
In the midst of her battles with depression, in the midst of her frustration with the way advancing years had robbed her of feeling productive, and even in the midst of her questions about why God was keeping her on this earth, always, always, Dorothy believed in Christ. She had confidence in the midst of her questions.
She knew that Christ has prepared a place for all who believe in Him to be with Him and all the saints for all eternity. All tears will be dried and there will be joy and purpose and productivity and peace.
I never knew a person with a clearer focus on heaven than Dorothy had and today, God be praised, she is with the Lord and all His saints, including Alec and her parents.
I loved getting to know Dorothy. I’m excited that one day, because of the grace God gives to all who repent of sin and trust in Christ alone, I will get to see her once again.
To all of you who knew and loved Dorothy best, I can say with confidence that, just as He did for Dorothy, Christ has prepared a place for you and I’m sure that Dorothy is waiting for you, too.
Trust in Christ as Dorothy did and you will live each day on this earth in the certainty of an eternity of happy reunions and of endless joy. Knowing that, through Christ, you have life with God in eternity, can imbue each day you live here with a purpose and hope and joy you can find nowhere else!
May God’s purpose, hope, and joy be yours today and always. Amen
*Most people knew Dorothy's husband as Alex. But she always referred to him as Alec.