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A Memorial Service Sermon for Carolyn Martin. August 27, 2022

August 29, 2022

I was blessed to preach the sermon at the memorial service for Carolyn Ruth Hager Martin on Saturday, August 27, 2022. You can watch the service and view the bulletin. Rest eternal grant Carolyn, O Lord; and let light perpetual shine upon her.

Lori, Sharese, Jeanette; family and friends; sisters and brothers in Christ, grace be unto you and peace in the name God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

  1. “Do not worry about your life,” Jesus says, “what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.” Not worrying does not come easily to most of us, but it was a bit easier when Carolyn was around. For one thing, who needs to worry about what to eat or what to wear when a home economics expert is around? She could the prepare the meal and then sit down to enjoy it in a dress of her own making! From her first job in a one-room schoolhouse to many-roomed Maine West, not to mention a handful of places in between, Carolyn’s vocation in education put in her a position to care for others. No doubt she lightened the burdens of many young people in her charge, whether they were learning to stitch or searching through the card catalogue. Whatever the particular task before her, caring for others was an expression of her baptismal vocation. Hepler, Kansas, may be a small town, but the faithful formation she received there at home and church prepared her for a life of service and adventure that would take her around the world. At the center of it all was her love for her Lord and a life of discipleship lived faithfully at Grace over the decades. And at the center with her was her beloved Walt, and their three daughters. Nowhere was her life of faithful vocation more clearly expressed than in and through her family, whether in their home in River Forest, during their many travels, or at Park Place, where they together, and then she alone, lived out their days. We were all blessed by Carolyn’s presence, her care, her faith. And today we gather in grief, mourning her absence from us. We grieve and we mourn, but we need not worry.
  2. Do not worry, Paul writes to the Philippians, echoing the words of Jesus. These calls to set aside worry remind us of just how often worry afflicts our minds and hearts. From everyday worries to existential anxieties, we are hard pressed to find true peace. Today, perhaps, we worry about what life looks like without Carolyn present with us. But we need not worry. The Lord Carolyn worshipped throughout her life is the same Lord who meets us here today in our grief. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us today that our heavenly Father knows our needs. We are more precious to God than even the birds of the air or the lilies of the field. God will provide for us. But of all the needs of this life – food, clothing, shelter; family, friends, love – our greatest need is life itself. And life is exactly the one thing we can’t get more of for ourselves. Worry won’t add to our span of life and, worried or not, death awaits each of us. But just as our heavenly Father meets our everyday needs, so, too, does he send Jesus into this world to meet our most lasting need. Jesus enters into death to defeat it. He rises from the grave to welcome us into the Kingdom of God. We need forgiveness. Jesus grants it. We need life. Jesus gives it. Carolyn knew that apart from Jesus, the tasks and worries of this life are just that and nothing more. But in Christ and in service to his Kingdom, our life in this world becomes purposeful, meaningful. In Christ we can set aside the worries that afflict us and live lives of joy.
  3. Paul commends us to keep doing the things we have learned and received from him, and I think this is an invitation to learn from all the saints who have gone before us. Certainly, Carolyn’s life was marked by much that is commendable and pleasing, excellent and worthy of praise: Her love of teaching and for young people. Her sense of adventure and willingness to try new things and go new places. Her intellectual curiosity. Her deep devotion to Walt and her boundless love for their children and grandchildren. Her faithfulness to her Savior. Reflecting on her life, 90 years well lived, we have so much for which to give thanks, and we have much so much to emulate.
  4. Like all of you, I will miss Carolyn. I’ll miss visiting her and hearing the stories behind the paintings and drawings that surrounded her. I’ll miss hearing stories from Grace’s past as I told stories of Grace’s present. I’ll miss her curiosity about my family and the pride she took in hers. And I’ll miss her humor. Not so long ago, I was visiting Carolyn shortly after she’d had a fall. Attempting to ascertain where she’d injured herself, I asked her where she’d landed. She looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and said, “On the floor, Pastor.”
  5. Yes, we will miss Carolyn, but we need not worry. Our God knows what we need, and, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God gives us what we need. Forgiveness and life, abundant and eternal. We need not worry, for we will see Carolyn again. This death is not the end but rather an entryway into the Kingdom of God. We shall see her, dressed even more finely than had she made the dress herself, for she will be clothed in the very righteousness of Christ. On that day, we shall see the Kingdom come in its fullness, with Carolyn and Walt and all the saints in light. On that day, in the presence of the Lamb, the cares and concerns of this life will simply fade away, overcome once and for all by the love of God. In that hope, we can claim the peace of Christ. In that hope, we can have our strength renewed like the eagle. In that hope, we can strive for God’s Kingdom even now. This morning, we entered worship following the cross, as we do each time we gather. Today, Christine carries the cross, this very cross that was gifted to Grace by her grandparents. At the close of worship, we follow that cross back into the world. We go with worries set aside, hope restored, ready again to witness to the hope we have in Christ – the same hope into which we commend our dear Carolyn today. Amen.

And now may that peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, this day and forever. Amen.

From → Sermons

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