+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: John 14:3
Theme: “To Be with Me”
Dear family, friends and loved ones of Marj Schmidtke, and especially you, Malcolm,
Marj has ceased to be in need of our prayers. But we can benefit from her memory. It is our privilege to do so particularly to the extent that her life helps us to reflect on the mercy of God in Christ. And there is no lack of opportunity. God has blessed Marj greatly and she has been a blessing to others.
The consideration of death is always an opportunity to assess our own transience and perspective on life. We prefer to see things through our self-advantaged eyes due to greed, or fear, or selfishness, or denial. Yet God presents us as we are. Everything is laid bare before Him. Nothing is concealed; nothing so complex that He can’t comprehend it clearly. He sees that we are mortal and at His mercy- one and all. Victims or perpetrators, the wounded, or the offenders, the oppressed or the oppressors, the broken, or the destroyers, the lost or the deceivers, we are all mortal, frail human frames collapsing under the weight of sin.
Life doesn’t always go as planned. God uses the formative events of life to shape us. It is through these that we are used to render the best service to His kingdom. Marj understood what it meant to be thrown into the crucible. Their daughter Helen’s death was a defining tragedy for everyone in the immediate family. Marj again became a mother- and this under stressful circumstances. She rose to the occasion even while recognizing she was vulnerable. Her concern for the spiritual well-being of others, especially her family, was palpable. And to the extent it was palpable it was genuine. She was never given to pretense.
Never assuming God’s mercy was an entitlement, she was characteristically humble in faith. Her confidence rested in what was finished in Christ and not in what she still had to do. She knew salvation was by grace. That doesn’t mean she didn’t have her questions or niggling doubts. Faith is tested and refined by challenges. Marj knew she was a sinner in need of His love. She would want us to know the same.
Marj had as many reasons as the average person to give up on the real purpose of life- to concede to the lure of self-preservation. But God had high and holy purposes for her even though outwardly her life may have appeared as unremarkable as the next. The world is blind to that which only the eyes of faith can see. The apostle Paul describes it in this way, “We do not loose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”1
This passage was especially relevant to Marj in her later years. Her hearing was failing. Her sight was almost gone. Her physical frame was taxed to its limit. But inwardly- her spiritual strength was gaining fortitude and vibrancy. Her spiritual maturity proceeded inversely to her physical decline.
At what point does life become too much? The ice becomes too thin. The edge of the precipice crumbles away. The strength to fight on is exhausted. Our human capacities are maxed out and give out. This can happen physically, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically. Finally it happens comprehensively. It can cause tremendous fear and trepidation.
But the believer is not alone. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you…Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid,”2 says the Good Shepherd. And again, “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth…He will testify about Me.”3 And yet again, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”4 And so it was with Marj. Christ tended her faith with His word and Spirit, body and blood, absolution and promise. Christ was crucified to redeem sinners, of which Marj was one.
Perhaps we who are left to grieve feel more like the orphans. Yet this too will pass. God condescends to us with such compassion that His gentleness and patience will bear with our frailty. There must be sorrow mixed with joy. We are not one-dimensional stoics. The patriarchs, prophets, saints and martyrs grieved. Jesus Himself wept.
But where Christ reigns sorrow has no residency. The separation is brief, a blip of time on the scale of eternity. This solace is not a baseless platitude, but the irrevocable promise of the resurrected Christ. Satan defeated, sin atoned for, hell rendered powerless, the believer even now beings to participate in a joy- not even perhaps perceptible at first (and always contested by the darkness of the world)- but nevertheless a joy that will swell into a euphoria beyond our imagination. This is the privilege and anticipation of the baptized. That which is labeled heaven is nothing less than the unhindered experience of the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- uninterrupted.
The only one who has the authority to do so said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled…In My Father’s house are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you.”5 Christ has prepared that place for Marj Schmidtke and it has been filled. Earlier we heard these words, “Though now for a little while you have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith- of greater worth than gold…may be proved genuine…for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”16
Marj has received the goal of her faith. The promise of her baptism has come to fruition. She has been set free. All that she failed to do and failed to be is forgiven. All that she was in faith is rewarded. She is at peace. She is not burdened with pain or anxiety or regret. She rests in the presence of Him who took her place outside the earthly Jerusalem so that she might have her place inside the heavenly Zion. She awaits the resurrection of all flesh. Glory to God in the highest! Amen
+ In nomine Jesu +
Christian Burial of Marjory Schmidtke
14 March 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 2 Corinthians 4:16-17
2 John 14:27
3 John 15:27
4 John 14:18
5 John 14:1-2
6 1 Peter 1:6-7, 9