+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: John 11:25
Theme: Resurrection and Life
Dear family, friends and loved ones of Rosemary; Deb, Kym, Brenton, and especially you; Rod,
The struggle has ended; the celebration has only begun. Today the Spirit can temper our sense of grief and loss with a genuine appreciation for the blessings Rosemary now enjoys. As the apostle says, she now sees God “face to face.”1 Rosemary is at peace. We have it on the highest authority, the very decree from heaven, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them.’”2 Of course, Rosemary’s rest doesn’t mean inactivity. Undoubtedly the vitality she possessed on earth is even more magnified in heaven.
Dear friends, death is as common as the rising of the sun; a regular occurrence that collides with our daily routines and throws them decidedly, if only temporarily, out of balance. Even though death is commonplace- and we all must face it- it is always momentous. Something much more than a physical life reaching its conclusion is involved. Eternal things are at stake. Death brings us face to face with the big questions of existence, the deepest mysteries and the thorniest conundrums.
When reflecting on the death of a loved one honesty compels us to consider our own mortality. Nothing in this earthly realm is more final than death. It is an invincible power. We are defenceless to stand against it. We do ourselves no favours by ignoring it or brushing lightly past it. Death is not child’s play. It is deep, dark, and sinister. Death is not natural. It has a malicious cause. The Holy Scriptures say, “The wages of sin is death.”3 Because all are sinners all must face it. We live in a fallen world
Into this fallen existence comes an infant in a manger who grows up to be nailed to a cross. God sent His Son, in the flesh, to suffer and die. Divine intervention was required to rescue the human race. Here is where the skepticism of the world is met head on. Who wouldn’t have been filled with skepticism when Christ replied to the distraught Martha saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.”4 They were filled with more doubt and even derision as He stood outside the grave of Lazarus- a man four-days dead- and called, “Lazarus, come out!”5 But the proof was in the pudding. And it was only a preview of His own victory over the grave. Christ is the immortal God who has conquered death itself. Easter is the bedrock of Christian truth. Rosemary held this conviction firmly and with transparent honesty.
Rosemary wasn’t pretentious in any way. She was a straight shooter; always calling a spade a spade. She was full of life, vitality, and good humour. Her laugh was always recognizable. She had a cheery disposition, determination, and tenacity. Her perseverance in overcoming the incapacitation of her stroke was remarkable. She fought on for five years not in bitterness but embracing her life in its altered dimensions. A stroke crippled her body but it could not cripple her spirit. She was a devoted wife and loving mother and nana.
On her last full day on this earth I asked Rosemary if she had any fears about going to heaven. Without hesitation her face grimaced in a fashion which indicated I had asked a pointless question and then she said emphatically, “None at all, the sooner the better!” She wasn’t just telling the local pastor what she thought he wanted to hear. She was filled with conviction. The time had come and she was ready. She looked forward to being relieved from the burdens of her deteriorating body. She longed to be freed from the mental and emotional strain of the daily grind. She had no reservations; believing that she lived a blessed and full life.
What could give her such confidence? Rosemary wasn’t silly, and her mind certainly wasn’t failing. Her trust rested not on hollow promises but on the fact Christ could not be held in the grave. She knew this meant that His crucifixion had freed her from the guilt of sin, that forgiveness was valid; that death does not have the final say. She received the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood insisting that the head of her bed be raised to what she considered a more reverent position. Nurtured one more time by His gifts and promises she was even more at ease. Though a sinner like all of us she knew she was saved by grace.
Rosemary was a flower in her little patch of God’s garden. Colourful in personality she added flavour to the lives of many. Her season in this short span of time we call temporal life has ended. The Scripture reminds us, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”6 Her soul has been gathered into the fellowship of the faithful in the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit where she awaits with us all the great resurrection of the Last Day. Secured in God’s eternal fortress no harm can reach her. No stroke can cripple her, no pain can burden her; no worry can trouble her. And there is nothing to subdue her laughter. The promise of her baptism has come to fulfillment.
And this is our only source of true comfort. The Holy Scripture says, “God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.”1 Thessalonians 5:10 She now enjoys the communion of God in a manner that is beyond the widest limits of our imagination. Rod, the days ahead for you cannot be scripted. The journey of grief is unique to each of us. But as you reflect on the gift that Rosemary was to you as a wife and as a mother to your children take comfort in knowing that she is whole again; healed and restored never to be afflicted. Rosemary now rests from her labours. She has received the crown of everlasting life. Thanks be to God for His immeasurable love. Amen
+ In nomine Jesu +
Christian Burial of Rosemary Jennifer Ziersch
14 November 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 1 Corinthians 13:12
2 Revelation 14:13
3 Romans 6:23
4 John 11:25
5 John 11:43
6 Isaiah 40:8
7 1 Thessalonians 5:10