“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, & no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s Hand.” – John 10:27-30
I only got to meet Michele once. But that was enough to know I was dealing with someone special. Even though she was sick and in pain, she still took great care to make sure that I felt welcome in her home. Michele immediately wanted to get to know me and asked many questions. She also generously shared many things about herself and her family. Sometimes she became confused and could not remember things but eventually the details would come back to her. It was obvious that she felt blessed to have a loving husband, children, family and friends. She shared Christ with me too. I found out that Michele spent time in God’s Word daily & she quoted from it readily. So we prayed together & received the body & blood of Our Lord in Holy Communion. It was clear that God’s Words of grace gave her great comfort.
When I talked with her family after her death, I learned my experience with Michele was no accident. She treated all people with love. She had a genuine joy about life that she freely shared with everyone God sent her way. She was a fun-loving person who had a heart of gold. In their stories, I heard about a doting daughter who took care of a sick father, a meticulous mother who took good care of her children, and a whimsical wife who shared many happy times with her husband hunting, canoeing & gardening even if she sometimes forgot and left the weeds for Don to deal with! I was told how the love Michele had for her family also overflowed into her friendships and work. It seemed that she always had a joke or a nice compliment to pick up your spirits. She worked hard to take good care of the folks at Rolling Meadows. Even in the middle of her own battle with Cancer, she reached out to many others suffering from the same disease to make sure they got an encouraging word. Truly, Michele’s life blessed many people, me included.
So it’s been an honor to share my recollections of Michele with you. I also share your grief over her death. She really was a wonderful Wife, Mother, Daughter, Sister and friend. So we can and should give heartfelt thanks to God for the gift of Her life and celebrate it. She gave a lot of love & happiness to us all. However, I think Michele would also appreciate this sentiment because she was a huge country music fan. To paraphrase an old Ricky Nelson song: “If all I had to share was memories, I’d rather drive a bus!” Simply put, if all I had to say to you today was a summary of Michele’s life I’d be wasting your time.
But God has called me here today to be your Preacher so He could say another Word; a Word of hope that will give you an unlimited future. You see the world out there says that nothing can be done about death. Just be brave, remember the good times, & move on because the grave has the final say. I am here to tell you that this is a lie. The truth is God loves us & hates graves so He did something about it. God sent us One who defeated death so it doesn’t get to have the last word.
My friends, in the reading from John we heard the Good News that little Lambs like Michele have a savior named Jesus. He says: “I am the Good Shepherd.” God promised in the 23rd Psalm that the Good Shepherd will never abandon His beloved Lambs to the wolves of the grave even as they walk through the valley of the shadow of death. You see, we do know with certainty that Michele was indeed one of Jesus’ little Lambs because He came to her in the waters of Baptism and said so. On that day, in those waters, Christ joined her life to His life; a divine life that is stronger than even death. In Baptism, God called her by name, forgave her sins, pledged to walk with her throughout life, & said that He would one day come to take her to heaven when her work on earth was done. So, just as Christ was raised up from the dead by the Father, Michele will also be resurrected to new life. God promised all these things to Michele in her Baptism & He doesn’t lie. God always remembers His little Lambs so Michele is in paradise with Jesus today.
This same Good News is for you too. God made the same promises to you in your Baptism. Jesus has also chosen you to be His Lamb. Even if you wander away, the Good Shepherd said He will come find you & today He has. So by Christ’s authority, not my own, I am here today to declare that: “All your sins are forgiven & you have been given eternal life.” What this means is that this is not your final farewell to Michele. You will see her again. And when you do the Lord promises that there won’t be anymore tears to shed or goodbyes to say & the happy times will never end.
Until that glorious day, Michele is enjoying the newness of a life more joyous than we can imagine. She is a beloved Lamb who now rests safely in the Arms of the Good Shepherd. All her troubles in this old world are left behind. No more deep valleys of pain or shadows of death but only peace forever with her Lord. One day it will also be the same – for you. Amen.