Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from
our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Tonight we gather in Christian fellowship and
solidarity, in memory of our departed sister in Christ, Lucy Marie Brelin. Few
of us had the opportunity to know Lucy this side of heaven, and we know only a
little about her from what her dear son Harvey has provided us. Nevertheless,
it is perfectly appropriate for us to gather in remembrance of Lucy. There are
several reasons for this.
One reason, of course, is to demonstrate our love,
compassion, and concern for Harvey and Nancy. We, too, would hope that in
times of loss, our brothers and sisters in Christ might come together to
support us, to comfort us, and to just “be there.”
Another reason is that in this coming together, we
might praise God in word and song, in prayer and praise, thanking Him for the
many years of life He gave Lucy, for every breath and blessing he provides to
all of us each day, and for the faith we share with Lucy and with one another.
Most importantly, we come to be uplifted and
strengthened and prepared for times of difficulty by hearing once again of the
love of God in Christ, which is ours in all circumstances, including times of
great joy and great sadness. We receive God’s gift of His word, His loving
testament of both expectations and promises.
We have a strong history in the Lutheran church of
making sure that the focus in funerals and memorial services remains on
Christ’s deeds, and not on those of the departed Christian. We go to great
lengths to ensure that, no matter how fine a person our deceased relatives or
friends might be, we don’t give any indication that he or she somehow
accomplished salvation on his or her own, or wasn’t in need of a Savior.
Yet, that doesn’t mean we can’t rejoice and celebrate
human lives that were lived in—and lived for—Jesus Christ. Almost every
time we worship, we hear lessons that speak of the activities of the prophets
or the apostles or other individuals whom God used to accomplish the redemption
of the world. These people’s lives were lived as encounters with God, yet it
always remained true that God took the first step—and indeed every step—toward
them. It is His grace and His love and His action that
fulfilled His promises to us, and which make our relationship to Him work.
So it was for Lucy, and so it is and will remain for
all of us: We celebrate the fact that our Lord reaches out to us. We rejoice
in the fact that He stooped to earth to be born of a poor girl in squalid
surroundings, and died a brutal, undeserved death in public disgrace, all to
atone for our sins and our sinfulness.
And in this Easter season, and especially as we
remember a fellow saint who has gone on before us to the Church Triumphant, we
lift up our hearts at the knowledge that as Christ has been victorious over the
grave, so has Lucy been victorious over the grave and even now dwells in the
The portion of Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth which was our Epistle lesson this evening lays out the reality of the resurrection
truth in words clear and confident. Paul appeals to both the minds and the
hearts of the Corinthians. He shows that—through faith—we trust in Christ’s
resurrection. In knowing and believing the resurrection of Jesus to be true,
we accept its reality for us and for all believers.
In reading through some of the things Harvey passed along to us about Lucy, I felt a strong connection, in spite of having never
met her. For one thing, she and I played the same wind instrument, the
clarinet. Now, I’ll never be confused with a real clarinetist such as Harvey has become with his mom’s encouragement, but at least I could relate to that.
Lucy was also an avid reader, and my wife can tell you
that there are many nights when you might have to pry a novel out of my fingers
and compel me to go to sleep, because I’m so engrossed in the book.
But is was in reading through the list of some of the
places Lucy used to take Harvey and his brother on field trips that I felt a
stronger connection to her. I could envision each and every one of those
locations, because I, too, had the opportunity to visit them in my youth: The
Detroit Institute of Arts, where a replica of Rodin’s statue, “The Thinker”
sits out front—rain or shine, sweltering or frigid.
The Detroit Historical Museum, where an exhibit on the
lower level about the early heydays of the auto industry was detailed right
down to the original brick used to pave the streets.
The Detroit Zoo, where a miniature railroad around the
grounds was one of the highlights of any childhood visit. And the Main
Library, a wondrous place where it seemed, to a small child, that every book in
the world must be stored.
There was Belle Isle, a green gem of a park in the
middle of the Detroit River, full of picnic tables, baseball fields, the Great Lakes museum, and the city’s two yacht clubs. Although I never got to attend a symphony
concert there like Harvey did, I do distinctly remember seeing the band shell
where I’ll bet those concerts were held.
And finally, Bob-Lo Island. As Harvey mentions, it
offered an amusement park that was quite an extravagant and exciting place in its
day. The original and correct name for Bob-Lo was Bois Blanc—“white
wood,” to the French explorers who were among the first Europeans to see those
parts. The name recalls the vast forests of white pine which once covered much
of Michigan and lower Ontario, between which the island rests.
Just thinking about those wonderful places I’d
visited, and which Harvey had also gone to with his mother, Lucy, brought back
great memories for me, as I hope they do for him. They were things I share in
common with Lucy, too, even if we never actually shared them together.
What I more significantly share with Lucy—and so do
you—is a trust that our sins were taken away by the suffering and death of
Jesus Christ, and that His death meant the death of death itself. In His
resurrection, He ensured that the hold of the grave was broken, for all time
and beyond—for Lucy, for me, for you, and for all who believe this.
I didn’t get to share all those physical experiences
in Detroit with Harvey and Lucy. But I do share with them, and with you, the
experience of being a sinner—a sinner redeemed by Christ crucified—and the
spiritual experience of being touched by God’s word and changed by God’s action
in our lives. And because of sharing those experiences, and by faith
confessing Christ’s name before the world, one day we will all experience the
joy of standing before our Lord and Savior in His eternal realm. We will share
His blest communion, His fellowship divine—promised to us, and for all the
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!