Most Lutheran clergy only conduct funerals for members of their congregations whom are in good standing. There are however cases in which a pastor may conduct a funeral for a person not of his parish. Most counties in the state of Indiana maintain a county home. For the past twenty-one years we have had a member or two who have taken up residence at Adams County’s Golden Meadows Home. In my regular visits I have taken up conversations with most of the residents and have come to know the administrators and staff. It’s a small staff and a handful of residents. I have done the Thanksgiving devotions there for the past twenty-one years. Held usually a Sunday or two before Thanksgiving. They are truly a blessed community. Everything [and I mean literally everything] they have has been received as a gift and they are grateful for what they have. Their greatest treasure of which they have is of course each other. So when one of them dies the entire community goes into deep mourning. Their grief is real.
Some of the residents find themselves there because there is literally no one who can care for them. In some circumstances there is no family to speak of. Most are hindered by some physical, mental, or psychological malady. Some are indigent. Some have just been forgotten. It is so easy to simply look past them.
Bonnie Stauffer has been a resident for more then twenty years at Golden Meadows. Before she took up residence here she was a school teacher in Texas. For the last twenty years I have probably been one of only a few pastors who have called on her. Tomorrow the residents and staff will gather in the basement chapel for a celebration of life service. We will remember Bonnie as a dear friend, a sincere Christian. One for whom Jesus loved and died and rose again. There will only be a few souls there – I would guess less then thirty - but in heaven the angels are rejoicing as a child of God – a sinner redeemed by grace - has returned home.
Death is so limited…
It has not crippled love,
It has not shattered hope,
It has not corroded faith,
It has not eaten away peace
Nor destroyed confidence
It has not killed friendship,
It has not shut out memories,
It has not silenced courage,
It has not invaded the soul,
Nor reduced eternal life.
It has not quenched the Spirit,
It cannot, has not,
Nor will not lesson the power of the resurrection!
Bonnie Stauffer– a child of God – she successfully celebrates the 3 great birthdays of her life
First, there is the day of her birth – June 26, 1927 – a day for her to thank the Lord for all the talents, gifts, and abilities He had given her.
Yet, the Savior had His hand on her, she knew the Scriptural truth: “if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. – But if we confess our sin, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Then there is the day she was baptized when she was born again, when she was born spiritually, when she was born of God.
Finally there is the day she was born into glory – this past Wednesday – June 11, 2008 - when she took a walk - from one end of the kingdom to the other – from the kingdom of grace into the kingdom of glory.
The other day the staff wrote down some notes concerning the things they remember about Bonnie.
Bonnie was a teacher and was a life long learner. She loved to read and always had a list for the library.
She was always interested about the staff and their family especially how the children were doing in school. She was always interested in Kyle’s school progress.
Bonnie was humble.
She was a private person and would take time until you had earned her trust afterwards - she welcomed you as a friend.
She appreciated simple things (especially nature)
She enjoyed the view from her room –
She kept track of the 1st Robin of spring and kept a diary of the weather – she kept track of the 1st frost, 1st snow.
She enjoyed flowers – kept track of daffodils, crocus, lilacs
She enjoyed Gracie –Golden Meadow’s house cat. She kept an eye on her food and water – she never allowed her in her room, never petted her, until the day before she died – and allowed one of the nursing staff to hold her up to her bedside. Bonnie patted her on the head and smiled before shooing her away.
Bonnie loved Christmas trees, spring flowers, birds’ nests with chirping robins.
She loved Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream and Cream Savers Candy.
Today, however, we celebrate her victory of life.
God is completely responsible for our salvation from front to back!
We don’t one day decide to follow Jesus – He plants the seed of faith in our heart. He then nourishes that faith by giving us His eternal Word which is able to make us wise unto salvation.
That seed of faith is demonstrated by how we live and treat one another. That’s what you as a family did for her – for the past 21 years this was Bonnie’s home –Golden Meadows - where you were caring for her physical needs in the last months and weeks of her life – preparing him for his entry into eternity. Reminding her of the grace of God found in Jesus Christ our Savior – He came into this world at Christmas to be our Savior from sin.
John 11:25-26 Jesus said, “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. Do you believe this?”
This is the question we each must ponder…
(1) - Is Jesus the resurrection and the life? Testimony of Scripture is undeniable – The early disciples would simply say - “we are witnesses of these things!”
(2) - Do we believe – that whoever believes in Jesus, even though they die will live and not die?
Bonnie believed this – that she was a sinner. But also that Christ is compassionate who has promised to forgive our sins - because she did believe this she is alive, well, at peace, whole – and if we have this same faith we will see each other again – never to be separated by time, distance, space.
This service is for the living – Bonnie was given opportunity to live her life – we continue on- life will be different – there will be a new sense of “normal” - but we walk by faith – until that day comes in our life when Jesus will call us from this world to a world that has no end – from an earthly kingdom – to a heavenly kingdom – from a place which is limited to a place that is beyond time & space. May the Savior so walk with you until we are re-united with those who have gone before us.
Lord God Heavenly Father, Your days are without end and Your mercies cannot be counted. Make us aware of the shortness and the uncertainty of this human life; and let Your Holy Spirit lead us all the days of our lives so that when we shall have served You in our generation; we like our sister Bonnie may be granted the gift of eternal life and be gathered into the home which You have prepared for all who trust in You and call you Lord. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.