Thursday, February 7, 2013

Burial Office

Ruth Mitchell Martsolf Cover
March 10, 1917 – December 29, 2012

Grace and peace to you this morning, as we gather to give thanks for the life of Ruth Mitchell Martsolf Cover, Mrs. Paul Harold Cover—and, Jim and Linda, as we offer our prayers for your mom today we would also be in prayer for you and for all your family, that these days would be rich with memories and appreciation, and for us all, that we would be reminded both of the character of Christian life and of the hope we have in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, that in the passing to greater life we are presented to our Heavenly Father, as we symbolically represent, illuminated by the light of the paschal candle in the lasting victory of Easter.  

As we have discussed and planned this service this morning it has been to have that first and foremost in our minds and our hearts—that this is a service of thanksgiving for Ruth as she lived the fullness of this life in such a rich and wonderful way, and a service of thanksgiving and celebration for the new life and eternal life that Ruth knows and that we as Christian people can know as well in Jesus Christ our Lord.

In my Father’s house are many mansions.  If it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there ye may be also.

It’s pretty amazing to think about a life of 95 years.  Childhood in the post-war 1920’s, growing to maturity in the years of depression and war.  Marriage, family.  All the richness of the past century.  From Woodrow Wilson to Barack Obama.  From the Model T to the Space Station and the Mars Rover.

For me in the not-quite 20 years that I’ve known Ruth what has stood out: her quick mind, her marvelous sense of humor, her wonderful laughter, her creativity, her generosity, her hospitality, her kindness.  Always such a pleasure to be with her.  She contributed so much here at St. Andrew’s.  Just the other day we were talking about the altar frontal and hangings she made for the Memorial Table that we sometimes have used for more informal services of Holy Communion.  The wonderful banners that for so many years hung along the sides of the nave.  And the creative and thoughtful posters, and birthday cards, that she would send even in these later years.

 I know the ones she would send to me almost always had something about baseball.  She just had a lot of fun with that.  And for so many years in dedicated and loyal service with her friends on the Altar Guild.

In my Father’s house are many mansions.  Some contemporary translations give us this word from Jesus in John 14 as “In my Father’s house are many rooms.”  Which I guess makes sense, and which may be truer to the pattern of Greek as it is heard not in 16th century English but at the beginning of the 21stCentury.  But I want to say this morning, as we commend Ruth into the arms of our generous God, as we affirm our bonds in Jesus Christ for this life and the life to come, that there are mansions prepared for her, for us.  Of a grandeur and a glory and an abundance beyond anything we can imagine.  The fullness of sharing with Christ.  As he said, “that where I am, there ye may be also.”

As we express our friendship and sympathy today, acknowledging a Christian life lived carefully and faithfully, may all that be embraced in a spirit of hope and expectation.  That this Paschal Candle of Easter not just be a reminder of a day on the calendar in the springtime, but the condition and reality of our lives, every month of the year, every day of our lives. 

Which is, again, why we light this Paschal Candle, the Candle of Easter, in the service this morning.  As we are born in Christ in baptism, as we live, as we die, and as we are reborn in his image and presence, to live in all fullness in the place, in the mansion, he has prepared for us.

Jim suggested the passage from Philippians 4, and it does seem just right, as we would remember and honor Ruth.  “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if  there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise ,think about these things.”  And certainly as we remember and give thanks for Ruth, these Christian virtues shine in a brilliant way.

And it seems just right to me here this morning that we sing together one of Ruth’s favorites, from the Lutheran hymnal: Beautiful Saviour.  A tender reminder of the Father’s deepest benediction and care for us, each of us individually, and as we remember and give thanks for our friend this morning.  May she rest in peace, and rise in glory. 

The words are printed on the insert in the service leaflet.  Let us stand and sing.

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