The following is the sermon I preached at the funeral of my Great-Aunt, Mrs. Mary Schuh Fox on September 13:
Adolph Berwyn Funeral Home, Berwyn, Illinois
Christian Burial for Mary Schuh Fox
The 15th Week after Trinity
13 September 2010
1 John 2:28
In the Holy Name of Jesus. Amen.
“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.”
On Wednesday, September 8th, at approximately 2:00 pm, our Lord called to Himself the soul of our sister in Christ, Mary Schuh Fox. The verse for the homily this morning is her Confirmation verse given to her by Pastor William Mueller at Golgotha Lutheran Church on April 5, 1925.
St. John wrote these words in the first of his three epistles or letters to various churches to encourage them. He wanted them to be in this world, but not of this world. That is, he didn’t want them to get too attached to the things of this world, because they are transitory. As Jesus had once said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” St. John was also very insistent that they continue to confess Jesus was God Incarnate - that is, in the flesh, against those who would deny that God truly became man in Jesus Christ. Indeed, if God did not become man in Jesus Christ to bear our sin upon Himself, in His flesh, then we are without hope.
And so Pastor Mueller chose to give this verse of encouragement from St. John to young Mary Schuh when she was confirmed and began to receive her Lord’s Body and Blood for the forgiveness of her sin. It is a verse to encourage followers of Jesus (who John refers to as little children) to abide in Jesus so that they might have confidence and a good conscience before Him when He returns.
First of all, it must be said, that Mary was, even at 98 years, 8 months and 8 days, a little child of God. She was born on December 31, 1911 and was baptized into God’s Holy Triune Name on February 17, 1912. There God did exactly what St. John says, He made her His “little child,” in that washing of water with Word, giving to her life, forgiveness and salvation. She was crucified with Christ and brought forth as a new person. What made Mary and all Christians, “little children” is that little children are only “giveable to,” they by their very nature, aren’t really able to give, they are only able to receive. That is the beauty of the Baptism of infants - it so clearly shows that we are helpless - nothing but giveable to - we are those who are on the receiving end of all of God’s gifts.
So is was with Mary. Her childhood was not an easy one, having lost her mother at an early age, but those who took the responsibility for raising her and and her siblings (their father and aunt and uncle), saw to it that she received God’s gifts - that she be fed with His Word like a little child.
And so it was she was instructed and brought to Confirmation and the Supper of her Lord’s Body and Blood for her forgiveness, “and now, little children, abide in him.”
Now she remained in Him through her Baptism, through the life-giving Word, through Jesus’ Body and Blood. On June 7, 1937 she was blessed with a loving husband in Arthur Fox, in a union that lasted until his death in 1992. And though they were not given the gift of children, they were blessed with nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews, whom they loved and served.
Finally, on September 8th, her Lord called home to Himself in heaven to await the Resurrection of all flesh at the end of all things. St. John also writes about that, “so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.”
Those who are in Christ, who have received Him and the gifts of life and forgiveness that he brings to them from His Cross, through Word and Water - through Body and Blood - can and do have confidence - that unassailable confidence that comes through Jesus Christ alone. Mary had such confidence. She was not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Apart from that confidence we have no hope. Apart from that confidence, we are nothing more than a bunch of random molecules bouncing around a cold, indifferent universe. Mary was not random molecules bouncing around a cold, indifferent universe. She was baptized in Christ. She knew Him and she was known by Him Who gave Himself for her.
As Mary lost her hearing, her mobility, and her sight, she became again, like a little child, only able to receive. She became helpless once again. And while it is hard to see someone become helpless, it is also a blessing. It forces us to remember that that all we have - all we are is from God, not from us. At the end we are powerless. Our only confidence in is God alone. “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” She was helpless - that is true - but she was helped, and now she has been healed - arrayed in the glorious robe of Christ’s Righteousness. We do not know what the future will bring, but only Christians can have the faith that it will be good - because it will all be a gift from our gracious Lord.
She, even then, still received her Lord in His Body and Blood, in His Holy Word. He who became man for her, bore all of her weakness, her sickness, in His own flesh upon the cross, suffering all that had gone with her and all that has gone wrong with all of mankind because of our sin. The Father cares for the birds of the air and for the lilies of the field. So also He cared even more for Mary and so in His love finally brought her soul to Himself, to be with Art, to await the Resurrection of the dead, where her body will be raised, incorruptible, confident and unashamed, because she has been born above by her Lord.
Yes, Mary desired to be reunited with Art and Elsie and John a long time ago and now she is - and more - she is united with her Lord in the unending worship of heaven, confident and unashamed.
In his poem about the brothers and disciples James and John, John Henry Newman penned these words, but I will apply them to Mary and Art, “Now they join hands once more above, before the Conquerors throne. Thus God grants prayer, but in His love, makes times and ways His own.”
In the Holy Name of Jesus. Amen.