Friday, August 31, 2007

In honor of my grandmother

My grandmother died on August 9, 2007. I had the honor of performing her funeral on August 26 at the Laemersville Grace Brethren Church in Pennsylvania. We then did a graveside at the Brumbaugh cemetary, where she is buried next to her parents and other ancestors. I don't usually post things here that I preach, but the family has asked that I share this. I generally work from a manuscript like this and then go from there. I don't remember what I added and changed "on the fly" but it's usually a pretty good amount. Particularly with something like this I like to personalize it even more when I deliver it. Still, I think this gives you the general feel of the message. The message was preceded by the songs Wonderful Words of Life and Ivory Palaces, as well as the Lord's Prayer. Afterwards we sang the songs My Jesus I Love Thee and Face to Face. My grandmother was a gifted musician, and this lead to the music theme that you will see.

On behalf of the family of Kathern Lingenfelter I want to thank you for being here today. The song Ivory Palaces was always very special to grandma because she remembered her parents singing it as a duet. Her father, George Rogers, founded this church 1936 and was the individual responsible for leading Harvey Lingenfelter, my other great-grandfather to the Lord.

In Psalm 106 we read a brief account of Phinehas, who interceded for the Israelites in prayer, and it is written that his righteousness was counted to him from generation to generation. Truly we can see the same thing happening in the work that George Rogers did to spread the gospel here in Pennsylvania. I mention this because I am the grandson of Kathern Lingenfelter, who is the daughter of George Rogers and Elma Brumbaugh. I serve on the pastoral staff of a church in California and I am very honored to be speaking to you today in what is truly my spiritual home.

Around Christmas of last year I went over to my grandparent's house with my daughter to sing with grandma. She loved to sit at the piano and play while we all sang along. One of the pieces that we sang that night was Ivory Palaces. I remember standing there, having difficulty singing as I choked up listening to Kathern's frail voice singing a song that she clearly loved and had sung all of her life. It is also a song that was passed on from generation to generation as her parents sung it, she sung it, and today you heard my parents sing it.

One of the poignant things about this hymn is that it speaks of the pain and suffering that Jesus endured as he left his ivory palaces to dwell with us here. Kathern lived 82 years, and she served God through her life, while enduring mental suffering at times, as well as living through the great depression. Life wasn't always easy, but she always knew where her eternal destiny was.

In John 14 Jesus assures us:

John 14:2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

The story does not end when our life ends here. For Kathern, this is only the beginning. Now she is experiencing the place that Jesus has prepared for her, face to face with her savior at last. Kathern now dwells in the ivory palaces she could only sing about during her time on this earth.

The book of Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon late in his life, as he wrote down his observations on life. Solomon asked the Lord for wisdom, and the Lord granted it. In 1 Kings we read about how wise Solomon was:

1Kings 4:29 And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore,
1Kings 4:30 so that Solomon's wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt.
1Kings 4:31 For he was wiser than all other men

While we must always take scripture seriously, I think it's worth taking a moment to dwell on the fact that scripture refers to Solomon as wiser than all other men. The language is unequivocal, the Hebrew word translated "all" literally means all, every or the whole. Solomon was wiser than the whole of mankind.

The center of the book of Ecclesiastes is chapter 7. When writing in ancient times the center of a text was extremely important. It was the key point on which everything else hinged. Here's what Solomon has to say at the center of Ecclesiastes:

Eccl. 7:1 A good name is better than precious ointment,
and the day of death than the day of birth.
Eccl. 7:2 It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.

Let's look at each of these statements as we reflect on today. A good name is better than precious ointment -- Our name is a reflection of the life we live on this earth. Your name is a reflection of your integrity, it is a reflection of whether or not you lived with the fruit of the spirit or not. The smiles in the slideshow we watched show how Kathern presented herself to her family. We knew her, we loved her, and we were impacted by her love of Christ.

The day of death is better than the day of birth -- when we are born there is joy, but much uncertainty. Our lives are a clean slate, unwritten. We will make choices that will affect our eternity. Our day of death, if we have lived for God and have a good name as a result, is a day of certainty. Kathern's earthly problems are now history, she is free from the troubles of her mind and body, free to rejoice in the presence of her creator.

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart -- put simply, there is no better place for you to be right now than at this funeral. Funerals have a way of making us think about our own lives, and this opportunity is one of the few times our society allows us to pause and reflect on our own lives, as we celebrate the passing of another.

Furthermore, we all have the same end. Unless the Lord returns very soon, every one of us will come to the same end. As we reflect on Kathern's life today, we have the opportunity to think on our own ends, and being that we are still among the living, we still have time to do something about our name, and how we will be remembered.

Many years ago my grandparents,Galen & Kathern, came to visit us in southern California, and I was working at the First Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton. I'll never forget the Easter that I took them to church with me. Chuck Swindoll was the senior pastor, and he preached a challenging message, but one that was not what you or I would consider a "typical" Easter sermon. Chuck was trying to put a different twist on things in hopes of grabbing people who were typically only Easter & Christmas attendees.

I'll never forget grandma's response as we were driving away from the church. "I didn't like it!" she declared. When asked why she said "because he didn't present the gospel!" I explained that he had but he had put a new spin on it in order to try to reach some of those who hadn't gotten the message before. Her reply was simple "They still need to hear it! It's Easter and they should hear the gospel presented plainly and clearly!"

That moment gave me a profound insight into my grandmother. Her response to what most of us thought was a pretty good sermon reminded me of the apostle Paul, who wrote:

1Cor. 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Kathern lived to see the gospel preached to the world, and she was unashamed of its content. I certainly don't mean to be critical of the preaching skills of Chuck Swindoll, but I think this is a great example of how important those wonderful words of life were to Kathern. There was nothing more important that anyone could hear than of how Jesus had died for our sins, and was risen from the grave, for this is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ that was written about at the beginning of Mark. To Kathern, the cross was powerful, and the Word of God was all that was needed to bring people to a saving faith in Him.

Grandma would often play "My Jesus I Love Thee" on her organ at home, and she called it her theme song. We will sing it in a moment. But before we do, I'd like to take a few moments to reflect on what we will be singing:

My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine
For thee all the follies of sin I resign
My gracious Redeemer, my Saviour art thou;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, tis now.

The theme song of Kathern's life is about loving Christ in the present, not in some distant future. It is about forsaking sin and the world in order to follow Jesus, our gracious redeemer.

I love thee because thou hast first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary's tree;
I love thee for wearing thorns on thy brou;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, tis now.

Jesus died for our sins. Only he could pay the price, only he could make the sacrifice. It is through the sacrifice of Jesus at calvary that we can spend eternity with Him.

I'll love thee in life, I will love thee in death,
And praise thee as long as thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, tis now

Grandma was known around Regency Park as "The piano lady." She filled the halls with the glorious sound of the piano, which so often lies silent. Everything she played on that piano was in praise of God. She played hymn after hymn, proclaiming the glory of God to all who would listen. She played praises to God on that piano until her strength would no longer allow it. Kathern truly loved Jesus in life, and loved him in death. She praised Him until she no longer was able to do so, and now freed of her frail earthly body, she is praising him again with a strong voice.

In mansions of glory and endless delight
I'll ever adore thee in heaven so bright
I'll sing with the glittering crown on my brow
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, tis now.

Why don't we sing this together now in honor of my grandmother, Kathern Lingenfelter.

My grandfather reading Revelation 21 & 22 at the graveside in what is probably his last ever act of pastoral ministry. My dad is standing between me and my grandfather.

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