TEXT: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Troubled Hearts Are Cleaned by the Lord!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

 

Dear Janet and other family and friends of Irma Stiemke; Every promise that God has made is fulfilled in Christ Jesus our Lord. God’s promise of a temple that endures forever is the temple of Jesus’ body raised from the grave. His promise of a heavenly home – a promised land - is life in the presence of Jesus. As the Psalm says, “Whom have I in heaven but you, O Lord?” (Psalm 73:25)

Nothing can speak to the hearts of us dying sinners – like the promises God has made in Jesus the Christ – the Messiah! The truth is – the heart of Irma needed constantly to hear His voice. The same is true for us. Irma was able to receive the Lord’s Supper when I called on her a few weeks ago. One of the texts read in my calls then was from the Psalm we just spoke. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

God created a new heart in Irma some 94 years ago. On August 1st, 1920 Erhard and Martha Stiemke took their infant daughter to St. John’s Lutheran Church to receive God’s gift of holy baptism. The Bible’s witness to this gift of rebirth cannot be overstated. It can be misunderstood in a magical way – which it is not. But it is a miracle – a holy mystery – a gift of the new life of faith – that God will never back away from. As we read – the one baptized is baptized into the very death of Christ – the center of human history – the sacrifice of the Lamb of God for the sins of the world. Scripture says that those baptized are clothed in Christ (Galatians 3:27). We understand that God knows His own who died before they could receive this saving sacrament (1 Peter 3:15, 16). We leave them in the hands of a gracious and loving God. But God would have us remember His baptism of us every day and today He would have us take deep comfort from His putting His name on Irma so many years ago.

 

FUNERAL SERMON FOR IRMA STIEMKE – 8/8/2014
TEXT: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Troubled Hearts Are Cleaned by the Lord!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Dear Janet and other family and friends of Irma Stiemke; Every promise that God has made is fulfilled in Christ Jesus our Lord. God’s promise of a temple that endures forever is the temple of Jesus’ body raised from the grave. His promise of a heavenly home – a promised land - is life in the presence of Jesus. As the Psalm says, “Whom have I in heaven but you, O Lord?” (Psalm 73:25)

Nothing can speak to the hearts of us dying sinners – like the promises God has made in Jesus the Christ – the Messiah! The truth is – the heart of Irma needed constantly to hear His voice. The same is true for us. Irma was able to receive the Lord’s Supper when I called on her a few weeks ago. One of the texts read in my calls then was from the Psalm we just spoke. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

God created a new heart in Irma some 94 years ago. On August 1st, 1920 Erhard and Martha Stiemke took their infant daughter to St. John’s Lutheran Church to receive God’s gift of holy baptism. The Bible’s witness to this gift of rebirth cannot be overstated. It can be misunderstood in a magical way – which it is not. But it is a miracle – a holy mystery – a gift of the new life of faith – that God will never back away from. As we read – the one baptized is baptized into the very death of Christ – the center of human history – the sacrifice of the Lamb of God for the sins of the world. Scripture says that those baptized are clothed in Christ (Galatians 3:27). We understand that God knows His own who died before they could receive this saving sacrament (1 Peter 3:15, 16). We leave them in the hands of a gracious and loving God. But God would have us remember His baptism of us every day and today He would have us take deep comfort from His putting His name on Irma so many years ago.

Irma was the youngest of ten children. How different life was for a rural Wisconsin girl 90 years ago. As a young lady, Irma was educated in the Sullivan area and graduated from Oconomowoc High School. In her early twenties she moved to Milwaukee. Different homes in the city have been her residence ever since. In my years of serving her as pastor her office work for Allis Chalmers and Koss Electronics was in the past. She did – in her later years provide child care for two families. I recall her speaking with fondness and satisfaction about the children she grew to love in that role. I also recall her traveling on holidays to spend time with her remaining sister. But for the last several years Irma was without the company and conversation of siblings - her two brothers and seven sisters all preceding her in death.

When it was no longer possible for her to live independently at the River Park apartments – your care and counsel helped her move to assisted living at Harwood Place - and then to the Lutheran Home. Irma was able to attend services at those centers. She has also received monthly pastoral visits of Word and Sacrament and seasonal visits with gifts from our Dorcas Mission Guild.

In my conversations with Irma during those years, sometimes her heart was troubled. Her health ailments often caused her severe and sustained physical pain. When the question was asked “Irma, how are you doing?” sometimes the answer was not brief and bouncy. On occasion – after speaking of her struggles for a time - she would stop herself and say, “Pastor, I shouldn’t complain.” My answer to those suffering and shut-in is generally – “well, there is a difference between complaining and explaining and I’m the one who asked you to explain things to me.” Dear Christians – God can handle our laments – our cries of agony – our cries for help. God can handle our tears of loneliness or our tears of pain. The Word made flesh cried His own tears in this fallen world. The Word made flesh – cried out for His own relief – for the cup of suffering to pass from Him. And as we read the Psalms - as His prayer book – how clear it is that God wants his children to call upon Him in the day of trouble.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. Even 94 years is so very transient – so very temporary. Even the affliction of arthritic pain for decades is slight in the balance of eternity. It is fiery and wearying and limiting here – but like all suffering – it is transient – while God’s weight of glory is eternal.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. As Irma heard those words in her room she also heard the promise that the risen Christ was there to renew her heart. His Word of forgiveness and the heavenly food of His body and His blood give us what we cannot give ourselves – peace with God – the bestowal of His holiness again and again. That’s why God the Son suffered and died for our sins. That’s why – risen from the grave – He comes among His people each week – to teach them – and to feed them – and to forgive them. That’s the gift Irma received while lying in her bed on that last visit.

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. The transient houses we live in now won’t last. 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? God is faithful to His promises. What He says He does! Amid all the broken promises of the politicians and power players and people in this broken world – God’s promises hold true. 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. And you know the way to where I am going. The reason Jesus came down into our flesh was to raise us up body and soul. He came to taste death for us - as our substitute under God’s holy wrath to defeat death for us. Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way? Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Irma was not trying to get to Our Father in heaven on her own merit or by virtue of her own goodness. She was very thankful to receive His promised gifts of forgiveness and life in weekly worship and then by visit when health deteriorated. No one comes to the Father except through (Jesus) and Irma was in Jesus – baptized into Christ, confessing her faith in Christ, confessing her sins to Christ, receiving absolution from Christ.

At Harwood Place I remember numerous visits wherein Irma so clearly expressed her thankfulness for God’s good gifts – the care she was receiving and the care of Him who is her shepherd. As God continued to restore her soul a joyful heart shone forth even in times of affliction.

Now the times of affliction have ended for Irma. Now the times of loneliness have ended for Irma. In the new heavens and the new earth – everyone is first family! In the new heavens and the new earth – bodily life is immortal and imperishable – like the body of the risen Christ. In fact Scripture says that He is the first fruits of those who rise. The meaning of that phrase in Scripture means that there is one harvest and that in Jesus it has already begun. Those who are in Christ will follow after Him.

Such are the sure and certain promises of God to His flock and to His sheep - Irma. Yea, though I walk through the valley shadow of death I will fear no evil for Thou art with me, Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Irma knew the way to her eternal dwelling place – for she knew Jesus. Jesus keeps His promises! It was He who said – I go to prepare a place for you…I am the way the truth and the life.

In the name of Jesus – Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a