Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Saturday, July 05, 2014

In Memoriam +Norma Ruth TerAvest+

In Memoriam +Norma Ruth TerAvest+

July 5, 2014
Text: John 20:11-18

            Norma is one of the matriarchs of this congregation.  If I know my Epiphany history, one of the inaugural (if not THE inaugural) meeting of the congregation-to-be was held in the farm house living room, Norma and Bob serving as hosts.  God has given us many gifts through this dear saint.  Many of the members here learned the faith in her Sunday School class at St. Paul’s.  Many more learned the faith from her confession of Christ and her Christian example.  And many learned the best that human wisdom has to offer at her feet in the schoolhouse and classrooms in which she taught for so many years.  Norma is a teacher at heart.  And this morning she continues to teach us in Scripture and hymn and liturgy as through this service she confesses her risen Lord Jesus Christ.
            This is, after all, what her Lord called her to do in her Baptism into Christ on February 9, 1920, when the Lord Jesus called her by name and put the very Name of God on her, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  She was called to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus, one who learns of Him, and then passes on what she has learned, that others may come to believe in the Lord Jesus and be strengthened in their faith.  Susan mentioned that Mary Magdalene was a hero of Norma’s in this regard.  Mary, as we heard in the Holy Gospel, was the first to see the risen Lord Jesus on Easter morning (and touch Him – Matt. 28), and she was charged to go and proclaim the Resurrection to the Apostles.  She to whom the Lord Jesus had shown great mercy by casting out seven demons (Mark 16:11), she who had followed the Lord and cared for Him in His earthly ministry (Luke 8:2-3), who stood at the foot off the cross and wept for her Teacher (John 19:25), who served Jesus even in His death, coming to His tomb early that morning to anoint His body with spices (Mark 16:1), she was given to see Him, risen and living.  She did not recognize Him at first.  In her grief, she could not see Him clearly, though there He was, with her in her grief, with her to comfort and impart faith.  She supposed Him to be the gardener.  Until He spoke her name.  “Mary,” He said, and that was all it took.  “Rabboni!” she replied, “(which means Teacher)” (John 20:16; ESV).  For she recognized Him when He called her by name. 
            And this is the pattern of Norma’s life, is it not?  He first called her by name in her Baptism into Him, into His death and resurrection.  She learned to recognize Him at the font.  In great mercy, the Lord Jesus made her His own, forgiving all her sins, bestowing on her eternal life and salvation, teaching her Divine wisdom in His holy Word, feeding her with His Body and Blood at the altar, providing for her every need of body and soul.  And He opened her lips by His Spirit to teach God’s people His own Word.  She taught what Jesus first taught her.  She gave what she had first received.  She loved, because He first loved her (1 John 4:19).  She loved and she served in the love of Christ.  She followed her Lord and cared for Him by caring for His people.  She served Him by serving His people, serving His Church, even planting this congregation with her brothers and sisters in those exciting early days with Pastor Lach.  For the love of God poured out upon Norma in Jesus Christ flowed through her to others, to us, and to so many.  And she confessed Him.  She confessed her Teacher, her Savior, her Lord.  “Christ is risen!” she would say.  “He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!”    
            And so she could face death with peace, with hope, even with joy.  Because Christ conquered death in His death and in His resurrection from the dead.  And He has promised to raise Norma and all of us, bodily, on the Last Day. 
            It was a really beautiful experience Susan and I had in Norma’s final moments on earth.  I had stopped in, made small talk with Susan for a bit, Norma was sleeping soundly.  Moving to her bedside, we began to pray the Commendation of the Dying, portions of which we had already prayed a number of times.  This time we prayed it in full.  There was the Holy Absolution, the forgiveness of all Norma’s sins in the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  There were Scripture readings and prayers, the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, a commendation of our dear sister to the Lord, and His three-fold benediction.  Among the Scripture readings which were the last Norma heard were these words from the Holy Gospel coming up tomorrow, the Gospel according to St. Matthew, the eleventh Chapter: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).  Jesus said, “Norma, come to me and rest.”  And Norma did.  By the time we finished the prayers, the holy angels had taken her to behold the face of her Savior in heaven.  He called her by name.  And for the first time she saw Him clearly.  He in whom she had believed, He whom she had confessed, she saw Him now for herself, sees Him now, just as Mary Magdalene did, her risen and living Savior.
            It is hard for us to see Him, though, in our grief.  In our sadness because we miss Norma.  In the other things that weigh us down in this earthly life.  Our sins, our heartaches, our sicknesses and pain.  But He is here with us.  Just because you can’t see something with your eyes, that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  Just because you can’t see Jesus with your eyes, that doesn’t mean He isn’t with you.  He’s hidden, for sure.  But when someone is hidden, that necessarily means that person is present.  Jesus is here with you.  And just like Norma and Mary Magdalene, you recognize Him when He calls you by name.  You see Him by faith when He calls you in His Word and in Holy Baptism.  You’ll see Him for yourself when He calls you to come to Him at the end of your earthly life.  Learn from Norma.  She’s teaching you, here.  Come to Jesus and lay your labors and burdens at His pierced feet.  Take His yoke upon you, which is to say, the confession of His holy Name, as Norma did throughout her life.  And learn from Him, as Norma did, learning His Word, and then teaching it to others. 

            And be comforted.  All the things the Lord Jesus has done for Norma, He does for you.  He calls you to be His own.  In great mercy, He forgives all your sins and bestows on you eternal life and salvation.  He provides for your every need of body and soul.  He teaches you.  He gives you His Holy Spirit.  And He consoles you, even in your grief.  And His Words aren’t just empty sentiments.  For He has conquered death.  He is risen.  He will raise Norma on the Last Day.  And He will raise you, too.  That’s what Norma taught.  This congregation exists because she and Bob and their fellow founders believed it.  And now, she and Bob together, they see it.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  

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