Grace and peace to you, from God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
We are gathered here today to console each other, to remember our sister in Christ, Barbara, and to remind each other of God’s love as we grieve. Someone once wrote that the lives we live are like a pebble tossed into a pond, which causes ever-widening rings and ripples. The ripples in the water can often continue on for a while, and will touch everything in their path. And not only that, but those ripples will continue on even after the pebble has disappeared from view. In the same way, those who we love and those who have gone before us have touched us with their lives – their character, values, and the things they have given to us will continue to touch us and affect us for years.
We have just heard how Barbara affected the lives of those around her, and how much she will be missed in the many places she shared her love and her faith. Barbara was very active in the life of this congregation. She chaired the worship and music committee and led the Women of the ELCA group. She also supported the ministries of the Walter Hoving Home, helping women to rebuild their lives and return to their families. Her heart was in all the charities she supported, and she was always encouraging others to find ways to help those in need.
The Christmas season held a special place in Barbara’s heart. She so enjoyed decorating the Christmas tree with handmade Chrismons, ancient symbols for Christ or some part of Christ's ministry, made in white and gold. Barbara shared her love for Christmas with our congregation, as well as with some of our preschool students through the Christmas Cookie Coffee Hour. This year she helped the children create their own Chrismons to take home. Barbara loved her family and was devoted to her husband Greg and her three sons Jim, Bill, and Nick. As Greg wrote in his wonderful tribute, Barbara was a homemaker and a caring mother to her three sons, involved in their education, especially in music.
Barbara was also a good and caring friend. She always seemed to know when someone needed some encouragement, or to just be there in times of illness and loss. Barbara lost one of her sons, Bill, who passed away several years ago. And Barbara spoke lovingly about him and how she missed him. She also loved her grandchildren very much, and shared stories of their activities with such love and pride in their accomplishments. These are the ripples of Barbara’s life - the memories that her family, friends, and her church family will carry with us as we remember her. And the ripples of love and caring will continue to spread through those of us who have been touched by her love and life.
The words of our Gospel reading come from the Last Supper, the last time Jesus and his friends would gather before he was arrested. Jesus’s words about what was about to happen were difficult and troubling for the disciples. They had many questions and were confused. Jesus reassures them with these words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” I believe these words are for us too. Jesus has gone before us and there is a place prepared. A place of rest while those who have died await Jesus’s promised return to make all things new. It can be comforting for those of us left behind here to imagine what kind of resting place welcomes our departed loved ones. Is it a house? A mansion? Or a place of calm beauty?
What we do know, is that Barbara is at rest with Jesus. Jesus tells his friends, “I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.” But Thomas says “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus responds, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” We cherish these words, knowing we will be with those who have gone before us. We are comforted by the sure promise that Jesus is in our hearts. We carry Jesus in our hearts and we will carry Barbara in our hearts as well, remembering the ripples that continue to spread her love and kindness, her faith and her love for others long after she has disappeared from view. Amen.