For the funeral of Leona.
I didn’t know Leona. I met her in the nursing home a few times, but I did not know her. I say this because I’ve been to some of the same funerals you have, where the preacher talks about the deceased as if they were best friends, but then describes them in such a way that you are tempted to walk up front, pop open the casket, and see if you are at the right funeral.
There are many people in our lives that we know to different degrees and in different capacities. We have spouses, parents, children, siblings, and close co-workers we know as well as we can. And on the other end of the spectrum, there are strangers we encounter from time to time but do not know: the waitress at the diner, the man who walks his dog by our house, the woman we walk by at the nursing home. There are people we know well, and others we barely brush by.
I didn’t know Leona, but God did. God formed her in her mother’s womb 90 years ago. He blessed her with a marriage to man named Happy at the happy church across the street. He gave her a special son who needed a special caretaker. He spoke to her through His creation as she walked, fished, and mowed her yard. He encouraged her through His Word at church. And in in these last years, when Alzheimer’s took its toll, and she knew less and less, even then, God still knew her.
“God knows all the stories in this room.” God knows each of us better than we know ourselves. Even the parts of us we ignore, even the parts of us we have forgotten, even the parts of us we confabulate, even the parts of us we think no one else knows. And here is how the God who knows us so well summarizes the human heart: “None is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10 ESV). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23). And yet “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (5:8). “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (6:23). “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (8:1). But “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (10:9).
I didn’t know Leona. You did. But more important is that God knew here. The same God who set the stars in the sky, and the planets in their courses, that God knew Leona and knows each of us, and seeks our attention, our affection, and our trust, that one great day we might together proclaim, “I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25). Thanks be to God through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.