Funeral sermon for Ruth E. Nemec

I remember the first time I visited Ruth after she had moved into the healthcare building at the Lutheran Community in Telford.

I knew she wasn’t feeling especially well that day, but we still talked for a bit – because she always appreciated hearing the news from Good Shepherd

– and then we got ready to pray – because Ruth was always grateful to have communion.

And when we reached the end of the written communion service, I offered a few more spontaneous prayers … for Ruth’s own healing and comfort … for her family … for those doctors, nurses, and others who were taking care of her.

And then I asked if there was anything else that she particularly wanted to pray for.

“Oh,” she said, “I want to pray for you.”

That was completely in character with Ruth as I came to know her.

She had what I would call a generous faith.

Her faith seemed unshakable – although there was sadness I never really heard her complain over the three years I knew her, even as her world continued to close in on her.

And every time I invited her to add her own prayer intentions to those I had spoken, she never hesitated.

She always had something on her mind to pray for – and it was never about herself.

She prayed for the community at Good Shepherd … or for her family … and even for me – when I thought that I was the one who had come to pray for her.

She had a deep and generous faith, and in that faith, I believe she’s still praying for us now … and I’m grateful:

For her prayers … and for the blessing of having known her even briefly in this life.

In her own way, Ruth was an example for all of us who live the faith she embraced so firmly.

And that is exactly what those of us who follow Jesus are called to do.

To share the Good News by living it, so everyone who knows us can see how we are formed and trans-formed by faith.

The faith we hold tells us that each one of us is a child of God … which makes us part of something bigger – we’re members of a family.

And each one of us has something we can contribute to this family – this is true when we’re young and able-bodied, and it doesn’t stop as we grow older and less capable of doing the things we used to do.

Ruth certainly demonstrated that. She set an example for all of us who mourn the loss of her graceful presence.

So we gather here in sorrow to acknowledge and express that loss – the loss of someone we loved, someone whose generosity touched our lives.

We seek comfort in the words of our first reading:

 “The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God … they are at peace.”[1]

And we strive to balance our sorrow against our faith that Ruth is finally free of those things that weighed her down at the end.

Ruth worshiped in a number of different parishes over the course of her life, and I’m confident that she was a blessing to each one of them, but she spoke to me often of her great love for the community at Good Shepherd.

She was one of the founding members – her son Dave told me she was involved back in the days before there was a church building, when the fledgling community met in people’s homes.

It was a great sadness to her when she was no longer able to come to church.

And so, with this particular relationship to the Good Shepherd in mind, it will seem especially appropriate when we pray these words toward the end of this service:

Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, … “

With those words, we give her to God … yet we will hold her – and her example of generous faith – always in our hearts. Amen.

[1] Wisdom of Solomon 3:1,3 NRSV