a funeral sermon

With Thanksgiving for the Life of Dorothy Ann Georgeson

20 June 1937 + 19 June 2015

Psalm 139 & 23; 2Corinthians 4:13-5:1; John 10:1-5, 14-15, 27-29

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Dorothy was a lady in the know. She knew things. She knew you. She knew me.

She was one of the first people I got to know at St. Stephen’s. That was in part because of a special devotion. Each Sunday morning, a little bit after 7:00, she and Barb Kepler would arrive for prayers to get the pastors ready and pray us into worship. It was a meaningful and grace-filled practice.

In more recent times, rather than coming to pray, Dorothy would instead be showing up early on Sundays to drop off bread, the same recipe we’re using as we join at this table in a foretaste of the heavenly banquet and share in the communion of the saints throughout all times and into eternity. She delivered her bread, declaring it was fresh-baked, that she wanted to wake up in the middle of the night to finish it just in time for worship.

I have to confess she made me nervous in doing it that way, worried she had forgotten or that something had gone wrong with the batch or she’d slept through it. But there was no trying to change her, because—as a lady in the know—she also knew what she wanted, and was good at making that known to others. That’s not to call her opinionated or stubborn, but we know she had a strong personality.

I’ll also continue to enjoy remembering, that Dorothy tended this table well. As part of Ruth Circle, the altar guild who organizes the sacristy and makes sure all runs smoothly for communion at each service, and Dorothy herself claimed some of the most special services on Christmas and Easter Eve, which was especially helpful since those slots didn’t have other eager volunteers.

She could also be counted on to share her expertise in the office, helping with projects or covering when the secretary was away. Those times present some of my fondest memories of Dorothy, as she would come into my office to chat. Even if she hadn’t been around church much lately, she knew all the latest news, and she even had a tendency to know some news that wasn’t news, gossip that at least I hadn’t heard about, which left me wondering if it just came from Dorothy’s mind.

There were other things that way, too. Tales that seemed pretty tall. One I recall frequently, trying to picture it. She was asking about one of my camping trips, and told of being a young girl hiking at Devils Lake when she came up on a rattlesnake on the path and stood perfectly still for a long time until it moved. The way she could tell stories made them seem too good to be true. I don’t know if they were or not. But it all seemed to be something Dorothy knew.

That grand, expansive sense of knowledge also went with talking about family. It started to seem like Dorothy was related to everybody! Plus, she almost gave the feeling that I was related, too, that I would know all about them and know their past and know what life was like now. She talked about her husband Rod to me that way, though I never met him. She, of course, talked about daughters and grandkids with deep, endeared affection, delighting in and clinging to you all so closely. She even talked about distant cousins with that kind of strong connection. Heck, she was willing to claim me, to be interested in me and invested in my life. And, I’d pretty well guarantee, that’s the case for each of you here today, too. She could claim to know me even more than she really knew me.

And the important thing about that today is that it’s not just true of Dorothy, but is also true for Dorothy. That kind of knowledge—to be known in the biblical sense—is deep and intimate. It speaks to these cherished relationships in family, and in the family of the church. It persists when you like what you know and when you don’t. This kind of love is something more than we can explain or understand. It just somehow is.

This is how the abundance of God’s promise works, how it finds us out and claims you. People somehow have a feeling a lot of the time that if God really knew them, then they wouldn’t fit in and God wouldn’t really like them. But this is God who knit you together, who watches over every moment of your life, who knows it all to the final detail and last hair of your head.

And this very God is the one who claims you. We keep repeating and reiterating this promise so that you may have confidence in it. It was a promise for Dorothy in her baptism, one that called her by name as a beloved daughter forever, no matter what would come. It’s a promise that still goes with every bite offered at this table, of forgiveness, of being reincorporated into the family of God. It’s the love of Jesus that seeks out the outcast, that goes into dark corners, that leaves no one out, Jesus who dies with you so that even death cannot separate you from God, even that will not leave you alone, even there God knows what you’re going through.

And this being known by God is all that matters. There’s plenty we may not understand, things we may not know. We can’t explain how Jesus is with us now. We don’t know why Dorothy had that bleed on her brain. We don’t know what the last week of life was like for her, what was going on inside of her. We don’t know all that this will mean for your lives in the coming days and months without her. We don’t know when it is that we will get to be reunited with her.

But you may trust for certain that that day will come. Jesus was raised from the dead so that you may know you will be also. God’s love will be stopped at nothing—not sickness or brokenness, not forgetfulness or fights, not even death itself—nothing will ever make God forget you. God knows you intimately, and loves you, without condition. That’s how it was on the best days with Dorothy. And God wants you to know this blessed assurance, which means even now, Dorothy is in God’s eternal embrace, the arms of her Shepherd, bringing her home.

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