Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Woodstock, VA
November 7, 2018
“The forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” This is the faith that we will profess in a few minutes in the Apostles’ Creed. This is the faith that Mary Lou professed throughout her life. It is the faith into which she was baptized. These are gifts given us by the Good Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ. They are gifts given to Mary Lou.
I pray that these gifts give you comfort and hope in the midst of grief and sorrow. And surely all of us, especially Mary Lou’s children and grandchildren, will miss her and grieve the loss of her presence in our lives.
Mary Lou was a devoted mother and grandmother to her family. She was indeed the matriarch and a good shepherd. John and David, Mary Lou’s sons, chose the Gospel about the Good Shepherd because it embodies Mary Lou’s life. From her birth in Leola, Pennsylvania to her time as a first-grade teacher, Sunday school teacher, and mother, Mary Lou fulfilled the role of a shepherd. A shepherd is often considered as kind, loving, patient, strong and self-sacrificing. Each of these words describes Mary Lou.
A shepherd must also possess great courage and determination to protect the shepherd’s flock – this also describes Mary Lou. And a shepherd must guide and direct the sheep, something that Mary Lou was apparently very good at. I’ve loved hearing many stories about Mary Lou’s presence in the lives of her family and her friends, especially here at Emmanuel Church.
Mary Lou lived eighty-nine fruitful years. She knew of the joy of life and the pain of life, losing both her husband and her daughter. As Mary Lou’s time came, she faced her own end with a great sense of dignity and peace.
We grieve the loss of Mary Lou and we will miss her.
Yet, we are gathered here today to celebrate her passage into resurrected life. Today, as at the funeral of every Christian, we have a celebration of Easter. We are gathered here today to celebrate Christ’s victory of life over death in the resurrection. We are gathered here today to celebrate God’s gift to us of new life. That is why we have lit the Paschal Candle, the fire that symbolizes new life. When we see the flame of the Paschal Candle, we are reminded of the Easter Promise that death is not the final word and that we have new life through Christ.
The word today is not death. The word today belongs to God in Christ and that word is life. We offer praise for the gifts of life and love in Mary Lou that we know because she was with us. But most of all we give thanks for the new life that God prepares for each of us and all of us – life lived in the eternal presence and love of the God who is the source of all life and love.
The promise of Jesus in the Gospel of John is a powerful one. “There will be one flock, one shepherd.” God will lead us to a place long prepared and waiting, a place where the eternal presence of God enfolds us in everlasting praise and love. There is never a moment when your diligent and watchful Shepherd is not thinking about you and working hard for your benefit.
Mary Lou Lee lived a life of love. God is inviting and expecting us to be like May Lou – to pour out our lives in love of God and love of neighbor. And just like Mary Lou, if we live lives of love, then not only will we be in the arms of the Good Shepherd, but our essence will live on through countless generations.
Even today, on this hardest of days, when we are saying goodbye to Mary Lou, Jesus Christ is putting his arms around you to support you. As we leave this day we are encouraged by the good news that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
As we continue on your journey that Mary Lou faithfully accepted, our good Shepherd will be by your side. Every moment. Every day. To the very end. In life, in death, and in resurrection.