Woodlawn CC

Woodlawn CC

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Funeral Manuscript - Mary Nelson - June 14, 2019 - Union Church

Friday I performed the funeral for Mary Nelson at the Union Church here in Lake City.  Pastor Randy was out of town and unable to return to perform the ceremony so I stepped in to help him, and more importantly the Nelson family in this time of grief.

May God comfort and reassure them in this difficult time.  Blessings and peace to both Susan, Scott, and all of Mary's extended family and friends.

Below please find the manuscript from the service.

Be a blessing to someone today!

In Christ,

Order of Service – Funeral for Mary Nelson – June 14, 2019

All Please Rise

Call to Worship:
Gathered in Christ's name, let us praise God
Who is our certain hope in all life's varied circumstances.
In the face of death believe the good news the scriptures proclaim:
As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.
(Isaiah 66:13)

Please be seated

We have come together within the strengthening fellowship of friends and family:
to praise God for the life of Mary Ann Nelson;
to share our grief with God and with one another;
to reaffirm our faith in God's unfailing goodness;
to hear again God's promise of resurrection;
and to commend Mary to God's everlasting care.

Music:  Erin Blair - “Morning Has Broken”

Opening Prayer:
Gracious God, your love endures forever.  Your faithfulness is unfailing and all your promises are true.  The movement of your Spirit is evident even in our darkest moments.  Attend to us now in our grief as we trust you will.  
Speak words of comfort to our hearts.  Open us up to receive your hope.
O God of grace and glory, we remember before you this day our sister Mary.
We thank you for giving her to us, her family and friends,
to know and to love as a companion on our earthly pilgrimage.
In your boundless compassion, console us who mourn.
Give us faith to see death as the gateway to eternal life,
so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on earth,
until by your call, we are reunited with those who have gone before;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Let us hear now a reading from the Old Testament:
Psalm 23 King James Version (KJV)
23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Let us hear now a reading from the New Testament:
Philippians 4: 4-9
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Music:  Erin Blair - “I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry”

Message:  Pastor Roy Karlen – Woodlawn Christian Church
Good morning, on behalf of the family I would like to thank you all for coming here today to remember and to celebrate a life... the life of Mary Ann Van Heiden Nelson.

Mary Ann Van Heiden Nelson was reborn into the Kingdom of our Lord on Monday, June 10, 2019.  She passed into God's glory at Stewart Memorial Hospital here in Lake City.  Mary blessed the lives of her parents Anton and Bernice Van Heiden with her birth on April 2, 1927, in Ackley, Iowa.  She was one of nine children, sisters Betty, Abigail, Agnes, Janice, and Janet, and brothers William, Skip, and Sidney... all of whom have preceded her in their passing.  Sadly, Mary lost her father while still at a young age.  Her father worked as an electrician for the Town of Ackley and he was killed in an accident while working on a power pole.  After his death, Mary's mother was left to raise the children on her own.

While a young girl in Ackley, Mary worked for a time as a 'soda jerk' and then at the Canning Facility that was in Ackley in those days.  Mary graduated from High School in Ackley and after High School, she received her teaching credentials from Iowa State Teacher's College in Cedar Falls and Simpson College in Indianola.

After graduating with her teaching degree, Mary came here to Lake City to teach 4th grade at Lincoln Elementary School.  On August 8, 1959, Mary was joined in marriage to her husband Bernard Charles Nelson at the old First United Presbyterian Church in Lake City.  She continued to teach at Lincoln until her daughter Susan was born and then after Susan was older, she went to work at Central School as the School's Secretary in the mid-1970s.  Later she worked for a number of years as the Church Secretary here at Union Church.

Mary's husband Bernard was a farmer, their home was located to the North of Lake City. She and Bernard lived on the farm for 25 years living in an old remodeled Country School House.  Mary loved farm life and enjoyed helping her husband on the farm.  After Bernard's death in 1985, Mary moved into Lake City sometime in 1986 or 87.  She loved her home here in Lake City and it was very important to her right up until the end of her life.  This past winter she stayed down in Des Moines first staying with Susan and Scott and then living at Morning Star Assisted Living.  All the while she was in Des Moines she kept asking 'when are you taking me home'.  She loved Lake City and she wanted to get back here... to her home and to her house.  Susan and Scott brought her home the first part of April this year and she was delighted to be back in Lake City.

Mary was very active in a number of clubs and organizations, she was a 4-H leader, a member of the Monday Club, the PEO, the QC Club, Women's Circle at Union Church, the Book Club, the Lake City Country Club, and of course First United Presbyterian Church which became part of Union Church.  She always loved her church and was a very active and devoted member.  Mary especially loved to read, and she was a constant customer of the Lake City Library.  In fact, Susan said that at the end of Mary's life she would go to try and check out a book for her Mom from the Library and that she'd have a dickens of a time finding a book that didn't already have Mary's library number recorded inside it.  She was a voracious and dedicated reader.

When I asked Susan and her husband Scott for words to describe Mary they said; independent, resilient, self-reliant, and that she had a very strong work ethic.  That she loved golfing even though she hadn't played a round for nearly fifteen years.  You really should ask Susan or Scott to tell you about Mary's last outing of golf, she rode in the cart and putted a few holes, it sounded like she only teed off on one hole, but she liked to say that she'd played a round of golf.  It's a wonderfully charming story and there is no way for me to do it justice so I'll leave it to Scott or Susan to relay to you later at the luncheon or perhaps another day.

Susan mentioned the families annual pilgrimage to the Iowa State Fair.  She also remembered the family taking a trip to Colorado to see the mountains, but other than that, as is the case with many farm families they tended to stay pretty close to home.  Mary did travel more after Bernard's death however, taking trips to Italy, New York City, and Chicago with a group of friends. She always enjoyed her friends, going to lunch together, to church, or taking little day trips.  As I said earlier, Mary was an independent soul and she kept her driver's license and kept driving right up until the end.  In fact just last summer she decided she needed a new car and so she got one.

Susan told me that Mary loved to watch people, she liked to be out and about and seeing what was going on.  She also enjoyed being online with her computer and iPad.  She kept up on the news and current affairs both online and with the television. They said that she was on her computer all of the time, which is remarkable for someone of her generation.

Mary was always very close to her sisters Betty and Abigail. In reading the news article about Mary and Bernard's wedding I saw that Abigail was her Maid of Honor. Sadly, Abigail passed away last year and sister Betty passed away about a month ago.  Up until each sister's passing, Mary had communicated with them regularly.  She and Betty would talk weekly, generally on Sundays.

Scott described Mary as a cat with nine lives, she survived a battle with cancer about 12 years ago, she recovered from several broken bones, a hip, a knee cap, and a wrist, she recovered from gall bladder and pancreas issues as well.  Through it all, she just kept bouncing back, though at the end she did have some dementia starting to creep in.  It seems though that the loss of her two sisters hit her particularly hard and she was unable to pull through her most recent health bouts.  Just a month ago at Betty's funeral though Scott and Susan told me that Mary was very active, even venturing into the kitchen several times to try and help at the funeral luncheon.

I was told about how Mary loved her dogs out on the farm but it seems she was especially fond of cats.  Susan mentioned many cats growing up on the farm and to be honest the very first thing that Susan and Scott told me about Mary was about her cat “JJ”.  She was extremely fond of her JJ, he's a black and gray tabby who she received ten or twelve years ago from Jim and Joy Angrove.  Thus why she named him “JJ”.  JJ would sleep with her every night and wake her up in the mornings.  He even went with her to Des Moines and lived with her at Morning Star Assisted Living.  

Finally, there was another thing about Mary... one that Susan and Scott very much emphasized, and that was her deep fondness for the Lord's Prayer.  Will you all join me now in reciting the prayer that Christ taught to us, feel free to use, sins, trespasses, or debts, as is your preference...  Our Father...

Please allow me to share with you just a little bit about the Lord's Prayer, this may well be something that you are unaware of and which may very well change how you experience our Lord's prayer.  As Mary so very well realized, the Lord's Prayer is very important to us as followers of Christ.

We find “The Lord's Prayer” in two of the three synoptic Gospels.  It's found in Matthew and also in a more abbreviated form in Luke's Gospel.  What most people do not realize, however, is that the prayer is also found in a third location.  It is found in the 8th Chapter of a non-canonical document known as the 'Didache' which is also known as 'The Teaching of the Twelve'.  When we say a book or writing is or isn't canonical, what we mean is that it is or isn't in the Bible. 

Let's now consider the verses in the prayer, run them through your mind and notice in those verses that everything seems so focused on larger things... God's Kingdom, God's will, Earth, Heaven, and then we come to 'daily bread'... suddenly everything seems to narrow radically in focus.  We've gone from these amazingly big picture concepts... to worrying about the extremely immediate.  That word that is translated as 'daily' is the Greek word “Epiousios”.

Now... Epiousios is a very, very interesting and intriguing word.  The only real problem is that we don't actually know what the word means.  You see this word exists in exactly three places... only three places in all of the writings in the World... it is only found in the three readings of the “Lord's Prayer”.  And since for many, many years the Didache was lost, even though it may well be an older document than the two Gospels, it was lost for many years... so for much of Christian History we have only had two sources for this unique and unusual word, the Gospels of Matthew and Luke... in the prayer that Jesus taught to us.  Now since we find this prayer in only Matthew and Luke, and not in Mark's Gospel, it is highly likely that it originated in that undiscovered but hypothesized Document known as 'Q' for Quelle or 'The Source' in German.
But, back to just what does Epiousios mean and how did it come to be translated as daily.  Well in the fourth century St. Jerome was commissioned by the Pope to translate the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin.  This was the first translation of the Bible in its entirety into Latin.  When Jerome came to Epiousios he was uncertain just what to do with it... after all, it didn't exist outside of the Bible at that time... and of course later finding it in the Lord's Prayer in the Didache, doesn't help us today in translating it either...  So what he did was in Luke he translated it one way as 'Daily' and in Matthew, he translated it considerably differently.  In our modern Bibles only the translation from Luke the word 'Daily' remains and the meaning assigned by Jerome in Matthew has been almost entirely forgotten.

If we break down the word Epiousios we find that 'epi' means 'above', 'beyond' or 'super'... think of the word “Epic”... 'ousios' means substance, essence or necessity.  We come up with the word that Jerome used when translating the Gospel of Matthew, 'Super-substantial'.  Above substantial, super essential, something far beyond necessity... these all give us a considerably different meaning than 'daily'. 

Now we no longer have 'daily' bread but 'super-substantial' bread, 'super essential' bread, bread that is 'far, far beyond that what is necessary for mere survival'.   When we consider that Christ used bread as a metaphor... and what he used it as a metaphor for... we have, well the Eucharist, we have Communion, we have the bread of life, we have Christ Himself... 

We no longer have feed us for we are hungry, but feed us for we hunger.  We hunger for that relationship with God that comes through the celebration of the Lord's Supper, through the ceremonial celebration of communion.  Through a vivid and vital relationship with Christ.

It is important that we remember that when Christ taught this prayer to his Disciples, he almost certainly did not teach it to them in Greek.  Rather he almost certainly taught it to them in Aramaic.  We are left wondering what word or words did he use here that forced the writer of 'Q' to have to create a new word in Greek in order to try and grasp the depth of the meaning.  It would seem unlikely that it was a word as mundane as daily.  A word which can be rendered by at least 20 different ancient Greek words none of which is “Epiousios”.

Let's look at the Lord's Prayer again with this idea of the bread being 'Christ' foremost in our minds.

Our Father who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done
On earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day an abundant and unending relationship with Christ;
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom
And the power
And the glory,

Suddenly, that prayer takes on a whole new meaning.  A new deep theological meaning that honestly my modest preaching and teaching skills fail to adequately convey.  But be that as it may, perhaps now you'll think about the Lord's Prayer just a little bit differently whenever you recite it in prayer.

Mary had a great fondness for the Lord's Prayer, and today she surely is reciting it in all its fullness in the “super-substantial” presence of Christ Himself.  Praise be to God.

On this past Monday, Mary opened her eyes as a new creation in the Kingdom of Heaven, though we gathered here mourn her loss, let us all praise God for her great and wonderful reward in Heaven.  Praise God indeed.

Music:    Erin Blair - “Amazing Grace”

Closing Prayer:
The family invites you all to join them in further celebration of Mary's life and a time of shared remembrances and further closure, by joining with them in a luncheon in the Church's fellowship hall following the committal service at Lake City Cemetery.  If you do not wish to go to the graveside, please feel free to wait here at the Church for the family to return.  We will hold the blessing for the meal until the family has returned to the Church from the interment service.

Let us now please pray:  
O God, our Strength, and our Redeemer, Giver of life, and Conqueror of death, we come to you today in mourning and open our hearts to you just as we are.  We celebrate your gift of life freely given but are grieved by a sense of loss in the face of death.  The love which binds us to one another leaves us aching as ties are broken.  Accept our tears as emblems of devotion, and transform them into waters of life to nourish us in the days ahead.

We trust you.  We love you.  We know in Christ that your love is everlasting.  Nothing can separate any of us from your abiding care.  With you is eternal life.
With confidence, we now entrust Mary to your unfailing love and overflowing goodness.  Through the power that raised Christ from the dead to live eternally with you, lift up this, your servant, to life fulfilled beyond our imagining.  We give you but your own, enfold her in your everlasting arms, hold her for she is your child.

Now strengthen us, through the gift of your Spirit, to face into the future with confidence that you stand with us.  Grant that the changes of life may leave us stronger as we journey through life.

Reassured of your abiding presence, help us to knit more firmly the ties that bind us one to another.  Renewed by your love, help us to love in ever larger circles so as to embrace your people everywhere till at last we are all united eternally through Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

May the Lord bless you and keep you, may His face shine down upon you, and grant you His peace.  Amen.

Committal Service 
Hear now these words from the 3rd Chapter of Ecclesiastes 3  (NIV)
A Time for Everything
3 There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2     a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3     a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
4     a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5     a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6     a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7     a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8     a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.
9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.

It is today time... for us to return Mary to her Father in Heaven. We gather here to lay to rest this body that has served Mary throughout her earthly life, knowing that we commit to the earth only that which is of the earth. The Scriptures teach us that our bodies are made of the dust of the ground and to the dust of the ground we will return.  But we are more than dust, for when God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life, man became a living being.

Genesis 2:7 says, “…the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

God the Father breathed a spirit into these temporary bodies, and that immortal spirit is what lives on today. These bodies serve us only as the temporary dwelling place for our eternal spirit given to us by God.

In 2nd Corinthians 5:1-5 we read, 
“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.  Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling,  because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.  For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

Mary has laid aside her temporary home... this earthly tent. It was made of this earth and to the earth, it shall return. But her spirit lives on with eternal life.  And now her spirit is in the hands of the same loving God who tenderly cared for her in life. He also has provided for each of us the promise of life everlasting.

The Bible promises that one-day earthly death will be no more. How we long for that day to come! Until then, may we live in anticipation of the time when we, too, shall lay aside the cares of this life, as Mary has, and take up the joys of eternal life.

Our hearts still cling to this body because it is so difficult for us to disassociate it from the one who lived in it. But really it is just a worn out garment waiting to be cast aside. It is altogether fitting and proper that we just now turn it over to the One who designed it for His will to be accomplished. We, therefore, commit this body to the ground and this soul... Mary's soul... to the Lord... Earth to earth, ashes to ashes and dust to dust, knowing full well that Jesus is the resurrection and the life and through her faith in her Savior, Jesus who is the Christ... Mary now walks the streets of Heaven.

Let us pray... Almighty God, we gather beside this grave today to lay to rest the body of our friend and loved one, Mary. We do so remembering another grave in another place—the tomb that received the body of our Lord Jesus Christ. As Jesus came from the grave to live again, we know that all who die in Him shall never truly die. Thank you, Father, that Mary has finished the course, that she has kept the faith, and that she now has rest from her labors. As we commit her body to the ground, we do so in perfect trust, remembering Jesus’ victory over death and knowing, that because He lives, so too, shall we. Comfort our hearts through His words today; strengthen us now with His presence, and may Your grace and peace be ours both now and forever.
In Jesus’ name,  AMEN.

Let us please pray together the prayer that Jesus taught to us... Our Father...

This concludes our graveside service.

May the Lord bless you and keep you, may His strong arms encircle you and uphold you in your hour of grief.  God's peace and strength to you all.


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