21. August 2014
Funeral for Millie Pieramico
In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Christian friends—Karen, Marge, Sherry and Kim—family and friends—grace, mercy, and peace are yours through Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”
Our dear sister in Christ, Millie Pieramico, was brought to faith in Jesus Christ through the waters of Holy Baptism. She was kept in this faith through the preaching of Jesus for the forgiveness of her sins. She was nourished in body and soul by the Jesus’ own body and blood. She stayed with Jesus so that when the time came, she would depart in peace according to the God’s own Word. Thus, Jesus has done a great thing for Millie, all given to her freely as a gift through Jesus Christ her Lord. She was given faith by God the Holy Spirit, made a child of God the Father, and joined to God the Son in the His body the church. And Jesus kept His promise and has take Millie into His loving arms.
I was privileged this last four years to have a small part in Millie’s journey of faith in Jesus. I witnessed the confidence that God’s Word granted to her. When she was “tossed about” by the complications from her stroke, the confidence of faith in Christ allayed her fears. Her faithful attendance to the Divine Service at our congregation, Grace Lutheran in Dyer, was notable. As long as she could, both Mille and Kim sat on the pulpit side about a third to a quarter of the way back (which is really the front in most churches!) When her stroke prevented her from coming to Grace, she persistently asked for her pastor (sometimes negligent) to visit her. She desired the “servant of the Word” responsible for her care to bring her Jesus.
I was also blessed to receive some of her excellent cooking. It’s true, Millie loved to eat. Food is a gift from God the Father, given to sustain our body and life. Not only did God give it for necessity but also for pleasure. Millie received her food with thanksgiving and to her enjoyment. In hindsight had I known that Frank and Millie’s grocery store specialized in fine meats and cheeses and even baked their own bread, I would have had her make me a sandwich or two to satisfy my foodie cravings. I always looked forward to the Sunday’s when she signed up to provide the snacks for our coffee break after service.
Yet, as important food had in her earthly life, there is the greater food she craved that led her now to life immortal. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Jesus calls himself bread from heaven and of life. Jesus is more fulfilling than even the best bread from Frank’s deli. That’s because he satisfies a hunger far deeper than any earthly bread. The Word of the Gospel, the free gift of forgiveness of all sin in Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, that is bread that leads to eternal life. Jesus is the bread that gives true and lasting life to the world.
As I announced before the hymn, Millie, requested that we sing together “Just As I Am, Without One Plea.” This hymn was dear to her and probably to many of you as well. This confession of faith in Christ given by the poetry of Charlotte Elliot is concise and clear. Notable Christian Billy Graham mentions this was the song sung when he was converted to faith in Christ. That’s probably why many of us know the hymn so well. Preacher Graham sang this hymn at each of his famous revivals. The composer herself describes the hymn as “the formulae of her faith.”
The hymn “Just As I Am” has stood the test of time not just because it has beautiful poetry or a powerful and evocative hymn tune. “Just As I Am” teaches our common Christian faith in truth. “Just as I am, without one plea…” When it comes to our standing before God we can make no defense. We have not been the good little boys and girls we imagine ourselves to be. “But..” and that’s a big Gospel but, “But that Thy blood was shed for me.” Our being welcomed into the heavenly dwellings by God on the last day is not based on ourselves but upon the blood of Christ shed for our forgiveness. This blood cleanses each and every dark blot upon our soul. This blood shed is how the Lamb of God will “welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve.”
This is true for our dear saint of God Millie as it is for you. Despite all the good she did in this life for her family and friends, despite all the excellent cooking, she wanted us to sing today that she brought nothing to her salvation. It’s all Jesus or nothing. Apart from Christ Jesus, we are “poor, wretched, blind… tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt.” Jesus has brought to completion that good work begun in her in 1927 by Holy Baptism now eighty seven years later. Millie’s hope, her confidence, her comfort, her strength, her confession is utterly rooted in the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who takes away the sin of the world.
Millie wants this hymn to guide our thoughts this morning. She wants us to learn from hymn while we are gathered here to grieve her death and lay her body to rest. She was brought to Christ by faith in His Word and His Spirit. She heard her Good Shepherd’s voice and followed Him. Millie wants us to know and believe that she is with her savior Jesus, held safe in his loving embrace. Dear Christian friends—Karen, Marge, Sherry and Kim—family and friends—Millie wants us to grieve not as those without hope but instead in the sure and confident promise that she has died and rests in the peace of Jesus. Jesus promised that no one whom the Father gives Him will ever be cast out. He has kept His promise for His dear saint Millie.
Just as I am – of that free love
The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
Here for a season, then above,
O Lamb of God, I come!
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church