A Change of Address
Dear family and friends: Is this where two months of in and out of the hospital, waiting, watching, and praying end? Is this where it all ends for your mom, grandmother, great-grandmother, and friend? No, this casket, this grave, is not the last address the Lord Jesus wants you to have on your loved one. He wants you to note a change of address.
When Miss Ruth first went in the Round Rock nursing home, we had a rather pointed discussion about changing her address. I told her that I would make sure to change her address, so that her church mail would come to her. She said, "Don't you dare! I'm only going to be here two weeks; there isn't no need to be changing my address." I wasn't one to argue with Miss Ruth, so I agreed.
And of course, she was right. There was no reason for me to change her address. Once in the nursing home she was hardly able to visit let alone read anything. But she did have a change of address, and no, it wasn't to some place here on earth. It was to heaven. The Lord had a place prepared for your mom, your grandmom, your Gram in heaven. He prepared this place for her 2000 years ago on a horrible skull shaped hill called Calvary where He spread out His arms and died for Miss Ruth. Then centuries later, on June 29, 1915, to be exact, the Lord brought the salvation He won for Miss Ruth on Calvary to her personally in Baptism.
Understand, all along the Lord Jesus was intending her to move to His place. He never intended that your mom, your grandmom, your great-grandmother should always and forever stay here on earth with you. And as much as Miss Ruth loved you all, she didn't want to stay either. Surely, you heard her forlornly say how she was the last of her family. At St. David's hospital, she was telling me about past family reunions and how most everyone was gone now. I remarked that though her family grew less on earth it grew more and more in heaven. "O, yes, she said," with a far away look in her eyes.
So today we celebrate the fact that the Lord has successfully rescued Miss Ruth from sin, death and the devil. These three were her enemies her whole life, as they are enemies of us all. Sin wished to damn her; death wished to kill her, and the devil wished to grab her. But the Good Shepherd would have none of this. He defeated her sins by shedding His blood for them. He defeated her death by dying it for her on the cross. He defeated the devil by whisking her away safely to heaven where the devil can't touch her.
Miss Ruth has had a permanent change of address which is very good for her. You who knew and loved her saw how this powerful woman went relentlessly downhill. You saw how she who always wanted to do for others was reduced to having everything done for her. This certainly wasn't how Miss Ruth wanted things. I could tell whenever she started to feel the least bit better she would talk about having my family over. She asked what we liked to eat and guaranteed she'd cook it. Then she would go on to admonish me about "putting myself out" for her. Miss Ruth wanted to do for others, but in the end she could not even do for herself.
But that is all behind her now. I'm quite sure there is no doubt in your minds that your mom, grandmother, friend, and loved one has had a change of address for her good. The problem is you have not. You are here, and the one you loved, relied on, and looked to for love and support is where you can't visit or phone. How sad and even frightened that makes you feel. Even though Miss Ruth wasn't able to do much for you these past couple of months, still her just being there gave you strength and hope. But dear friends, any strength, any hope, and even any help didn't come from Miss Ruth but from Miss Ruth's Savior, Jesus Christ.
Wouldn't she want me to remind you of that? Miss Ruth taught Sunday School for years here. Do you think she was pointing those boys and girls to herself? Not hardly. She was pointing them to Jesus. Did she drive her son all the way into Trinity School so he could learn to trust in his mother? Surely not! She brought him here, she worked her, she worshiped her because her strength, her hope, her trust was in Jesus not herself. And why was she always asking you if you had been to church? Because she wanted you to do things for church, wanted you to do things for Jesus? Not hardly. She wanted you to go to where Jesus would do things for you as He did for her! The Lord Jesus Christ was Miss Ruth's Friend and Mighty Fortress. She wanted Him to be these things for you too.
Friends, I have no doubt that the Lord Jesus Christ did wonderful things for you through this faithful, Christian mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend, but the word "through" is the one to remember. When Jesus took your helper to heaven, His help didn't go too. When Jesus took your loved one to heaven, His love didn't go too. When Jesus took your friend to heaven, His friendship didn't go too. When Jesus took your Gram away to heaven, He didn't go away too.
Your Jesus is still here to support you even as He did Miss Ruth through almost 85 years of life. But that's not all there is to it. He has a change of address in mind for you too. And wasn't this behind all of Miss Ruth's teaching and pointing to Jesus? She didn't view Jesus as only of use or even as primarily for use in this life. Miss Ruth didn't look solely at the here and now but always to the hereafter. She taught Jesus now, pointed to Jesus now because she knew we all have a change of address in our future. She wanted all of your addresses to change to her new one.
You know you can view all of what Miss Ruth did as having everlasting life as the goal. Likewise, you can view all of what Jesus does in your life as having that goal too. He and Miss Ruth were on the same page. Both would want Miss Ruth's change of address to call you towards heavenly things. Neither would want you to think this is where it ends for Miss Ruth or needs to end for you. Both would want you to remember that Jesus is not just moving Miss Ruth out today; He's moving her in. He's moving her in to those heavenly mansions filled not just with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, but with all those loved ones of hers that had died in Christ before her. What a family reunion that is! I promise you this is a change of address she loves, and she looks forward to sharing with you. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Second Sunday in Lent (3-19-00)
Funeral Sermon for Ruth Piland
Psalm 23, 2 Corinthians 5: 1-8, John 14: 1-5
Ruth Amanda Piland was born June 29, 1915 to Christian and Annie Bohot Goerlitz of Lee County. She was baptized that same day by the pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Giddings, Texas. She was confirmed March 23, 1929 at St. John Lutheran Church, Richland Texas. On April 3, 1937 she was joined in holy matrimony to Alex Carroll Piland enjoying 50 years of marriage before his death. She has been a member of Trinity Lutheran Church since November 1940. She died March 15, 2000 at the age of 84. Ruth is survived by her son Alex Leonard Piland of Austin. Two granddaughters, Alecia Comerford and husband Charles of Round Rock and Deenie Piland also of Round Rock, two great-grandsons, Michael Hixson and Marshall Comerford, a brother-in-law, Harry Piland and wife Pat, and numerous nieces and nephews. Interment will follow the service at Capital Parks cemetery