After every Sunday morning service here at Grace church, Lorraine would say something like this: “It was wonderful! Everything was just wonderful.” I think that what most people know about Lorraine is that she loved being in this place of worship and among this community of faith. Of course, the Episcopal church wasn’t her only church home throughout her life. As a child in Comstock, Nebraska, her family attended the Methodist church. Elsewhere, her family honored their Norwegian heritage and worshipped in a Lutheran church. Here in Siloam Springs, she was active at the First Christian Church and then here at Grace—and sometimes at both. As she said to her great grandson Drew, “I think I have my bases covered.”
Lorraine certainly had her bases covered, but she also has something much more important: She has the promises found in today’s gospel reading. In the gospel of John, Jesus holds out to us these assurances: “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away . . . And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”
With these words, Jesus promises to welcome and embrace those given to him. Lorraine has been such a gift to many people gathered here—and to many more as well. She has been a gift to her children who were born when she was just nineteen and twenty-one, and who remember their home as the place where everyone loved to gather. She has been a gift to the grandchildren she helped so much to raise, and to her great-grandchildren as well. She has been a gift to the churches, schools, Scout troops, library, and other community organizations that were blessed by her service. And she was a gift especially to her husband Mike, whom she married on this day, January 2nd, in 1943, here in Siloam Springs, and with whom she built both a loving family and a family business. But as much as Lorraine was a gift to all of these people, she was, above all, a gift to Jesus Christ and his kingdom, and he welcomes and receives her even now.
In today’s gospel, Jesus promises not to lose anything given to him. So as Lorraine is given to Jesus Christ, she is not lost—she is safe, she is kept, she is held. Lorraine’s life involved losses of its own: Her father passed away when she was just twelve, her family moved across the country to Southern California, and she and her siblings all worked hard throughout the Great Depression and Second World War. For quite some time she had, as her son Mike put it, nothing but “dreams and hard work.” Lorraine’s life shows how we can weave losses into a life of love and joy. In fact, it was while working in California that Lorraine met her husband, who had come from Siloam Springs, Arkansas looking for his own brighter future. But, above all, Lorraine reminds us that nothing is ever lost that Jesus Christ promises to hold onto.
Jesus also promises that what has come to him as a gift, and what he holds onto safely at rest, he will also raise up. In several ways, Lorraine practiced a risen life among us. Many of us know that Lorraine relied on a walker to take many of her steps, but she kept going no matter what. The prophet Isaiah in our first reading promises that those who wait on the Lord will “renew their strength . . . mount up with wings like eagles . . . run and not be weary.” Lorraine certainly fought for and found surprising strength.
Lorraine’s family chose today’s second reading because it reminded them of the kind of person that Lorraine was. As the Letter to the Philippians encourages us, she raised her own thoughts to dwell on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.
So Lorraine practiced a risen life in heart, soul, mind, and strength. And now Christ’s promise of risen life can, we hope, bring us some greater joy. We can all ponder Lorraine’s risen life in ways that connect to how we have known her in this life: active, fun, strong, good. But as for here in her church home, we might imagine her risen life something like this: When greeting our risen Lord himself, perhaps we can almost hear her saying to Him about her life among us, “It was wonderful! Everything was just wonderful.” Amen.