In the name of Jesus … and especially to you, the family members of Hilda “Babe” Kinsey … grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
In sorrow and sadness, as faithful Christians have done for centuries, you have come to the Lord’s House today to mourn the death of a loved one. While we gather here, just a handful of blocks away – in the kitchen of that little house on East 1st Street – there is an empty chair that had been occupied every day for so many years.
I can’t even guess how many times I have heard Babe – sitting in that kitchen chair – speak these words: “O Pastor, I don’t know why the Good Lord doesn’t just take me.” I always responded that the Good Lord was not ready for her yet – and she always nodded in understanding and agreement. Some of you have told me that she asked you that same question … and you gave her that same answer. He wasn’t ready.
But all along I knew and I am sure that you knew that Babe really was ready for the Lord to take her to be with Him. I think she has been ready for a long time. After all, one hundred and two years is a long life. Kenneth, her husband of more than 50 years, has been gone for 22 years. She wasn’t able to get around by herself any more. She wasn’t able to do the things that she used to be able to do. Her mind was still sharp as a tack but her body was … well, she was tired. As she asked so often: “I don’t know why the Good Lord doesn’t just take me.”
A week ago Wednesday afternoon, the Good Lord was ready to take Babe to be with Him. And He did. Babe went with her Lord through the valley of the shadow of death to the joy and glory that lies beyond – to the place in heaven prepared for her and for all who die trusting in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
In Revelation chapter 14, St. John recounts these words from his vision of heaven: “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.’” We might paraphrase those words to proclaim: “Blessed is Babe Kinsey who has died in the Lord.” But we might add that Babe was incredibly blessed throughout her life. Not with wealth and fame and the things that the world counts as blessings – but blessed with family members who loved her and helped care for her as she gradually became less able to do things for herself. Blessed with a faith that hungered to hear God’s Word and receive His forgiveness. Blessed so many years ago to be baptized in the name of the Triune God and – until the end of her life – to eagerly receive His true body and blood in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Blessed with the ability and the fortitude and determination – even at the age of 102 – to boldly confess her Christian faith in the words of the Apostles’ Creed and pray the words of the Lord’s Prayer. Blessed because she knew that mortal death was just a beginning … the beginning of eternal life.
One other thing Babe use to say was how much she missed being able to go to Church. Looking back, it seems like she talked about going to Church more often during these past couple of months – almost like she had some kind of sense that she would be going back to Church before very long.
So today, for the first time in many years and for this final time, Babe is back at Saint Paul Lutheran Church – the Church that she joined when she was baptized on October 28, 1949 and where she was confirmed in 1951. At least, today her body is here. Her eternal soul is in that greater Church in the presence of Her Lord and Savior, surrounded by all the saints who have preceded her there. In the words that we read moments ago from the Apostles’ Creed, Babe now resides in the “holy Christian Church” with “the communion of saints.”
In a few minutes we will go to Linwood Cemetery where Babe will be buried next to Kenneth. And there she will remain until Jesus returns in glory on Judgment Day, when her eternal soul will be reunited with her resurrected, glorified and eternal body. Just think about how wonderful that will be! Babe won’t have to be seated at a kitchen table until someone helps her get up and down. She won’t need someone to read to her because her eyes are too weak or prepare a meal or do anything that you have been doing for her because she could no longer do it for herself. Her resurrected, glorified body will be perfect in every respect. And she will live – body and soul – for all eternity with our Savior the Good Shepherd who gave His life for her and for us.
Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” Babe Kinsey heard the voice of the Good Shepherd calling to her so many years ago when she became a member of His flock. She remained a member of His flock until she took her last breath of her mortal life. And today we can rejoice because your dear family member … this dear woman … this dear friend … is now and always will be with her Good Shepherd. Amen.