[Isaiah 25:6-9 / Revelation 7:9-17 / John 11:17-27]
Ron and Lynn, Marc and Linda, Jenny, Adam and Jack, family and friends of Dorothy Behrhorst. It does not seem possible that we’re gathered in this room, doing what we’re doing, does it? As you said, Marc, it was so easy to forget that Dorothy was 80, after all. She never seemed to grow older - always effervescent, full of energy and enthusiasm, living life full steam ahead. And when was she ever NOT that way? When did the promises of God in Christ ever not seem to fill her with joy?
I’ve been with her as her husband was dying, as her mother and her mother-in-law passed, and as both her sisters died. One sorrow piled on top of another. But she never looked at them that way, did she? “Another one gathered home! I can’t wait!” To Dorothy the promises of God in Christ simply outweighed the sorrows and filled her life with that bubbly hope that she was so good at sharing.
She believed with all her heart in that promise Isaiah spoke. That on the Lord’s mountain, the Lord had a feast for His people - a feast to celebrate death’s destruction and overthrow. A feast of joy as the Lord wiped away tears and took away the reproach of His people. She knew all about that feast. She literally lived from it. Time and again, she presented herself before the Lord’s altar and opened her mouth to receive from the Savior’s hand the promise and guarantee that her sins were forgiven, covered in Jesus’ blood, and that she had in her Savior a life bigger than death - a life that death would never be able to take from her. And the Table, I believe, became more dear to her as the sweet trysting place with her beloved family that had gone on before. She knew that she gathered with them - a forgiven people sharing a life beyond the grave’s grip. Her face beamed as she received the promise of the Lord’s body and blood.
And how she delighted in being in the Lord’s house and worshipping with His people, singing in the choir, listening to His words and promises, knowing that she was part of that great gathering that St. John saw in Revelation 7 - her robes might white in the blood of the Lamb the day she was baptized - a mere 11 days after her birth. You know how this past week she was celebrating that her youngest great-grandson had received the washing of rebirth in the Lamb’s blood and been clothed with the same white robe of Jesus’ righteousness that was her joy and delight. You know how eager she was for EVERYONE to get in that water with Jesus and get those glory robes. She didn’t want a single soul to miss out on the joy of standing before the throne of God and serving Him day and night in His temple, living in the shelter of His presence. She couldn’t imagine what life would be like without that comfort and joy - and so she witnessed about it to everyone. Yes, even when the Baptists came by and invited her to come with them to church, SHE invited them to join HER!
Dorothy was able to say good-bye to her family and friends as they left this world with tears, but yet with that unquenchable bubbly joy, because she trusted above all the promise of Jesus in today’s Gospel: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. And everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” Our Lord asked Martha whether she believed that. He asked Dorothy the same thing too. Before this altar in 1943 as she was being confirmed. And she gave her joyous “yes!” and gave it time and again ever since. “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who has come into the world.”
So she lived her life free. Free from the corrosion of despair. Free from the anxiety of fear. Free from the dread of death. What was death to her? Her Lord had blasted a hole right through it and promised her the gift of eternal life with Him. She could speak of that promise with glowing confidence and joy - and so she strengthened all of us.
And because she was free in Christ, she could live her life here just loving others. What joy she had in the trips she got to take! What joy in that little puppy dog in these last years! What joy with friends at the card table! What joy in you, her beloved sons, and Linda, and you grandchildren, Jenny and Abigail and Trevor and Adam and Jack - you were what she was always bragging on. Cindi told me yesterday about how she always had a story or a picture of something you’d been up to share with her fellow choir members - and I’ll bet it was the same with the card club.
I hope I haven’t made her sound unreal - as though she weren’t a sinner. She knew she was. She knew that she needed and lived from her Savior’s pardon. But she really was a shining example to us of what joy in Christ looks like when the promises of Christ have taken hold of a heart and joined it eternally to the Blessed Trinity.
In the days to come I know you’ll miss her. Trust me when I say that a lot of people will be missing her. Will find it hard to comprehend a life without her. But she’d be correcting me right now and saying: “What do you MEAN a life without me? Don’t you believe His promises? I am not dead, but living in Him. And you will be too. Just wait. You’ll see!”
And she’d be so right. Dorothy, we love you and we’re very glad that we haven’t really lost you at all. And for that we give glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dorothy H. Behrhorst, age 80, of Hamel, died at 7:10 a.m., on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010, at her residence in Hamel.
She was born on June 5, 1929, in Hamel, the daughter of the late Arthur H. and Olga M. Brunnworth Uelsmann.
She married Wilbur E. Behrhorst on June 11, 1950, at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel. He preceded her in death on July 31, 1994.
She is survived by two sons: Ronald L. Behrhorst of Hamel and Marc A. and wife Linda Behrhorst of Edwardsville; three grandchildren: Jennifer and husband Kevin McCarthy of Chicago, Adam Behrhorst of Edwardsville and Jack Behrhorst of Edwardsville; and two great-grandchildren: Abigail and Trevor McCarthy.
Along with her parents and her husband, she is preceded in death by two sisters: LaVerne Halbe and Eileen Schwalb.
Mrs. Behrhorst was born and raised in Hamel, on a farm north of Hamel. She worked for Famous Barr in customer services in Alton. She worked for Hamel Township doing clerical work.
She enjoyed cards, golf, bowling, traveling and church activities.
Her memberships included St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel, the Church Missionary League and the church choir.