Delmar, Margaret and Joseph, family and friends of Marianne Altevogt, if we begin with today’s Gospel we can certainly put ourselves in the place of Martha, can’t we? When Lazarus fell ill, they sent word for Jesus. But He delayed, and as they sat by their brother’s bedside they watched him sink slowly into death. This past year has seen a lot of sitting at bedsides and praying to Jesus for healing and for a miracle. And like Martha, we’ve had a lot of experience with Jesus delaying and seeming absent. We prayed and we prayed, we hoped and cried, and death came all the same. But Jesus shows up in the place of death itself, and He speaks to Martha and to you a promise: “I am the resurrection and the life” He says. “Marianne believes in me, so even though she died, yet she shall live. And even more, she shall never die.” Yes, in the presence of this body – so clearly dead – Christ proclaims: “Not a problem! She lives in me now, and this body shall be raised from the dead in incorruption.” When He asks us: “Do you believe this?” let us say with Martha: “Yes, Lord, we believe that you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. You are the One who has given to Marianne a life that never ends."
He baptized her into that life as a little baby, bringing her into the family of God, and He nourished that life in her all her days through the Word and the Holy Sacraments. You know, how she treasured the Word. How she always did the KFUO Weekly Bible Quiz and won just about every week. And the Holy Sacrament that she always hungered for she received for the last time in this world just four days before she died. That undying Body and Blood of the Son of God went into her as the pledge and guarantee that wiped out her sins and that death would never be the end of her body and soul. She lived in that hope, and she died in that hope, and so she lives forever.
Before one of her recent surgeries she asked me to read her from Revelation 5, our second reading. She said how much she always loved that. I should have known. Not only is it about music, but about the angels. About one huge crescendo of praise as all creation joins in singing and playing the praises of the Lamb who was slain. Music was her passion. Not just any music, but the music of the Church, the music that sang about the One who came to us in unspeakable love to blot our sins and to destroy our death and bring us the bright hope of a future with the angels, singing and playing eternally His praises. She lived for her music. Around here we tended to think of Marianne first and foremost as the organist, but she was also an expert bell ringer and she had a beautiful alto voice. I still remember some of the pieces that she and Cindi sang years ago – we should have had her sing more, but we tended to keep her feet and hands busy on that organ. Well, when we weren’t keeping her busy in the office at the keyboard and rizo. You know, I’ve never met a better speller in my life. She finally even taught me how to spell, of all things, cemetery. Just remember it’s all “e’s” she said. And God forbid you ever let her ever catch you spelling altar with “e” when you mean the Lord’s table! Need a phone number or address of a parishioner? I didn’t need a phone book; I had only to ask Marianne. I’m not joking, it was phenomenal. She would hesitate and say: “Well, I think its…” and invariably it was! She ran this place, no two ways about it. I suspect our vicars learned from her than they ever learned from me. And she saw and knew that all of her work was always directed toward the worship of God. She was so clear on that.
And do you see the beauty of this? She lived for the joy of the one thing which the Church does now, that it will go on doing forever – singing, playing, and praising the Blessed Trinity. So, when on that morning her thoughts were turning to her own death – it was on her mind – she wasn’t thinking of death like so many people. She was thinking of it as the rehearsal is now over and the actual performance is about to begin. The worship that she had lived for and worked on her whole life, would now come to perfection and the music would be without flaw and she’d be singing and ringing with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven and it would be the fullness of joy.
And don’t you forget that. When you come to this room you join in that same worship, and if you listen carefully some days you might just catch the echo of her voice and her music. It has NOT ceased, it has increased to the glory of God forever! “Steals on the ear the distant triumph song and hearts are brave again and arms are strong. Alleluia!”
Which leads us to our first reading. The promise of the feast. You know a feast is what you throw when the family’s all home and you’re celebrating the joy of being together. You know how she loved being with you guys. As Joanie said: “just say ‘Delmar’ and watch her face light up!” That worked with any of your names. Margaret. Joseph. And the smile grew even brighter whenever the topic was Joshua, Lindsey or Cloe. Why, Steve and Cissy, you know were never inlaws. Just more of her children. And how proud she was her brothers! She thought the world of you all - and your families too.
And feast is where there’s always room and welcome for more. Marianne’s family was so big. Not only all of you her kin, but all of us she adopted along the way. Peggy and Joanie and Shirley and Lois and Norma were like the sisters she never had. And my children all thought of her like their own grandma – and God knows she spoiled them rotten. Come St. Patrick’s Day she’d bake that Irish Soda bread and she and Cindi and I would sit down with it to tea. She was our sister too. She opened her heart to anyone who came her way. They were all welcomed as family, and the family together and celebrating is feast.
But the best feast is when the family is together and it doesn’t end. That’s the promise of our first reading: the Feast to celebrate the overthrow of death itself. With death out of the way, the good-byes are gone. Together forever. That’s what all the singing is about. That’s the joy Jesus came to bring us.
And we are told that at this feast, God does an amazing thing. “the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces.” Tears there have been a plenty. The pain she had to endure this year – suffered without complaint, trusting that somehow, someway this was God’s purpose and plan. On Thursday the holy angels brought her to Jesus, where she experienced the touch of his nail-scared hand. He who shed his own tears at Lazarus’ grave, touched her face and gently wiped away all the tears, all the sorrows, all the pain. It was gone in an instant. And she looked at Him and said: “Behold, this is my God; I have waited for Him – HOW I have waited for Him – that He might save me. Now let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.” Home at last. Sitting down to the feast. Waiting only now for the resurrection of the body, but already beyond all the tears, all the sorrows, all the grief. Gathered to the family of God, safe in the Eternal Home, where there are no more good byes – but where she awaits some joyful welcoming! This is the feast that all our earthly feasts point towards.
And there she prays for you. Just like she always did. Her prayer now is even stronger. And her prayer is heard. She asks God that we would never forget what she has taught us, that we would remember that worship is our life, and that learning the praises of God is what we are here for, so that when we come to join her at the Feast, our hearts will be ready to enter the joy of the songs of our Jesus: the Lamb, the Resurrection and the Life, our Good Shepherd. Hear her voice in the children’s today: “And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on! I’ll sing on! And when from death I’m free I’ll sing on. And when from death I’m free, I sing His love for me and through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on. And through eternity, I’ll sing on.”
Marianne, we will love you always, and we can’t wait to see you again and never say good-bye, and join you in the song. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.
+ MARIANNE ALTEVOGT +
December 14, 1944 – January 18, 2007
Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.
Funeral liturgy is found on pages 278-281
In Paradisum –– Dan Pickett and Cindi Weedon
Invocation, p. 278
Remembrance of Baptism, p. 278
Hymn of Resurrection: “The Strife is O’er” #464
Kyrie, p. 278
Salutation and Collect, p. 278
Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 25:6-9 – Pr. GeRue
Psalm 23 – “Brother James Air” – Adult Choir
Second Reading: Revelation 5:6-14 – Pr. Holle
Verse, p. 279
Holy Gospel: John 11:17-27 – Pr. Weedon
Apostles’ Creed, p. 279
Hymn: “For All the Saints” #677
Homily – Pr. Weedon
Anthem: “What Wondrous Love” – Children of TSP,
Director: Kristi Schkade
Prayer of the Church, p. 280 – Pastor Rethwisch
Lord’s Prayer, p. 280
Nunc Dimittis, p. 281
Concluding Collect, p. 281
Benedicamus and Benediction, p. 281
Recessional: “Thine the Amen, Thine the Praise” #680
Pianist: Diane Schrader + Crucifer: Richard Rikli
Interment will be at Harris Cemetery in Alhambra. The family invites the congregation to return afterward for a time of fellowship and a light lunch in the church basement.