[Isaiah 43:1-4 / Romans 8:31-39 / John 11:21-27]
Steven and Carla, Carla and Michael, Susan, family and friends of Jo Aufdemberge, what a difference it makes when you live your life and die your death in the faith that you are precious in the eyes of God, known, honored and loved by Him! It sets your heart and your mouth singing for joy. Do I need to tell you that your mother was a shining light that way? And that she spent so much of her life and her energy in helping others to discover that same truth, and to rejoice with her in making music to the One who had so loved her and all our fallen race?
Jo never forgot she was a sinner. There were things she really struggled with. She certainly didn't approve when God took your dad home - and left her alone. She struggled with that and yet finally found her peace in recognizing that she could receive all things, even that, as a gift from the hand of the God who loved her all the way from the manger to the cross to the empty grave, and all the way from her baptism until the moment her baptism was completed last Thursday, even as she was cross-stitching a baptismal cross for another child of God.
To Jo, living as a baptized child of God was one of the greatest joys of life. It meant that you had a heavenly Father who never turned his back on you or abandoned you, whose love for you was guaranteed, just like we heard in the words from Isaiah: "Thus says the Lord who created you and formed you: Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name and you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you, for I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel your Savior...You are precious in my eyes and honored and I love you." Those are words that get you through the sundry waters and fire that come your way in life. Jo knew plenty of those in her pilgrimage. And yet it was that constant love of God that was her anchor. She sought to make that love be the anchor for the all the children she taught, all the young folks that sang in the cantata she used to conduct, all the members of her family and her countless friends. Here's a love you can count on, her whole life seemed to say: trust in Him!
Such a love she knew to be in the heart of God for her because of the Cross. "He who did not spare His only Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?" She looked to the Cross and saw the One who had taken all of her sin and the world's sin upon Himself to set her and the world free! To forgive, to pardon, and to renew the whole creation.
But her faith and her joy didn't stop with the Cross. Much as she rejoiced to sing about the Savior who had loved her to death, she rejoiced even more to sing about the Savior whom death could not hold, and in whose love she was more than a conqueror!
In today's Gospel Martha had the idea that at the end of time there would be a resurrection. That was true, but she was missing the joy standing before her: "I am the resurrection and the life" says her Jesus. "Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die." The Jesus who marked Jo as his own in the waters of Baptism is not merely the One who WILL raise the dead. He IS the destruction of death. He IS the gift of eternal life. And she knew this. She knew it in the depths of her soul. And she clung to Him tightly.
Countless were the times she knelt before this Lord and let Him feed into her the very Body and Blood that were on the cross for her, and in the tomb for her, and rose again from the grave for her. Countless were the times He fed into her a forgiveness greater than all her sin and the world's sin, a Life stronger than any death she or you or I will ever meet.
And so she sang and rang! Who could keep from making music of praise to a God who loves like that? A God whose mercy never ends. The dearest desire of her heart was always that you, her children and grandchildren, know this unending love and mercy of God; it was her desire that her little scholars know it; the children she sang with in VBS know it; the teens she loved and spent time with know it; that you her friends and family and everyone she met, know it.
We're sad today that God has seen fit to take her joyful presence from us. But then, when we think about it, we realize that nothing of the sort has happened. Oh, it's true that we'll take this body out to the grave and plant it in the certain hope of the resurrection. Our eyes won't get to see her again in this age. And yet we know that every time we gather at the Lord's altar, at His table, and the Feast of life is spread before us, the Lamb reigning in His sacrifice of love, that Jo will be there. With Carl. With your grandparents. With all your loved ones who have died in the faith. They meet us at the table where the Lamb is, until the day comes for each of us when faith gives way to sight, and we will see what she now enjoys and join her in forever singing praise of the One who has loved us with an everlasting love, to whom be glory forever! Amen.
Julana L. Aufdemberge, age 76, of Edwardsville, died at 12:50 p.m., on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008, at her residence.
She was born on Oct. 20, 1931, in Lincoln, Neb., the daughter of the late Arthur and Irene Schwartz Knispel.
She married Carl E. Aufdemberge on July 19, 1953, in Omaha, Neb. He preceded her in death on Aug. 9, 1997.
She is survived by one son: Steven, and wife Carla, Aufdemberge of Columbia, Mo.; two daughters Carla, and her husband Michael, Kramer of Columbia, Mo., and Susan Aufdemberge of Edwardsville; four grandchildren: Jason, and wife Stacey, Kramer of Columbia, Mo., Sarah Kramer of Denver, Colo., Hannah and Carah Aufdemberge of Columbia, Mo.; and two sisters: Christine Lehl of Gardner, Kan., and Elaine, and husband Ed, Luethge of Omaha, Neb.
Mrs. Aufdemberge retired after 35 years as a teacher in Texas and Wisconsin. She also taught in Edwardsville at Trinity Lutheran Church for a number of years.
Her memberships include St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel, past member of Lutheran Education Association, the Homemakers Extension Group of Edwardsville, and Trinity Lutheran Choir and St. Paul Lutheran Choir. Current member of Lutheran Women's Missionary League and St. Paul Church Bell Choir.
[Yes, she'd smack me one for putting that picture up, but I LIKE it!]