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Sermon - Funeral for Mama Myrtle

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Mama Myrtle 1979.jpgSermon delivered January 17, 2015
At St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Columbia South Carolina

The Gospel according to Matthew, the 11th chapter

At that time Jesus said, 'I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

 'Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.'

Let us pray,

May the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer. 


Greetings to you this day my sisters and brothers in Christ and family in life. We are here today to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of Myrtle Estelle Kyzer Spigner, who many people know as Mrs. Spigner, many other people know as Myrtle or Miss Myrtle, and a no small number of us, including myself, know as Mama Myrtle.   

And she was known by so many names because she touched so many people's lives through her family who is well represented here in this chapel, her church life here at St. Luke's, her work with Airport High School, her arts and crafts, which she dearly loved, and even at the end of her life the people she touched at Agape Senior Living.  

I think each and every one of us knew a different Myrtle Spigner, and yet there were characteristics about her that we could all come to share and know, her great drive that was funneled by a deep and abiding love of Jesus Christ first and foremost among those characteristics. 

Mama Myrtle was innately curious about everything and everyone. No matter who you were, or what you were doing, she always wanted to know more. And she was never shy about sharing her advice or opinion about it either. Her spirit was animated by a great desire to be part of each and every person she came into contact with, evidence of the Holy Spirit working in her daily activities. 

Her grandchildren are in our 40s and 50s, inordinately lucky to have had our Mama Myrtle for so long in our lives. I can state unequivically that my ministry is due, in a large part, to her instilling a deep and abiding Christian identity in me. And for her to have watched, even if from a distance, my going through seminary and enter into the ministry as a Lutheran pastor, at the late age of 48, has been nothing short of a blessing. atop the fact that she's been in my life for so long. When she heard that I was going into the ministry, she first wanted to know what kind of ministry setting I would be in, she always supported that call in my life. 

Her faith was one that was one that was so strong. She never questioned what was to come in the life after this one, her certainty in the salvation that he promises was one that can only give the rest of us a boost in our own faith. So her question was not even one of if, or how, or what, but only of when, and in her last few years, the sooner she could be reunited with the great love of her life, the better. 

Mama Myrtle is a bright and shining example of the life of Jesus Christ acted out in a living human being. She possessed a knowledge that God saw her through each and every day, that he walked with her and guided her through the hard days while at the same time never forgetting to acknowledge his involvement and presence during the joyful moments of her days.

And there were many wonderful and joyous events in her life of which God was a part of. When she married Jack Spigner.  Both the first time in 1939 as well the second time in 1989. The birth of all three of her lovely daughters, Sherrie, Donna and Drenia; in fact the birth of each of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren was a momentous occasion as well as the fact of more lively spirits to engage her company. Mama Myrtle loved children and having children around, not only those who were in her family but wanted to meet the children of friends and acquaintances as well, and she glowed with a vibrant spirit of life when children were around.  

Mama Myrtle loved reading scripture and loved hearing scripture read to her. The word of God, sacred and meaningful, served to confirm the Holy Spirit that worked within her and works within all of us.  The life, miracles, and sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ were close to her heart, and she loved to talk about scripture and hear what you thought about it and how it affected you.  This passage from Matthew one of those many passages that were meaningful and familiar to her. And it is one that Jesus is intimate and familiar with us, close and kind, the most perfect friend we could have. 

Jesus, who has suffered more than anyone else can suffer, who has had the greatest burden of all tells us in no uncertain terms "my yoke is easy, my burden is light."  What is a yoke?  What this is is the harness that goes on the back of an ox. I know a little about farms and a little about plowing and I know that when you yoke an ox that he has quite a tough job. So when Jesus says that my load is light, when he says that his yoke is easy he is not downplaying the hard work that the ox is doing.  

This passage here, this wonderful verse at the end of the 11th chapter the gospel of Matthew has been considered by many scholars and theologians to be the very heart of the gospel message itself. What Jesus says when his load is light and his yoke is easy is when we yoke ourselves to Jesus, our burden becomes much lighter, our yoke becomes much easier.  Even when it can be hard for us to do.  Even when we want to hold onto control of our lives.  

And it does sometimes become easy to say, thanks God, I appreciate the offer, but I think I can handle this on my own. Some of us think we know better and think we can do it better. Some of us have to work hard at faith, and struggle to simply give in to the Lord.  

Mama Myrtle's faith came to her as naturally as breathing. For Mama Myrtle, Jesus' words, 'Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens' is not so much a command as a simple statement of fact. It was never any work for her to "Let go and let God."  

And now, Jesus has called her to release the rest of her burden.  Mama Myrtle has answered the call and given her entire load to Jesus Christ. Her load is no longer hers to carry, and she is receiving her promise of salvation.  

For those of us who have Mama Myrtle in our hearts whose load remains burdened down by our daily activities, those things that make life eventful and bearable, those of us celebrating her memory but who are also mourning her loss, we now have a place within us that feels empty. When we see those things that make us wonder, that give us pause, those things that happen that make us want to pick up the phone and call Mama Myrtle, that place inside of us becomes that much more prominent, because there is now no longer any way to hear her voice answering us on the other side, always curious about it. 

But the joy of having Mama Myrtle in our lives is that any of us can talk to her now at any time, and with just one fraction of the faith that she had, we can rest assured that she hears us, and that it takes no more than a thought to imagine just what her response is. Always curious about what we've told her, not at all shy about asking unexpected questions, or giving us advice or her opinion.   

Gathered here are people who call themselves mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, grandchildren, grandparents, greats, cousins, steps, friends. Our mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, cousin, friend, parishioner, has preceded us into the kingdom of heaven, to join her true love, Daddy Jack, to sit in peace and joyful harmony at the throne of the king, in the shining light of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

We can live her example, by always being honest with each other, by always making others feel valuable by letting them know we are interested in their lives, and by living lives in accordance with that of our Lord Jesus Christ, to love God, and to love one another as God loves us, to be kind to strangers and those in need, and to keep our hearts open to what God is telling us to do. 

Our Mama Myrtle, foundation in many of our lives is now in receipt of new life. For us who still carry heavy burdens, we can use her great faith as a proof of the love of God for us, and the hope that we may join her as sisters and brothers in the glorious kingdom Jesus Christ has laid out for us. 


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