Iona French Memorial Service
March 1, 2008
Our Confidence Of Glory
Iona?s French Weinstein was born to Meyer and Ruth Stein on December 15, 1929. Iona died on February 18, 2008. Her obituary accounted for the significant people and events during her 78 years of life in this world. If I counted right, her obituary was 10 paragraphs long. A whole life compressed into 10 paragraphs. If you had just 10 paragraphs to tell the world what you want the world to know about your life, what would you include? You might actually give that question some serious thought, because I can assure you, someday you too will die and a summary of your life will appear in some newspaper. 10 paragraphs. Kind of makes you think about what?s really important and what isn?t doesn?t it.
Iona had one of those lives, which 10 paragraphs could never begin to describe. Wife, mother, grandmother, active citizen and nurse hardly begin to capture the life of this woman. May I just see a show of hands of how many of you are here this morning because of your connection with Iona the nurse? And how many, because of your connection to Iona as Dr. Matthew?s nurse? How many of you are parents of children whom Dr. Matthews and Iona delivered into this world? Any children here who Iona had a hand in delivering?
Your love and appreciation for Iona depends on how and where her life intersected with yours. I?m sure that each of you have stories you could tell. And you?ll have a chance to share yours stories with one another downstairs after the service is concluded. But I get my chance here.
I could tell several stories about Iona and the way she touched my life and our lives here in this congregation. But one in particular stands out for me when I think of Iona. During the summer of 199? I received a call from a Lutheran pastor in Southern Maine telling me that a young man by the name of Joey French was moving in with his mother in Waterville. He had heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and came to faith, calling Jesus Christ his Lord and Savior and as such, was a brother in Christ who could use the support and encouragement of another brother in Christ. Would I call on him? I said I would be delighted. I visited Joey at Iona?s home, which was at Thayer Gardens at the time. It was there, that I met Iona for the first time, and after getting acquainted, I suggested that Joey and I begin to meet weekly and read through Luther?s Small Catechism together as a way of growing in our understanding of the Christian faith. He agreed and we began to meet weekly. If Iona were home, she would carefully mind her own business in another room doing something or other.
But, you know Iona, and if she had something that she wanted to say, there wasn?t much chance she wasn?t going to say it. She wanted me to know that although she felt it was just fine for me to meet with Joey like this, she herself didn?t believe any of it. She told me that she was raised by educated parents who had taught her that the Bible was just a collection of stories and myths, and had no real basis in truth. It was obvious that she wasn?t looking for an argument or to be convinced otherwise. I think she just needed to get that off her chest. I simply replied that I respected her opinion.
After some time, Iona began to hang around in the living room when Joey and I would do our reading and talking. After some more time, she began to sit in with us and participate in the conversation and asked a few questions of her own. After about a year of meeting with Joey like this, he was ready to be confirmed and prepared to receive the Lord?s Supper with us.
During that last meeting, Iona asked if she could come to my next Inquirers Class, which is for those who are interested in membership in the congregation. On ? , Iona French was confirmed and began to receive the Lord?s Supper with her new brothers and sisters in Christ here. She jumped into bible study and the various activities of the congregation. One day, she saw an article in the church?s magazine about the Parish Nurse program, a program that trained RN?s in a congregation to demonstrate the love of Christ for the whole person ? both body and soul. She spoke to me about it saying that she wanted to do that. She took the necessary training for certification through one of our church?s schools, Concordia University in Wisconsin. She would visit parishioners in the hospital or nursing home to check on them and answer some of those questions that the doctors didn?t have the time for and pray with them. Once a month, she?d take our blood pressure after worship and would inform me that the congregation?s blood pressure was a pretty good indicator of whether the sermon that Sunday was good or bad. As you?d expect from Iona, she took her work as Parrish Nurse so seriously that she became the first Parish Nurse Coordinator for the New England district.
Over the course of the 10 or 11 years here, Iona grew in her faith. I must say that the pieces sometimes didn?t quite all line up the way that they?re supposed to and sometimes it was obvious that, like all of us, Iona was a work in progress.
Every once in awhile, I?d look at Iona and say to God, ?Lord, You?re not finished with her yet.? But then I?d quickly add, ?but Lord, nice work so far!?
God?s Word says that God?s Word is able to create trusting faith in Jesus Christ in the heart just by the hearing of God?s Word. ?Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ? ? Romans 10:17. I saw that miracle happen in Iona. God brought Iona out of darkness and into His marvelous light. As we have already heard, Jesus said, ?whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment but passes from death to life.? By the shear grace of God in Christ Jesus, Iona is not dead. She lives. She has passed through death to life. In fact, for the first time ever, she really lives. God has finished His work in her.
The basis for our confidence in speaking this way is not the wonderful person that Iona was or the wonderful things that Iona did with the life that she was given. Like Job, our confidence that Iona lives is based upon the fact her Redeemer lives. In 1942, through Holy Baptism, Iona was united to Christ and Christ was united to her. Because Jesus Christ, who died now lives, Iona French Weinstein who has died now lives. The life Jesus lived and the death He died, He lived and died for Iona, in her place, as her holy Substitute. He gave His life for Iona and on the third day, rose from the dead.
By His death on the cross, He defeated the power of death to have the final say over who lives and who dies. It is Jesus Christ who has the power to judge the living and the dead. His judgment is not based on our works but on His own works for us, in our place, as our Substitute. It is simply by faith in the wonderful gift of Jesus Christ that we are judged to be righteous with His righteousness, innocent with His innocence, and holy with His holiness.
All this is according to His Word and promise. And since God cannot lie, we may be confidently relieved that our sister, and grandmother, and mother and wife and faithful nurse is in glory.
So, here we are in funeral clothes, while Iona is dressed in robes of righteousness. (Rev. 7:9). Here we are with tears in our eyes, while every tear has been wiped from hers. (Rev. 7:17). Here we are, struggling to live by faith in what is not seen while Iona is beholding her Lord and Savior, the Lamb who was slain ?face to face? and ?as He is.? (Here we are covered in snow and cold, while Iona is basking in the light of Christ and the warmth of His love.)
Kind of makes you want to be where she is doesn?t it? She has come out of this great tribulation and we?re still right in the thick of it all. So let us simply give thanks to God for all that He has done for Iona, and pray that by His all-sufficient mercy and grace, He would do the same for us all.