Kathy Groggel Memorial Service
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
July 10, 2021
Isaiah 25:6-9, Philippians 1:19-26, Mark 10:13-16

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            What a great day to be in God’s house!  Dave, Heather, Kris, family and friends, brothers and sisters in Christ. Even today -- it is still a great day to be in God’s house.  “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  Even on this very hard day of bidding farewell for a time to wife, mother, grandmother, friend, teacher, spiritual guide, it is still a great day to be in God’s house because “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” 

            “To live is Christ.”  Kathy lived this out each day of her life.  “To die is gain.” Kathy now knows the peace and joy of being in the presence of the Lord waiting for the day of resurrection when Isaiah 25:8 (ESV)  “8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces….”   

For us, today is difficult.  Death hurts for those left behind.  Kathy leaves a huge hole in our lives.  That hole began growing over these last few years as the dementia slowly robbed us of the Kathy that we knew and loved.  Now she is gone from us and we certainly grieve.  1 Thessalonians 4:13–14 (ESV) 13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

            Kathy was faithful.  Living in this fallen, sinful world as someone who was, by nature, sinful and unclean, Kathy was a great example of living for Christ.  Kathy was a faithful wife and mother.  She lived to serve Dave and the girls.  Kathy loved her grandchildren.  Even as she degraded cognitively her love for Noah, Micah and Addison shined through the fog. 

            During her decades here at Immanuel Kathy was an abundantly faithful servant of the Church.  She dedicated her life to serving the children of this congregation, our school and community. Oftentimes you will hear people talk about children and say the children are the future of the church, but Kathy did not believe that.  She believed that the children are the Church right now and she was passionate about engaging children in so many ways.  Kathy taught Sunday school, she gave the children’s message during worship, she headed up youth groups, she led countless youth retreats, she was the force behind our Free Festival of Grace and our Easter Egg Hunt.  Kathy made banners for the church and was always willing to help with whatever needed to be done.  I have not known another person more dedicated to the children of the church. I could go on and on talking about all the great things Kathy did, but I remember that she told me once after a funeral for a young man that I should not talk so much about the person, but rather keep the focus on Jesus.  However, if Lutherans beatified saints, I would put Kathy up for sainthood.

            And yet for all of Kathy’s service to the Lord here at Immanuel, Kathy knew that none of it helped save her from her sins.  Her service did not earn her favor with God.  You see I really cannot nominate Kathy for sainthood because Kathy was made a saint on May 12, 1957, in the waters of Baptism at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Shelbyville, Illinois.  In baptism, Jesus’ righteousness, purity and holiness was given to baby Kathy and she became Saint Katherine.  Kathy’s strength and dedication flowed from knowing that she is indeed a poor, miserable sinner who has been redeemed by the blood of Jesus poured out for her on the cross at Calvary.  On that cruel cross, Jesus paid for the sins of the world.  By His resurrection from the dead, Jesus conquered death forever. Jesus died for all people.  Jesus died for Kathy.  Jesus died for you.  This is such amazing Good News.  This is the Good News that Kathy shared abundantly with her children and grandchildren, the children of Immanuel Lutheran, and others in her life.  To live is Christ.  As a baptized follower of Jesus you are a little Christ.  A Christian.  To live is Christ.

            You live in this crazy world where the deceitfulness of wealth and the busyness of life are always threatening to choke out your desire and ability to live for Christ.  The world drains you of faith and obedience.  And yet despite living in this same sinful world, Kathy seemed to be the energizer bunny; she could keep going and going. 

            Kathy was fed and nourished by continuing to hear the Good News that her sins are forgiven and to receive into her body the Body and Blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.  Kathy loved to be here in God’s house for the Divine Service.  To begin each children’s message she would remind the kids, “What a great day to be in God’s house.”  Kathy was energized by the depth of meaning in the hymns of the church, and by the historic liturgies passed down to us from faithful followers of Jesus who have gone before.  Week after week Kathy would kneel next to Dave and the girls, and then later just Dave, right here at the altar and receive the Body and Blood of Christ in, with and under the wafer of bread and the sip of wine.  Kathy would hold the wafer in front of her for a moment and ponder this great gift.  She would trace the cross imprint with her thumb before receiving Christ into her own body.  Kathy received Christ.  To live is Christ.

            Some folks say that prioritizing your life is like trying to fill a jar with big rocks, small rocks and sand.  Big rocks are the most important, vital things of life.  The small rocks are less important things and the sand is the unimportant things of life.  Sadly, so many people fill their jars with sand first and then the little rocks and then they find they have no room for the big rocks.  The unimportant things of life crowd out the vital things of life.

            Kathy was good at putting the big rocks in first.  Faith in God, love of family, service to the children and youth of the church…these all came first.  The less important things came next, and the unimportant things might fill in whatever space remained, or just be left out.

            So many of you learned about Jesus’ love from Kathy over the years.  Kathy’s legacy is lived out now in your lives. Learn from Kathy one more time. Put the important things first.  Know that Jesus died for you.  He has redeemed you and in the waters of baptism made you a saint.  This is the most important thing in your life.  Abide in Christ.  Come to the Divine Service to receive the Lord’s gifts.  Do not let the busyness of life and the deceitfulness of wealth fill your jar with unimportant things so there is no room for Jesus.  Learn from Kathy and bring the Good News of Jesus to others in whatever your situation.  Love God, love your neighbor, love your family.  Put the important things first and the rest will take care of itself.  To live is Christ, and to die is gain.

            As a forgiven sinner Kathy lived for Christ.  Now, in death, she is better off.  She is at peace with the Lord awaiting the Last Day.  And so today we do not say “goodbye”, but rather, “see you later.”  We look forward in hope to the day when Kathy will rise from the dead, and clothed in the white robe of Jesus’ righteousness she and all the saints will go marching into the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem.  On that day we will say again, “What a great day to be in God’s house.” Amen.