The LORD Will Take Care of Me
Michael Walther, Pastor Funeral Sermon For Ruth Simon, January 11, 2001
Collinsville, Illinois Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
She will be missed! We mourn the separation from this woman of great faith in Jesus. She will be missed as a loving mother and supporter to her family. She will be missed as a lively and energetic member of our church who gave encouragement to everyone. I will miss her personally as a friend.
In a book that Martin Simon, your father, had written (and I believe that most of his work was done as a team with Ruth) there is this autograph which he wrote to my father and mother: "May the Lord give you grace to bring your children to do great things for Christ." This was Iím sure a motto for the Simon family. This was indeed Ruthís desire for everyone she met.
However today we also celebrate her entrance into the glory of eternal life. She now joins the saints who have gone before us to receive the crown of eternal life. As we said already in the liturgy from Psalm 27, she now sees "the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living."
My sermon is in two parts. The first could simply be titled "The LORD Took Care of Ruth." The second could simply be titled, "The LORD Will Take Care of You."
The LORD Took Care of Ruth
Some of you are familiar with the unusual story of Ruthís life. No matter what it needs to be recalled for it is a living example of Godís promises to help us and to save us!
Ruth was born in Marshalltown, Iowa. About one week after her birth Ruth Ainsworth was left in a sack, abandoned by her mother. We can only imagine the heartbreak of this parting. What did it mean to this mother? What trauma did it create for such a little baby? How close to death did she come? But someone found this little child and delivered her to the local police station. This was the first of several interventions that were critical to Ruthís survival. The police took the infant to the Lutheran Childrenís Home Finding Society in Fort Dodge. During her brief stay here she was baptized and thereby adopted into the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Rev. F. W. Herzberger, on a routine trip to Iowa, took her back with him to an orphanage in St. Louis. After a short while at the Evangelical Lutheran Society of Missouri for Homeless Children she was adopted by Herman and Sophia Tolzmann. A portion of the record of this adoption reads: "Whereas, the said H.J. Tolzmann and Sophia Tolzmann husband and wife, are able to properly bring up said child and to furnish her with suitable nurture and Christian education . . . " Remember that reference to "Christian education." It would become one of the most important aspects of Ruthís life.
Ruthís troubles were far from over. At the age of three her adopted mother became ill. While on her death bed she asked her sister to take Ruth into her home. Shortly after that Sophia died. Ruthís only memory of the first person who truly loved her was her funeral. Life was difficult then, and Mr. Tolzmann was not able to care for Ruth. He did come to visit Ruth at Sophiaís sisterís home. But at the age of five Ruth was informed that her adopted father had also died. Unfortunately Sophiaís sister was not at all fond of Ruth. Ruth was another mouth to feed. She was simply an obligation to fulfill out of consideration for her deceased sister. One day during lunch hour at school her adoptive brother told her not to eat her sandwich. Ruth knew why. Showing her spunk and savvy Ruth said, "Because itís poisoned?" "How did you know?" he asked.
Ruthís only salvation at this point in her life came through the ministry of Holy Cross Lutheran School. It was here that Ruth often said she had come to know Jesus as her Savior. "I regarded Him as my best friend," she said. This enabled her to survive frightening experiences and numerous other fearful times in her childhood. In 1921 Ruth was confirmed at Holy Cross. She later attended Cleveland High School. After working for some months she met Martin Simon, who was studying at Concordia Seminary. On September 8, 1926 they were married, and soon they were travelling to far-away China to serve as missionaries. However after travelling 1,200 miles up the Yangtze river and spending just two years in the mission field, Martin and Ruth were forced to return to the United States because of war.
Martin became a pastor in Eugene, Oregon. Soon he noticed the lack of churches and Christian education in the sawmill towns, and he and Ruth began a childrenís newsletter and satellite Sunday Schools. Pastors began asking for their newsletter, and ii wasnít long before they began to get involved in Christian publishing. They worked together on magazines for children and for adults. Eventually they published Little Visits with God, a childrenís devotional book that is widely used in Lutheran families to this day.
Ruthís early life was full of turmoil. Her later life was filled with the challenges ministry. Through it all Ruth knew that she could rely on God. Shortly after she had married Martin, after so many confusing and unhappy experiences, she was searching the Scripture for an answer. Her eyes fell upon Psalm 27.10, "When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me." Ruth knew how well this passage had applied to her. She had lived it, and she would continue to live with the help of God all her life. Even in her later years she was still typing and mailing evangelism letters to new visitors, calling acolytes to remind them of their next service, supporting Christian education (her Godsend), and otherwise living to encourage everyone in the grace of Jesus Christ.
The LORD Will Help You
Up until a few weeks ago Ruth was actively joining us in worship and adult Bible class. If there is anything that Ruth would want, it would be for you to know that this passage applies to you and me. The LORD will help when everyone else will fail. All of us are reminded of the challenges and brevity of life at a time like this. We recall other recent funerals. We consider that one day there will be a funeral for us.
In Psalm 27 David declares that the LORD will help us when everyone and everything else will ultimately fail us. He doesnít mean that we will all suffer abandonment by our parents or betrayal by our friends. But he knows human nature. He knows that no human being can be our savior, and no one but God can deliver us from the ultimate problem of sin and death. When David was leading a small militia, he and his men came back to their camp to find it plundered. All the women and children had been captured. The men were beside themselves with grief. Soon their grief turned to anger. Then their anger was directed to David. David understood rejection. King Saul had earlier rejected him, and now his own men stood against him, and were about to kill him. Samuel tells us "Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons, and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God" (1 Samuel 30.6). David knew so well that even your best friends and relatives cannot provide the help and strength that God can provide. When you are forsaken or left unaided by this world, remember the promise, "Then the LORD will take care of me."
This verse applies to all human beings except one. Jesus knew the help and strength of God. Yet when He went to the cross to save the world from sin, Jesus voluntarily took our place to suffer and die with Godís back turned. To His great cry, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" there was no immediate answer. The answer finally came on Easter Sunday, when Jesus was raised from the dead in glory! This greatest act of love and trust in God by Jesus Christ earned for us the grace and love of God. Even though we donít deserve it, God promises to be our last and most important Helper through Christ.
How do we get that help of the LORD? The very next verse explains it well, "Teach me Your way, O LORD, and lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies" (Psalm 27.11). Ruth believed in Christian education. God believes in Christian education. Through the word He teaches us the truths of Jesus that transform our lives. With His word He leads us on through life, despite the many enemies we encounter along the way. Ruth came to know that truth at Holy Cross Lutheran School in St. Louis. She never stopped receiving it either. I canít remember how many times she had read through the Bible, but I know that I am still trying to catch up with her. In those pages of Scripture she read again and again of Godís promises of help.
"I will never leave you nor forsake you." Hebrews 13.5
"For the LORD loves justice and does not forsake His saints." Psalm 37.28
"The LORD is your Keeper. The LORD is you shade upon your right hand . . ." (Psalm 121)
"Lo, I am with You always even to the end of the age." Matthew 28.20
"Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest . . ." (Matthew 11.28)
As you leave today, remember the guiding strength of Ruthís life: "The LORD will take care of me." He will, and you can entrust Your future to Him no matter how bleak the present might seem. He has shown us that example over and over. He has delivered His Son into death-- the only time this promise did not apply, in order to become our constant Helper and friend. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Michael P. Walther: Copyright, 2001