The valley of death

Psalm 23 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Death is an uninvited visitor in our homes. Death is unwelcome intruder in our lives.
Yet death has barged in once again!
Sadly, you knew this day was coming, but you thought you had more time with Jean. But cancer claimed another victim.
When one of our Epiphany church members asked how Jean died, I answered, “Cancer.” His simple response was “Stupid cancer.” Jean’s cancer was an aggressive one. It took less than a year to take her life.
And not only has cancer claimed Jean, but it is also wreaking havoc on other members of our congregation. An older man who has a cancerous tumor in his brain. A 50-year-old mom who has cancer of the mouth. And I learned on Thursday about a 7th grader in our church who has cancer in her leg.
None of these people have cancer because God is angry with them or trying to get back at them for something they’ve done or because He is punishing them for some specific sin. It is because they – like us – are sinners living in a fallen world.
Cancer is an ally to death. It is death that is our enemy. One by one it takes away the people we love. The longer we live, the worse it gets. If God didn’t give us the wonderful human capacity to love, death wouldn’t be so hard. But because God is love and we are His children who are called to love, we are going to mourn those whom death has stolen away from us. And when it comes to the death of someone extremely close to us – a spouse, a parent, a child, a sibling, a friend – we never completely get over it. Such deaths are going to leave marks. Our heart is scarred.
That’s what it means for sinful people to live in a sinful world. Because we are all sinners, we will all face death. Jean died because she was a sinner. We will all die because we have all sinned. We were born in sin. We sin daily in our thoughts, our words, and our deeds. The Bible says very clearly: “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:4). Everything dies. And everyone dies.
We might hasten our death by drinking too much or eating unhealthy foods. We might try to stave off death by eating more fruits and vegetables or exercising daily. We might spend the time until death vacationing at the Grand Ole Opry or the Grand Canyon or Branson. We might pass the time until death by crocheting or making baby quilts or eating out every Friday at the Summit or buying cowboy hats and leather purses.
But eventually death will come.
We must all walk through the dark valley of the shadow of death.
But here is the difference for us as Christians. Because of Jesus Christ, death is now different. The apostle Paul taunts death saying, “‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). Because Christ won the victory over death, now He has granted us the gifts that come with that victory: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
Jesus has turned death upside down. Where death had once been our enemy, now death for the Christian is the gate through which we must all pass in order to enter paradise. Because of Jesus, now death is merely a sleep from which we will awaken in God’s heavenly mansion. Jean breathed her last breath around 4:30 am on Monday morning. Her next breath was of heavenly air in God’s paradise of the New Jerusalem.
Death had once been terrible and terrifying. But then along comes Jesus. Along comes His payment of the sins that kill and damn us. Along comes His defeat of death with His corpse being placed into a tomb on a dark Friday afternoon … and then the risen Lord bursting forth from the tomb on a bright Easter dawn. Along comes Christ’s resurrection from the dead to declare that death no longer has the final word. In fact, because our Savior has paid the ransom for our sin, even the deaths we endure in this world will soon cease to be. When Jesus returns, death itself will die. Death will be destroyed. A time is coming when the heavy hurt of death will not even be a memory. Instead, there will only be joy, laughter, victory, and celebration. And these will last forever. Jesus says so.
You are hurting now because of Jean’s death. It’s OK to feel the hurt. But also feel the comfort that comes from Jesus’ death. And then remember – Jesus lives! Because of Jesus, Jean lives, too! Those who die in the Lord will live forever. And death is going to die.
When contemplating surgery to try to remove the cancer, Jean’s doctor told her, “Think on it. Sleep on it. Pray on it. And God will give you your answer.” She did a lot of praying on it.
We may have wanted Jean to stay longer, but Jean was fine with dying. The machine couldn’t keep her going on Monday. She was ready to go. More than that, God was ready to call her home. She didn’t want to go through this suffering any longer. The veil of tears that we call home had become too much. God, in His infinite grace and mercy, answered her prayers. He removed her from this valley of death and darkness and brought her into the paradise of green pastures and quiet waters.
While we are left shaking our hands in disbelief that Jean was gone so quickly, Jean is lifting her hands right now in worship before the throne of the Lamb. While we are upset that we didn’t get a chance to say “Goodbye” to her, Jean was pretty excited when her Savior said “Hello” to her. While we are shocked at how unexpected her death was, Jean is comforted with the knowledge that this was not unexpected to her eternal Lord. Monday, February 15 had always been His plan. While we are questioning God, she is praising God. While we are mourning at the funeral home, she is marveling at heaven.
Kelvin has been at Jean’s side, taking care of her for over 50 years of marriage. But more importantly, she had her Savior taking care of her for 72 years of her life. That care began here at the baptismal font at Trinity Lutheran Church in Athens, WI on July 9, 1943 as Jean May Dassow was brought into God’s holy family through the sacrament of Baptism. On that day, Jesus washed away her sins with water and Word and created saving faith in Jean’s heart.
That care continued as Jean made her vows of commitment to the Lord at her confirmation at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Medford on April 14, 1957.
That care continued as Jean and Kelvin were married at Emmanuel on July 7, 1962.
That care continued as Jean and Kelvin worshiped together, raised their children in the Christian faith together, and received the Lord’s body and blood in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper together at Epiphany Lutheran Church for close to five decades.
Throughout her entire life, Jean had the privilege of looking at the stained glass window above the altar at Epiphany. That window pictures her Savior as her Good Shepherd. Jean is a precious lamb in Jesus’ arms. She had the promise that nothing could ever separate her from her Savior – not trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword (Romans 8:35).
Jean may have lived in the home Kelvin bought her after her knees were replaced in 1999. Now she is living in the home Jesus prepared for her with His life, death and resurrection.
She may have enjoyed the sights of the Louisiana swamps, northern California, Yellowstone Park, and the Grand Tetons. Now she is enjoying the green pastures and quiet waters of paradise.
She may have been an awesome mom who did everything for her kids; who worked at the Medford Hospital and then the Lincoln Lutheran Home her in Racine; and then put up with working with Kelvin for all those years. She was compassionate and empathetic and cared for others. But with Kelvin at one end of the work trailer and Jean on the other end, with Lisa in the middle … she may not have been as compassionate. Now she has heard her Savior and Master say to her, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Here is the crown of victory I have won for you.”
She may have cherished her children and grandchildren. Now there is only one thing that consumes her time – standing around the throne of God with the countless white-robed saints serving God day and night in His temple.
On Monday, Jean walked through the dark valley of the shadow of death. Jesus, her Savior, her Shepherd, walked with her every step of the way. She traveled through the dark valley of death so that she might stand in God’s paradise of life. By the grace of God, through the sacrifice of the Son, and with the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, she is dwelling in the house of the Lord forever. All because of her Good Shepherd. No longer just a window to look at in the front of church, but her Savior to behold for all eternity. Amen.

Jean Mae Metzger MOUNT PLEASANT – Jean Mae Metzger, 72, passed away at WFH – All Saints on Monday, February 15, 2016. She was born on her family farm in Marathon County on June 5, 1943; the daughter of the late Ernest and Vivian (nee: Lair) Dassow. She graduated from Medford High School. On July 7, 1962, she married Kelvin Metzger at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Medford. Jean worked as a nurse’s assistant for Lincoln Lutheran. However, in 1984 she left nursing to help run Metzger Metal Fabricators, Inc. with her husband, Kelvin. She was a member of Epiphany Lutheran Church and enjoyed embroidering quilts and traveling with her husband. In addition to her husband, Kelvin, Jean is survived by her son, Kevin (Peggy) Metzger of Franksville; her daughters, Dawn (Phillip) Sheldon of Newald, WI, Sherry (Terry) Krachey of Kenosha, Lisa Metzger of Racine; her grandchildren, Jaimie (Karl) Keeku of Stanley, WI, Brian (Jessie) Metzger of Racine, Ashley (Nathan) Schaupp of Merrill, Amber (Ken) Lambert of Newald, Britney Krachey of Libertyville, Adrienne Krachey of Kenosha; her great grandchildren, Maggie, Emily, Heidi, Bailey, Chase, Kevin, Faith, Christopher and Aiden; her sisters, Alice Roberts of Medford, Dorothy (Ralph) Riemer of Tichigan, Barbara (Delmar) Schroeder of West Allis; her brother, Arnold (Jean) Dassow of Medford; her sister-in-law, Loree (Wynn) Davies of Madison; her brother-in-law, William (Donna) Metzger of Baraboo; as well as many dear nieces and nephews. She was also preceded in death by her daughter-in-law, Mary (nee: Spang) Metzger and her brother-in-law, Frank Roberts. Family and friends are invited to meet in the Draeger-Langendorf Funeral Home on Saturday, February 20, 2016 for a visitation from 11:00 am until 1:00 p.m. A service remembering and celebrating her life will follow at 1:00 p.m. with Rev. Michael Zarling officiating. Memorials have been suggested to Epiphany Lutheran Church. The Metzger family sincerely thanks the entire Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare – All Saints oncology staff as well as Dr. Michael Mullane and his staff for the excellent attention Jean received while under their care. Draeger-Langendorf Funeral Home & Crematory 4600 County Line Road Mount Pleasant, WI 53403 262-552-9000 

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