We gather this morning to mourn the loss but also to celebrate the life of Jane Burg. We draw our comfort in the time of loss from the promises of God,
Jesus said to his followers,
Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my fathers house are many mansions; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go and prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. You know the way to the place where I am going…Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:1-6)
The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 5 (from the contemporary paraphrase The Message)
We know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven–God-made, not handmade–and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move–and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead, He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.
That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us? When the time comes, we’ll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming.”
This is our hope and confidence this morning. Death for the child of God is not the end, it is a new beginning. We are called to come to this day with faith and confidence.
Will you pray with me?
Our Father, we come with heavy hearts. But we also come with grateful hearts. We are grateful because you have blessed us in many rich ways, through the life of Jane Burg. Some have drawn physical life from her. Others have drawn strength and faith from her. You have blessed us through her.
We are sad because we already feel the void that comes with her absence. So, encourage us today. Renew our faith. Give us the perspective we need. Help us as we remember and give us your strength in the time of grief. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Jane Burg was born January 16, 1921 near Disco, Illinois, the daughter of Robert & Jenora (Rice) Ailes.
She married the love of her life, Wendell Burg on a snowy day on January 10, 1940 in Burlington, IA. They celebrated their 60th anniversary earlier this year. They lived all their life in the Disco and LaHarpe areas and moved to La Harpe in 1997. Wendell and Jane worked together on the farm and were blessed with two sons, Byron and Max.
Jane was a member of the Union Church and the Disco Embroidery Club.
She is survived by her husband, two sons, 1 sister, Maxine Clover of rural Dallas City, 6 Grandchildren and 4 Great Grandchildren. She is preceded in death by her sister, Neola Brandt.
Jane Burg was an active woman. She loved the outdoors and seemed to be made for the farm. She and Wendell worked together and complimented each other well.
Jane enjoyed working the fields, hauling corn, and driving the tractor. She worked with the livestock and didn’t even let the pigs get the best of her. When a pig tried to get out of the truck her simple solution was to “Put a bucket on it’s head”. The pig would get disoriented and go back up the ramp.
Jane had a special place for the “orphan” animals. She would take the time and try creative ways to save them. She usually did.
Jane had a great garden and did lots of canning. She enjoyed flowers. The truth is, she enjoyed everything that had to do with the outdoors. You wouldn’t be surprised to see Jane climbing a fence, driving the tractor, or doing any of the chores on the farm. She took care of the house, did some carpentry work, and kept the farm records. She had many talents.
Jane was also a family person. She loved her children. She was a good listener and wasn’t a “yelling mom”. . . most of the time. She maintained discipline but did it with an appropriate word at the right time. And sometimes creative use of the fly swatter was also necessary.
She was always interested in what her children or grandchildren were doing. Jane was one of those rare persons who let people make their own decisions. If they wanted her advice she would give it, but if they didn’t ask she would generally keep her opinions private.
Jane had a great heart. She loved her grandchildren. She always wanted to know the details of what they were doing. When the kids were over she wanted to spend time with them. It was not unusual for Grandma to get out a game and play with the kids. They’d play Bingo for simple prizes, or they might get out the Monopoly Board or play any number of games. And when you visited Grandma and Grandpa on Saturday nights . . . . you got to sit down and watch Hee Haw and Lawrence Welk with them!
Grandma was subdued with her discipline with the Grandchildren. If they were fighting with each other she would tell them to apologize. If they wouldn’t, they would have to sit at the table and quietly look at each other!
Jane also loved her pets. She was a dog person and had many dogs over the years. Max claims that Benji was treated as well as he was. And Willie Jo used to come three miles from Max and Jan’s house every morning so Jane could make him breakfast! A stray dog that stopped by Jane and Wendell’s always found himself a loving home.
There are many great memories. Most family members will remember with fondness the 4th of July gatherings where Jane would provide a feast of food. There are the memories of cranking ice cream and Uncle Elmer’s Gooseberry pie.
There are also memories of her wonderful and sometimes dry sense of humor. Her seemingly boundless energy. He wonderful words of compassion. But most of all there is the memory of a woman of faith who lived what she believed. Those who knew Jane always came away from a visit with her richer.
In every visit I had with her I can never remember a time when she didn’t ask about my family. It didn’t matter what her physical state . . . she was always willing to give of herself to those around her. In fact I seldom left the house without something to take with me. It may have been some steaks, some tomatoes . . . something.
Helen Steiner Rice has written,
When someone does a kindness
it always seems to me
That’s the way God up in heaven
would like us all to be . . . .
For when we bring some pleasure
to another human heart,
We have followed in His footsteps
and we’ve had a little part
In serving Him who loves us —
for I am very sure it’s true
That in serving those around us
We serve and please Him, too.
One of my favorite things about visiting Jane and Wendell was watching their relationship. I loved seeing the way they cared for each other. I admired their partnership even during the difficult times in the hospital and their three day a week trips for dialysis. I even enjoyed the way they corrected and accepted correction from each other. They were a good example of what marriage is supposed to be.
When Jane developed kidney problems due to an allergic drug reaction she could have been bitter but wasn’t. This active woman who had always been a leader and a lover of the outdoors had to change her entire lifestyle. She was much more homebound, she had to change her diet, and for the first time in her life she had to learn how to let others help her. She didn’t like not being able to eat her favorite foods, and she certainly didn’t like not being able to do things for herself, but as difficult as these changes were . . . . she made them. . . showing the character she had.
Jane lived out her days as a woman of faith. She accepted the things that came her way as the will of God. She was a student of the Bible and made worship a regular part of her life. She served her church in many capacities: as Sunday School teacher, Treasurer and numerous other capacities. She wasn’t preachy. And she didn’t talk a lot about her faith. But you didn’t have to know her well to know how deep her faith was. She lived her faith. And when she died she went to be with the Lord she had been getting to know for her entire life. Jane Burg is with Jesus. But we will miss her greatly.
In the book of Proverbs there is description of a virtuous woman or a godly wife. Not all the descriptions fit Jane . . . but most do.
[Proverbs 31:10-31 NLT] Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is worth more than precious rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. She will not hinder him but help him all her life.
She finds wool and flax and busily spins it. She is like a merchant’s ship; she brings her food from afar. She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls. She goes out to inspect a field and buys it; with her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She is energetic and strong, a hard worker. She watches for bargains; her lights burn late into the night. Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber. She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy. She has no fear of winter for her household because all of them have warm clothes. She quilts her own bedspreads. She dresses like royalty in gowns of finest cloth.
Her husband is well known, for he sits in the council meeting with the other civic leaders. She makes belted linen garments and sashes to sell to the merchants. She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs with no fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and kindness is the rule when she gives instructions. She carefully watches all that goes on in her household and does not have to bear the consequences of laziness.
Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.
The greatest testimony of the life of Jane Burg, is the life of Jane Burg.
In 2 Timothy 4 the apostle Paul is nearing his death and is reflecting on his life. And as he does he writes these familiar words,
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
These words seem so fitting in reflecting on Jane Burg’s life. I draw your attention to several things.
First, Paul likens life to a struggle. He says he fought the good fight. Life is seldom easy. There are setbacks, there are disappointments, there is heartache. They may be different in every life . . . but they are there.
The key to facing the struggles of life is all in our attitude. We can complain about our struggles, we can deny our struggles or we can accept and adapt in our struggles. The later is the way to “fight the good fight”. Jane Burg could have complained. We would have understood. But that was not her nature. She accepted the circumstances of life and did the best she could within those circumstances. Whether it was a struggle on the farm, or a battle with her health. She kept going.
The second thing I want you to note is that Paul points out that is important to finish well. Every team in every sport needs to learn that a few great moments in a game is not enough . . . you must finish well.
It is also true in life. Consistency and perseverance are key traits for life. It is not enough just to have simply a “few shining moments”. God is not looking for sprinters….he is looking for distance runners. God calls us to live our lives with consistency from start to finish. He calls us to be faithful in every area of life for all of our life. Jane Burg finished well. She was as consistent at the end of her life as she was at the beginning. She was as consistent in the hard times as she was in the good times.
And with this idea of finishing well, Paul adds, he has “kept the faith”. He had remained faithful. It is easy to appear faithful when things are going well. You mouth the right words, you throw in some religious actions, and you look great. It’s more difficult to be faithful when times are dark. In those times many curse God. When life gets tough, sometimes people walk away from the faith. God calls us to be faithful in every circumstance.
If you read the rest of Paul’s letter to Timothy you will see that Paul was going through a rough time. He was in jail, his friends had deserted him, he was lonely and cold. But he remained faithful.
And Jane Burg faced death with the same kind of faith with which she lived life. She held on to the hand of Jesus, even when she didn’t know where He was taking her.
Finally, notice the postscript. Paul says,
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
As Paul stood at the end of his life, he looked forward. Instead of seeing utter emptiness, he sees victory. Paul knew that death would bring a new life. He knew that he would stand before God as a forgiven child of God. He would be welcomed by God the Father. Even in his words you can tell that Paul is longing to hear that “Welcome home, my child.”
At times we wonder if it is true. Is there really life beyond the grave? Yes, I believe there is. I believe it because of Jesus. His resurrection from the dead proves that there is life beyond death. The facts are there for examination. He was really dead. He really came back. And Jesus was the one who told us that someday we will see Him again.
But I must add, that the promise cannot be claimed by everyone. Even in Paul’s words, he testifies that these things are true for “all who long for his appearing.” Jesus told Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father, but by me.” It’s not popular but it is true. Only those who trust Christ, only those who follow Him . . . will enjoy these blessings beyond the grave.
We testify today that Jane Burg is in Heaven. But she is not in Heaven because she was a good woman (and she was). We testify that Jane Burg is in Heaven because she trusted the true Savior. She put her faith in Jesus.
And so, in a very real sense though today is a sad day for us, it is a wonderful day for her. She has graduated. She has been freed from the burdens and she has met Jesus. The things of faith which we can only see through a dark glass, she now sees clearly. And now she waits. She waits for us.
So it is up to us to learn from her. We should learn
- that the most important decision in life is where we will put our faith. The most important issue for each of us is to ask, “Are we trusting Christ” or are we trusting our “goodness”?
It’s possible that you have put off the issue of salvation. It’s a foolish move. Turn to Jane Burg’s Savior. With childlike faith confess your need and place your confidence in what Christ has done for you. Make your plans now for the future reunion with Jane and with Jesus.
We also need to learn,
- that life’s struggles are made better or worse by our attitude.
- that consistency and endurance are the keys to finishing well
- that those who finish faithfully, will live eternally.
So, we must let Jane go. The loss is great. The emptiness is real. But how could we be so selfish as to want to call her back from the reunion she has planned for all her life.
Will you pray with me?
Our Father, we pray that you would welcome Jane Burg joyfully into your presence. We again thank-you for her example, her spirit, and her investment in our lives.
As we “let her go” we ask that you would help us. I pray that you would comfort this family. Grant that their memories would not dim. Grant that the lessons Jane taught would not be forgotten.
I pray especially for Wendell. You know what a good husband he was. I pray that you would fill his empty hours with rich memories and undying faith. Help him as makes so many adjustments in his life.
Father, help us all to pay attention to what we Jane has taught us. Help us to settle the matter our own faith. So work in us that we might all be there and that great reunion with Jane and all those who have trusted you. Amen.