July 20, 2015
We gather this morning to celebrate the promotion of Opal Schroeder to her heavenly home. As the angel said of Jesus on Easter morn, “Opal is not here, she is risen.” This morning we have a sense of sadness for the temporary separation. But we also celebrate a life so well lived and a woman who “finished the course” faithfully.
“I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.” (John 11: 25-26)
The book of Revelation gives us a wonderful picture of what Heaven will be like,
16 They will never again be hungry or thirsty;
they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun.
17 For the Lamb on the throne
will be their Shepherd.
He will lead them to springs of life-giving water.
And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:16-17)
This is our hope and our joy today.
Our Father, today we come together to give thanks to you for the life of Opal Schroeder. We come with our sorrow but also with our faith. Draw us close to you today. Fill our minds with wonderful memories of the past and also stir up in us the promises of eternal life that you give to all who believe. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Opal Cortelyou was born to Dean and Esther Corzatt Cortelyou on February 2, 1918 near Raritan.
Opal was a good student. She much preferred school to working on the farm. Opal said she used to plead with the teachers not to let them out for Thanksgiving break because she didn’t want to pick corn. She would much rather stay in school.
Opal won a scholarship as the best student when she was in 8th grade. She was also the top student in Media High School. She went to Western Illinois State Teachers College at a time when few women did so. She received her teaching certificate and taught for six years in country schools in Mercer and Warren counties, and also at Joy, Illinois schools
She taught for five years before she married Wayne Schroeder on June 24, 1943. She actually had met Wayne when she was a freshman in high school. Wayne was a senior. They didn’t even start dating until she had started teaching. Opal only taught one year after they were married largely because it was frowned on (by others) for a married woman to work.
Opal worked at home helping her husband. She didn’t like doing the farm work (nothing had changed since when she was young) but she gladly helped when she was needed. For the most part she raised the children, made clothes, and always had meals ready at 12:00 sharp. She used food from the garden or what she had put away as much as possible. While the noon meal was at noon, the evening meal was much more flexible based on the season.
Opal enjoyed leading 4H and teaching Sunday School. In fact, she loved any opportunity she had to continue to teach others. She was a very patient teacher. She was also very interested in people. She asked everyone she met about their lives. She listened. This is why she knew what was going on with everyone she dealt with regularly. It wasn’t because she was nosey, it was because she paid attention.
Opal was a creature of habit. She did certain things (like laundry) on certain days. This discipline kept her on track. If her days got messed up she was derailed for a little while. Opal was always busy. Even in later years she didn’t watch much television. She was never idle for long.
Every morning she woke the kids by singing the “Time to Get Up” song. Opal was a wonderfully loving woman but . . . she also had her expectations! I’m told that she ruled with an iron fist. You didn’t cross her. She was in charge and you had better recognize that fact.
Opal believed in being prepared. Her freezer was always full as well as her refrigerator. I don’t’ mean she had things in the freezer . . . it was FULL. Her kids estimated she may have had five years of food on hand! When she shopped and something was on sale she would always buy several. In later years Ann tried to minimize the freezer food and got some boxes and put them upside down in the freezer so there wasn’t as much room! Opal was happy that the freezer was full.
In later years (after the family was grown) Opal started planting flowers. She had all kinds of flowers. It was her only extravagance in life. She especially loved Irises. She had 90 different plants. She also enjoyed Day Lilies.
Opal was generous. She loved sharing the bounty of both her vegetable and flower gardens. Opal also was constantly knitting sweaters. When she had 16 sweaters she had enough for a box and she would send them off to World Vision for children who needed the extra warmth. Over the years she made around 315 of these sweaters or 20 boxes. All those children benefitted from Opal’s diligence and kindness. She also made 50 or so sweaters for her family.
Opal loved her husband and her children, Grandchildren and Great-Grandchildren. She was eager to find out what was going on in their lives and always enjoyed when they came to visit. And if they didn’t visit enough she had a way of letting you know.
Opal always honored her husband. They never spoke ill of others, especially around the children because they did not want their children to get the poison of such conversation. Opal enjoyed the trips she and Wayne took to Hawaii and most especially the trip they took to the Holy Land.
When Wayne began to suffer from dementia Opal continued to care for Wayne. Her orderly approach to life made it possible for Wayne to stay at home much longer than he would have been able to with someone else. The order minimized the sense of confusion.
Even after Wayne died Opal remained as active as she could be. She still enjoyed driving to town. She was at church almost every Sunday and I always looked forward to giving her a hug. She was a great encouragement to me.
Opal was not intimidated by technology. When she learned that her sister was on WebTV she decided she would do that as well. Afterall, she was as smart as her sister. She graduated to using the iPad. She loved email. When she didn’t make it to church she used to enjoy watching the service on YouTube. She was quite a woman.
Opal was a lifelong member of the Raritan Reformed Church, where she taught Sunday School for many years. She was active for awhile at the Abundant Life church in La Harpe. She was currently attending the LaHarpe Union Church. She was also a member of the Happy Helpers Club since 1941, the P.E.O., and had been a 4-H leader for many years.
Opal went home to be with the Lord on Thursday, July 16, 2015 at McDonough District Hospital in Macomb, IL. She died the way she would have wanted to die: living strong right up to the time of her death. She was graciously spared time in a Nursing home or a long stretch in the hospital. She was truly a remarkable woman.
She is survived by one daughter, Anne (Dr. Greg)) Hoekstra of Waterloo, IA, three sons, Dr. Kenneth (Emily) Schroeder of Rochester, MN, Brian (Connie) Schroeder of Minier, IL, Gary (Donna) Schroeder of La harpe, eight grandchildren and two great granddaughters. She was preceded in death by her husband, parents, two brothers, Doren and Lowell Cortelyou, and two sisters, Blanche Cook and Frances Lindberg, and one sister in infancy.
Opal Schroeder was not afraid to die. She knew exactly where she was going. She had a firm faith in Jesus Christ that was anchored to years of studying God’s Word. Opal knew she was going to Heaven because of what Christ had done for her.
If you look through her Bible you would see that there were many verses from the book of Romans that were highlighted. It seemed appropriate to remind you of her hope from the book of Romans.
In Romans 3:23 we read this sobering verse, “All have sinned and have come short of the glory of God.” Opal knew she could not earn her way into Heaven. She was a child of God not because of her many good works, but because of God’s mercy and grace. She was never under the illusion that she had “earned” a place in Heaven.
In Romans 6:23 the problem is deepened, “The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life”. We deserve Hell. You hear people all the time say, “God is loving”. He is indeed loving. However, He is also holy and just. God has to punish sin or He would no longer be the perfect God.
In spite of this fact, God made it possible for us to live with Him forever. He found a way for our sin debt to be paid and for us to be clothed in a perfection that was not our own.
How? We see it in Romans 5:8 “But God showed His love for us in this: that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” God’s plan was profound. He sent the Son of God to live the perfect life we could not live. And then Jesus died trading His perfect life for our win. The Bible says it was the Just (Jesus) for the unjust (us).
How is that possible? Jesus was the only one who could do such a thing because he was the only One who was without sin. “But”, we say, “How could one man pay for so many?” We understand that someone might give their life for another person. For example, a parent might give their life to save the life of their child. But you can only do that for one person because well . . . you are dead!
What made the death of Jesus sufficient to pay for the sin of anyone who believes is who He is. It was His office (Son of God) that made His life worth more.
Let me illustrate, to save the life of the President of the United States, every secret service agent would give their life to protect him. And if that was not enough the soldiers in the military would do the same as would the police. So thousands would give their lives to protect the President. Why? Some of them surely wouldn’t even like the President. However, they would protect him because of the office he holds. Because he is the President, his life holds greater value.
If you were holding hostages and the President offered to take their place would you take that trade? You probably would. Why? Because one President has more value that a whole room full of common people.
If this is true of the President, how much more is it true of the Son of God. The Son of God traded His life for all those who were held in bondage to sin. It is indeed by grace that we are saved.
So, does that mean everyone automatically goes to Heaven? The answer is No. Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
So it’s not just that a dead guy sacrificed for you (like Abraham Lincoln), it is that you recognize that Jesus is Lord, King, and Master and that He didn’t just die on the cross. He also Rose from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and one day is coming back. Believing in Jesus is about submitting to Him as the ruler of your life.
This is what motivated Opal Schroeder. She served her Lord Jesus, who died for her and rose again so that she could walk with Him in life and live even though she died.
Finally, Romans 10:13 says, “Whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” These are the verses that give hope to everyone. It doesn’t matter where we have been or what we have done. If we will truly turn to Jesus as our Savior, our King, our Lord, He will forgive our sin and take the broken pieces of our lives and make them into something more stunning that the most exquisite Iris.
This is the gospel that Opel believed. This is the truth that fueled her life. This is the reason our tears are tempered. We know that Opal is now where she always longed to be – in the arms of Jesus.
I wonder how much time she spent prayg for her family and friends to put their trust in Jesus? I wonder how many of you were influenced by those prayers. Opal would have no greater joy than to know that her example led you to faith.
Our challenge this day is to embrace this same gospel upon which Opal built her life. We embrace it not only to find comfort in this time of loss, but also to find the same full, new, and eternal life that filled Opal Schroeder with life that now continues forever in the presence of our Lord Jesus.
So, on this day of loss and celebration I pray that you will not only have a fervent hope but also memories that make you smile,
- When you see a beautiful Iris
- When you reach into a freezer to get some food
- When you reach for a sweater in the cold
- When you pull out your iPad
- When you bow in prayer or see a well-worn Bible
- When you drive by a 4H fair
- When you walk by a Sunday School class and see students with their teacher
- When you see a husband and wife walking hand in hand obviously still in love
- When you have the opportunity to talk about someone else but choose not to do so.
In all these situations and many more may you remember the blessing you have been given of a godly heritage and a living example of what it means to live the life of faith. Well done Opal! Well done!
Our Father we thank you for the blessing we have received through Opal’s life. We appreciate her consistent faithfulness. Thank you for the values she instilled in her family and the love they showed to her for all these years. Thank you for sparing her a long hospital stay or a nursing home. Most of all, thank you for loving us. Thank you for coming to rescue us after we spurned you again and again. Thank you for Jesus, for the Resurrection, and for life beyond the grave. For these things are our comfort today. Amen.