We gather this afternoon to celebrate the life and the home-going of Martha Jean Cratsenberg. We gather to give thanks to God for His provision of life beyond the grave through the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
In the Bible we read about God’s promise,
Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. (2 Corinthians 5:6-9 NIV)
Jean lived her life praying the prayer of protection found in Psalm 91. Let me read that to you in the King James Version of the Bible which is what Jean would have used.
91:1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. 3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. 4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. 5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; 6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. 7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. 8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. 9 Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; 10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. 11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. 12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. 13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. 14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. 15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. 16 With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.
Both of these texts remind us that this is not the end of Jean’s life . . . it is really the beginning of the life she has been preparing for all these years. Though there is certainly a sadness that comes from being separated from someone we love, our grief is for our loss, not hers. She has lost nothing and gained everything.
Let’s pray together.
Our Father, we thank you for Jesus. Thank you for giving us a way to be forgiven and to become a part of Your glorious kingdom. We celebrate and honor you today, even in our sadness, because you have made it possible for us to live even though we die.
Help us to remember Jean and the life she lived. Help us to celebrate the way we saw you in her. Help us also to rejoice in the message of the gospel anew. This is the gospel she loved and anchored her life to.
Lead us to this end, we ask in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Martha Jean Cratsenberg, was born on May 12, 1922 in Lomax, IL to Guy and Mary Hutson Little. On October 12, 1947 she married Robert Cratsenberg in LaHarpe. She helped her husband operate the Brown Lynch Scott Hardware Store in LaHarpe.
Jean attended the Peoria Business College. After finishing college she worked as a secretary for Sheaffer Pen, then Camp Ellis, then for the Hancock County Court House, Carthage, IL and from 1967 until her retirement in 1992 she worked as the secretary for the LaHarpe School District. Many Superintendents came and went during those years, but Jean was the anchor that kept things going.
She was a member of the LaHarpe Union Church, the P.E.O., and the Order of Eastern Star. She loved to garden and do oil paintings.
Jean went home to be with the Lord Sunday evening, May 18th. She was 92 years old.
She is survived by her husband, Robert, three daughters, Janith (Kent Knopp) Cratsenberg of Monticello, IA, Kathy Kendall of LaHarpe and Becky (Rich) Wilhite of LaHarpe, four grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and one sister, Darlene (Vern) Comstock of Hamilton, IL.
She was preceded in death by her parents and six brothers, Stanley, Robert, George, Wayne, Richard and Lldon Little.
[Hymn No. 1]
Martha Jean Cratsenberg is a difficult woman to describe. Words like gracious, compassionate, faithful, loving, fun-loving, and loyal, are all accurate. We can say she was a great wife, mother, Grand-mother and Great-Grandmother. She was a wonderful aunt and a faithful member of the church and community. But even with all these descriptions it feels inadequate.
Jean grew up in a family that didn’t have a great deal. Her dad was killed in a car accident when Jean was only 14. Times were tough for the Little family. Jean always wore shoes around her house after she was married because she seldom was able to wear shoes when she was a child. The shoes had to be saved for special occasions. Jean wanted to be as generous as she could to help others because she had been on the other end of that help. She never let people pay when she went with the girls out to dinner. She even wanted to pick up the tab for all the residents at the Nursing home! She was constantly picking up their “checks” (menu list) so she could pay for their meal. She was constantly asking “Where is my checkbook?” She was a generous woman.
The struggles growing up only made the family closer together and helped develop deep character in the entire family. The bond with her brothers and sister was one Jean cherished.
Jean started school at 4 years old and barely made it to 17 when she graduated from High School. She never thought of herself as smart but she was well read. She had a wide variety of interests. She passed on to Jan her love for poetry and classical music.
Bob and Jean went to high school together but they didn’t date in high school. Bob had worked for Jean’s brother. Since times were hard Bob decided that he would not start dating until he could afford to get married. He wanted to be sure he was out of debt and had enough money to provide for his wife. When he reached that point, he asked her out. The story is (I believe) that they decided they would not get married until each of them had saved $1000.00. So, at the beginning of their marriage they were already concerned about stewardship.
Bob farmed and worked in the store. Jean had one condition when she got married neither she, nor the children, were to be treated as farm hands. While Bob farmed and ran the store, Jean tended to the garden and then canned what she raised. She canned peas, green beans, potatoes, beets, pickles, tomato’s and probably some other things. She took care of the yard and planted and took care of the flowers and trees. She loved flowers and birds and even had a pet squirrel. However she did hate snakes! She was known to chop off their heads with her hoe. The one story was that she saw a snake eat a frog, she chopped the snakes head off and the frog jumped out of the snake.
Jean went to school and then began to work full time. In spite of this she continued to do most of what she did before she was working. She was a worker. When she was working for the school she would only have one month off. During that month she did her spring cleaning, canning, and all her other work.
Bob and Jean both attended church and taught Sunday School. Jean sang in the choir. When they were around 50 they heard a person from Teen Challenge who gave their testimony. This person had also been active in the church but said “they were headed to hell while sitting on the front row of the church”. They explained that they were trying to earn what Christ had already provided. First Robert and then Jean came to put their faith in Christ rather than in themselves.
From that moment on the relationship between the two of them grew even stronger. Bob and Jean served the Lord together. Once when Jean was having horrible back pain they went to the clubhouse for a meeting. The speaker said God told him that there was a person in the audience with back pain and God was going to heal it. After a period of time Jean went forward. The back pain was healed!
Jean had a real sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. She would sometimes have dreams that would come true. She would know things about people that even they didn’t know yet. She was tuned in. Once she lost her wedding ring in Burlington. She prayed about it and soon she knew right where it was. When Jean prayed you could tell it was not a show, there was an intimacy in her prayers that revealed her close relationship with the Lord.
Jean was pretty conservative. She didn’t want her kids (or Grandkids) to watch anything with violence in it. The one exception was the movie “Rooster Cogburn (and the Lady).” For some reason that movie was OK and it was played over and over for the Grandkids to watch. (Daniel reports that it was a long time before he knew that John Wayne was even in any other movies!)
The girls only had a soda on special occasions. Jean told Kari on one occasion at least that she couldn’t have double-stuffed Oreos because “no one needs double-stuffed – that was just too much.” She was OK with Bryers Ice Cream. She would never buy just one half-gallon . . . she purchased several because different people in the family liked different kinds of Ice Cream.
Food was important to Jean. She saw cooking as a way to bring the family together and a way to show hospitality to others. She would come home from school and whip up a full dinner, it seemed, within five minutes of walking in the door. She made big meals every Sunday (often baked chicken) so the family could all be together. She had a bunch of recipes that were favorites to various members of the family.
When Jean was serving a meal it seemed she never sat down and ate with the family. She was too busy serving everyone else. She would call up the girls and ask what their children would like to eat so she could have it available for them on Sunday.
Jean remained energetic. At her 88th birthday she was moving quickly through the mall shopping with her daughters. She was in great shape and loved life. When she turned 91 at the Nursing home she requested a fork right before the group was going to sing happy birthday. She got her fork and turned the 9 into a 7 and then told everyone they could sing!
She had a great sense of humor. She was independent yet submissive. She was outgoing yet humble. She enjoyed getting out. She went to Civic Music in Burlington. She loved Perry Como. She enjoyed making up stories for the kids before they went to sleep. She even liked watching Downton Abby and many of the old shows from the 50’s.
Most of all, Jean was a woman of faith. She was baptized as an infant with water from the River Jordan. She was immersed as an adult after she felt she had truly been reborn. She read and studied her Bible daily. She prayed regularly. She trusted God fully. She served in any way possible. She was a valuable member of the Kum-Join-Us class at the Union Church.
To Jean, the greatest blessing in life was the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. She understood that everything else flowed out of that grace. She worked hard to encourage faith (and education) in her family. She used to send Kari a daily devotional and she’d slip a $100 bill in the pages to make sure she actually opened it. She was always eager to talk about the Lord and encourage others to honor and serve Him.
We know where Martha Jean Cratsenberg is today. We know she has reached the goal she focused on all her life. We are happy for her. We know she would never choose to return if given the chance. Her death is not a tragedy . . . it is a victory. But, that doesn’t mean we won’t miss her. How can you keep from missing someone who had such a huge impact on our lives?
We are comforted today by the words of Jesus. Let me read them in the King James Version, the way Jean knew them best,
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:1-6)
When Jesus spoke these words He knew that his death was just around the corner. He knew that it would leave His followers (and His friends) stinging from their sense of loss and confused over their purpose and their future. Jesus’ words were words of confidence and hope and they still give us hope today.
The first thing Jesus told His disciples was to “believe in God, believe also in me.” How you view life, and how you view death is determined by your belief or lack thereof in God. Those who say there is no God are left with the unhappy conclusion that man is simply a cosmic accident. There is no ultimate meaning to our existence. We live, we die, and that’s it. It is a very bleak picture.
Even if you do believe in God I must ask: Who is this God you believe in? Is he a god of your imagination or do you believe in a God who has revealed Himself to us?
God has revealed himself to men though the years and this revelation is recorded in the Bible. God has also communicated with us in a special way through Jesus. He was “God become man to dwell among us”. It seems very reasonable to me that the God who created us would want to have a relationship with those He has created. He would want us to know about Him.
In the words of Jesus I read earlier He told us two things that are very important.
First, Jesus tells us that this life is not all there is. Paul says when we die we will have “an eternal house in Heaven not built by human hands.” Jesus says He is preparing a place for us and He will come and take us to that place when we die. This means Jean left this world holding the hand of Jesus!
Jesus says Heaven is real. As you read through the Bible, Heaven is described as a place where pain, frustration, discouragement, physical limitations, and imperfections disappear. It is a place where we will know God fully and we will be fully known. God will make a new Heaven and a new earth and we will live on that new earth with resurrected bodies, in God’s presence, and serve Him in productive and satisfying labor. It is because of this belief that we rejoice in Jean’s death. Just as at the resurrection of Jesus we can say of Jean, “she is not here! She has risen.”
But there is more. Jesus explained to the disciples that there is only one way to get to Heaven: Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me”. Many rebel at these words. They say they are narrow-minded. But the invitation is not restricted. Jesus invites everyone and anyone to turn to Him as Savior and Lord. However, not everyone will do so.
Let’s be clear. Not everyone goes to Heaven. In fact, it may be safe to say that the majority of people do NOT go to Heaven. There are always those who say, “I want to go the Hell because that’s where all my friends are.” But they severely miss the point. When God’s love is replaced by God’s wrath there will be nothing good about Hell. The bond of friendship which we cherish comes from God . . . it will be gone. The delight we feel at the pleasures of the world comes from God . . . it will be gone. Joyous laughter . . .gone. Taste buds….gone. Amusements . . . gone. There is NOTHING heavenly about hell.
The Bible tells us no one deserves heaven. Imagine you were in debt of several million dollars. It is not a business debt, it is a personal debt. You make a pretty good income and you pay what you can on the debt. Some people may be able to put $50,000 a year on that debt. Some may only be able to pay $1000. Neither one is going to be able to keep up on paying even the interest on that debt!
Sin is like that. Every time we ignore the Lord, every time we do something that goes against His instructions, every time our mind is influenced by something more powerfully than Him we incur a debt. That debt is huge! We may view our “good works” as payment on the debt (even though good works are really just what we are supposed to be doing . . . like turning in your homework. There is not ‘extra credit’ when you do what you should do). You may be able to “pay more” than someone else but you still cannot pay off the debt. Besides, we are continuing to add to that debt every day. It is impossible for us to save ourselves.
The Bible tells us that Jesus came into the world to pay the debt we have incurred. He came to be our substitute. He took the failing grade and penalty that we deserved. In exchange He gave us His perfect standing before the Lord. His payment covers the sin of our past, present, and future.
How is this possible? If you were holding a bunch of hostages would you trade all those hostages for the President of the United States? I would think you would do so without much thought. Someone might say, isn’t it better to have a bunch of hostages rather than just one? Not if that one is the President. His great value is in the office that he holds.
On the cross, Jesus as Son of God traded His life for all those held hostage by sin. Because of the value of His position as Son of God He can trade His life for ours. Why would He do it? It’s because He loves us more than we realize.
Jesus is the only way to Heaven because He is the only one who can pay the price of our sinful failures. All the other religions in the world may be well meaning but they are set up to encourage us to pay off our debt by working harder. However, when your debt is as big as ours is, it doesn’t matter how hard you work or how religious you become. You cannot ever erase the debt you are continuing to accrue.
So, does everyone go to Heaven? No. Jesus said whoever believes in Him will live even though He dies. He doesn’t impose His gift on anyone. We must put our faith in Him. So, there are two questions: What does it mean to believe in Christ?
According to the Bible, believing in Jesus involves several things
First, it means we recognize that we are lost without Him. It means recognizing that we have failed to meet God’s standards. Our lives are a mess. Even the best of us have a resume that is a train wreck. Until we admit we have a problem, we can’t get help.
Second, we must acknowledge that Jesus is the only One who can save us. It means believing He is God’s Son who died in our place. It means believing He uniquely and truly rose from the dead. His death was sufficient to pay for our sin debt.
Third we must run to Him. We must be willing to bet and build our life on this belief. We must personally surrender to him. We must embrace Him as our King, our Lord, our guide, and our Master. When Jesus called people we are told they “left everything and followed Him.” Jesus tells us that the true believer is the one begins to walk with Jesus. In other words they will begin to change.
Anything less than this kind of belief is just being religious. Religion without trust in Christ is just another club to which you belong.
Anyone who knew Martha Jean Cratsenberg knew that Jean had placed all of her confidence in Christ. She trusted him in times of difficulty, she thanked Him in times of blessing, she turned to Him with her concerns, and she rested in His work for her salvation. I share the gospel message today because this is the message I know she would want us to share . . . not only now, but always. This is the Good News of the Gospel.
So there are three things I encourage you to get from all of this:
First, in this time of sadness I hope you will realize that we grieve, but not as those who have no hope. We know where Jean is. We know she is home with the Lord who guided her life. We believe she has been reunited with those family members who have gone before. We believe she is no longer impaired. Her mind is fully restored. She is more alive now than she has ever been. The smile is broader, the laughter is fuller, and the sparkle in her eye is unmistakable.
Second, I encourage you to do a personal inventory of your life. Where do you stand with Jesus Christ? Do you think you are “good enough” or that you have “earned” your place in God’s Kingdom? Perhaps you are on the other extreme and you think you are “too far gone.” Are you putting your trust in your church membership or your family association? Are you betting your life that there is nothing beyond the grave? If any of these things are true I invite you to put your faith, trust, and confidence in Jesus Christ. I invite you to receive forgiveness, new life, and the assurance of Heaven. You can do this right now. With a simple and sincere prayer you can say, “Lord, my life is a mess. I need you. I turn to Jesus as my Savior and I ask you to help me follow Him as my Lord and Master.” Jesus said, “Anyone who comes to me, I will not cast out.” If you come truly and sincerely you will be forgiven. You will become a child of God and the Lord will make a place for you in His house.
Make that choice and then spend the rest of your days getting to know Him. Start living the new life that God intended you to live. Discover the contentment that Jean knew. Start looking forward to Heaven. Jean will be there to greet you.
One more thing, if you trust Jesus as your Savior and Lord . . . tell your family. Let them know that you have been forgiven and are headed to Heaven because of what Jesus has done for you. If you will do this, if something should happen to you, your family won’t be left wondering. They will know and they will draw comfort from your testimony. More importantly, if you share your belief your family may also come to trust Jesus and you will be able to die with the peace of knowing you will see them again.
Jean Cratsenberg was a genuine, godly, gracious, considerate, and loving person because Christ lived in her. Jesus was and continues to be her life. And I think I can say with confidence that nothing would please Jean more than for you to find new life in Christ also.
So we pause today to give thanks and to remember. Remember
- How Jean was always putting on her red lipstick in the car (and then would often kiss the kids so they went into school with red lip prints on their cheeks).
- How she wanted everything to be hot. She wanted her food hot. She wanted her coffee very hot. And, because she was always cold . . . she wanted the rooms of the house warm (others would say “hot”).
- How she wanted her girls to all go to college and she continued to bring that matter before the Lord until all three had graduated from college.
- How she had incredible self-control. She was the kind of person who could eat just one potato chip or one M & M.
- The way Bob and Jean always greeted each other with a hug and a kiss.
- The time she bought a bottle of red wine in Hermann Missouri (because it was supposed to help your blood pressure) and then never opened the bottle!
- Her gifts of things like Tea Towels and dish towels.
- Her feeling that each person owed it to the Lord and to themselves to use the gifts God gave them.
- The way she put butter on everything (even a peanut butter sandwich!
- Her ceaseless and joyful activity during a family gathering.
- Remember her consistency as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
There are many wonderful memories to celebrate. You, as a family, have been richly blessed.
Let’s pray together,
Our Father, we thank you for Jesus. We thank you for His life, His death, and His resurrection. We thank you for the promise that those who believe in Him will live even though they die.
We cling to your promise today. We know Jean is in Heaven not because she was a good woman (though by earthly standards she was). She is in Heaven because You redeemed her by your mercy and your grace. Because of this, we entrust her to You. O Lord, welcome her into the place that you have prepared for her.
O Lord, you have blessed us through Jean. Help us to learn from her life and her example. Open our hearts to be generous as she was. Deepen our commitment and faith. Help us to learn from her and therefore to be led to You.
Grant comfort and strength to this family. Keep their memories clear and sharp. Grant that their faith may be strengthened as they look forward to a reunion with Jean when you call us home.
We bow before you even as we submit to you. And we do this all in the name of Jesus. Amen.