Mary Sikes Memorial Service Message
Delivered Sunset Hill Chapel, Edwardsville, Illinois on September 30, 2011
by Rev. Bruce Sikes
I want to thank everyone for the prayers and thoughtfulness towards our family and for the many kinds words about my mom, Mary Sikes. This is a time to celebrate the memory and life of an incredible woman!
My mom did not want a big visitation time and funeral. That desire stemmed from the constant concern she had for other people. She did not want to inconvenience anyone. During the course of her entire life, she had always been taking care of other people. She gave birth to two sons raising and caring for them as well as a husband! She spent some of that time as a working single mom while my dad was away for two separate tours of duty in Vietnam. Her mother, my grandmother, moved in with us while my brother Brian and I were growing up. In her later years, grandma had developed Alzheimer's and some physical problems. As a result, mom spent years taking care of her mother as well. During that time my dad had retired. He was fourteen years older than her. Mom was a child bride! She was 28 when they married and dad was 42. After dad retired, his health slowly declined and he eventually developed Parkinson's and other physical difficulties. Needless to say, Mom wound up taking care of him for several years until he went on to be with the Lord in 1999. All during this time mom was busy helping neighbors, volunteering, visiting the elderly and lonely and keeping my brother and I, and the grandkids all connected and in touch with each other.
She was always thinking of other people and putting them first. She hated for anyone to make a fuss over her. We would joke that she could get run over by a bus and lay there telling us not to bother with her. Mom would likely say, " I’ll be ok. You all go on and spend time with each other!" She was always thinking more of the other person, even when she didn’t agree with them. Mom operated with a code of honor, very respectful, very proper and yet unpretentious. She was a straight forward person. What you saw is what you got.
She was the most optimistic person I ever knew. Even when bad things would happen to us, as they sometimes do, she would encourage us to look on the bright side of the situation. She had a way of putting us in our places when we would complain too much about something. She would always say, "There are people far worse off than you. Be thankful for what you have."
Mom spoke fluent Hungarian having been born and raised by Hungarian immigrants. She literally grew up in what was essentially a one room type farm house with a dirt floor in Delhi, Illinois. Her father died at home during the 1930’s and she was raised by her mom. When she got to working age, she obtained a job with the government at the Granite City Army depot. That is where she met a big Texan named Bob. They were married in 1954. My brother and I had great parents and could not have asked for better ones!
After our dad died, we grew even closer to her and in spite of her age and occasional health problems, we spent most of our time just trying to keep up with all her ongoing activities As my wife would say, "That woman is never at home!" And indeed she was out having lunch with the girls the day she went to the hospital. She was on the go all the time. No one could believe she was 85 years old. Mom came from the same good stock that God gave her mother who lived to 101. Mom was 85 going on 60.
She was always very supportive of us no matter what we wanted to do. I remember when I resigned as a Police Officer to enter seminary, she didn’t fully understand it but always supported me. In fact, my mom and dad were at least partially responsible for my decision to attend seminary in the first place. Growing up they made sure both my brother Brian and I we went to Sunday school and worship services every week at the Third Baptist Church. Dad was raised Baptist, but mom did not have any real church background. She was quiet about her beliefs and was very simple in expressing her faith, yet she lived and exemplified the Christian lifestyle of self sacrifice and giving.
When I was trying to think of the words to explain the life she lived, my wife Pam shared with me some words from the Bible she was reading the night Mom died. This is from the book of 1st Corinthians chapter 13 called the "Love" chapter. It's not surprising to find her description located there. I want you to listen to this to these words because it describes mom so well. 1 Corinthians 13 says...
" Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ...Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13)
That is mom.
Mom loved having her grand kids around her as often as possible. When her grandson became a Christian a couple years ago, he would visit her frequently and the two of them would spend many hours enjoying each other's company and also discussing the things of God. I could see a change in her over the past year or so, particularly these last few months. Her spirit seemed to be growing even sweeter as if that were possible. She came to my church when I was preaching and teaching, just a couple weeks before she was hospitalized.
She had attended worship services the two Sundays prior, but we did not ask her to come again for the third Sunday in a row because of the distance from her house to our church in St. Louis. But she very pleasantly surprised us by showing up. She wanted to be there. It was always good to see mom.
As I said her faith was simple, yet her understanding of depth of God’s saving grace in Christ was steadily growing. In fact, I was sitting at my desk working on a transcripted version of the sermon she came to hear a couple weeks ago, when I received the phone call that she was on the way to the hospital. So, it seemed appropriate to share a small portion of what she heard with you now. Here is what I was writing;
"Occasionally people will tell me they feel like something is missing in their lives. Even though they donate food for the hungry, collect blankets and items for the homeless, contribute to relief efforts for disasters, orphans, disease and crime victims, they still feel as though they are not doing enough. They feel like something is missing.
They seem to have an unaddressed inner desire. It is a desire residing in their hearts, one which by living a "good" lifestyle and doing "good" deeds, although those are both very important and needed, does not make them feel "good" enough. There is a missing link between what they are saying and doing physically, and what they are feeling in their hearts spiritually.
The Bible has a short story which illustrates this tension. It tells of how Jesus met and spoke with a rich man. It clearly shows someone who has that missing link. It's in Luke Chapter 18.
"A certain wealthy man approached Jesus and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’” “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.” Amen (Luke 18)
Here we see someone who says, "I've lived a good life and because of it God will let me go to heaven when I die."
Jesus was correcting his understanding and ours of what "good" means. He clearly tells us you cannot get into heaven by living a "good life", or by doing good deeds, or even by giving all your money to the poor. Both the wealthy man and the dirt poor disciples were blown away by what Jesus told them. "How then does anyone get into heaven they asked?" Even Peter remarked, "We have left everything to follow you!"
What was Jesus' reply? He said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” He reassured them that "no one" who follows Him will be forsaken or forgotten and most importantly, those who do will receive eternal life."
Jesus wanted us to know that no amount of good deeds, money or our attempts at clean living can buy our way into heaven. At that moment, when we breath our last breath, God will not judge us by the deeds we have done, whether good or bad.
What He will do is ask us one question. The very same question the rich young ruler was ultimately confronted with, "Do you know my Son Jesus?"
Not, "Have you heard of Him?" or "Do you know the story of Him dying on the cross for your sins?" Most everyone knows that including non believers.
As you stand before God, He will only ask, "Do you KNOW Him?"."Do you follow Him? Have you spoken to Him lately? Do you pray to Him? Have you given up on your own ability to redeem yourself by doing good deeds, or by your own self righteous behavior? Have you trusted in my Son for your salvation?"
You see, it is by faith alone in Christ Jesus that we are saved. Jesus makes this very clear when He tells us;
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
Forgiveness for our sins is based on trusting Jesus and nothing else! We must trust and follow Jesus to have the assurance of eternal life in heaven after we die.
We deceive ourselves when we try to earn our way into heaven with good deeds and through our own attempts at good behavior. The only thing we earn from that is a way into eternal death, to a place called Hell. It is a place I do not think needs further describing.
The good news is that from the moment we repent of our sins and ask God to forgive us, not because of anything we have done, but because of what Jesus has done for us, we are free from the fear of death. No one, not even the devil himself can accuse us any longer of "not being good enough" to get into heaven. We can say, "I know where I am going when I die, because I am following and trusting Jesus! "The Bible says in Romans chapter 10;
"That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved... for “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)
My mom was the most selfless caring person I have ever met. Yet the reason I know she is in heaven as we speak, is not because she was such a nice person and was always doing good things. It is because she has confessed with her mouth and believed in her heart that Jesus died for her sins. The way she lived her life was proof of her confession. Now, did she know and understand everything about the Bible and the total depth of what Jesus did on the cross? No, nor do I think any of us can claim that complete understanding. However, what she did have was a simple child-like trust in what the Bible tells us about Jesus. That is what Jesus Himself asks us to have in Matthew 18.
Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
This was the child-like faith that carried mom to heaven.
As this testimony concludes, I hope that everyone will pause for a moment and consider having their own child-like faith in Jesus. At this time I'd like us to spend just a minute in private prayer. If you have never confessed Jesus as your Lord as the Bible asks us, or if you want to renew your commitment to follow Jesus, then this moment of prayer for you. With child like faith, you can quietly or silently repeat the following prayer or in your own words;
"Lord I know I am a sinner..... I believe Jesus died on the cross for my sins.... I ask for forgiveness...and with child like faith, I will follow Jesus. Amen."
If you prayed that prayer and you meant it, the Lord promises that you will be saved. As you commit to follow Jesus, He will send His Holy Spirit to protect you and guide you into all truth, and to help you live your life as God intends you to. People may fail you, but Jesus never will. He is always there for us. Just ask Him
Lord we thank you for our mom, our grandmother and our friend Mary and for what she meant to us. We thank you for her example of selfless love and ask you to help us to become more like her and like your Son Jesus. May you touch each and every person who has heard this message with your Holy Spirit. Bless them Lord and show your glory to them. In Jesus name we ask.
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