I am ashamed of myself today. There is a point where one begins to feel overwhelmed with the amount of information we receive, to the point where the truly important somehow is lost in the constant bombardment of trivia. I am ashamed because I lecture many of you for not reading and paying attention to your churches publications including your bulletins and I missed an important part of our “life together”. I’m ashamed because I feel a loss at what is truly a gain. Psalm 116 says “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints”. I am ashamed of myself because Maggie Karner passed away in September, and I did not know about it until a few days ago.
Maggie embodied another aspect of that Biblical axiom and that is that precious in the sight of the Lord is the life of his saints. Maggie was all about life. She believed with all of her heart that Jesus Christ came to give us life and give us life to the full. The abundant life Christ wants us all to have was the motivating force of her life. She believed in the sanctity of life from conception to natural death. She exuberantly witnessed to the life that Christ died to give us. She winsomely proclaimed that by His resurrection our eternal life is secured. She was a gracious witness in everything she said and did.
It was my privilege to know her back in the old days of Lutheran Church Missouri Synod World Relief and Human Care. She put up with the same kind of nonsense the rest of us did. We were running off in all kinds of directions. We were helping all kinds of people to what end? We were actually doing the verbs in the by-laws for our Board. We were “mercy cowboys”. I suggested she was a “mercy cowgirl” and she said either name was fine with her. It was a badge of honor. She put up with the same nonsense put forward by the theologically correct; that Mercy was never the primary goal of the churches mission. Explanations that Christ did not just exhibit mercy, but that He is mercy, and that to proclaim Him as Christ is to proclaim Him whole and entire did no good. To explain that the early church cared for the poor and the orphan, the destitute and dying, because that is what Christ would do, did no good. To say that we engage in mercy as church because we are Christ’s Body and mercy is our life as fed by the Sacraments did no good. For some “mercy” will always be a problem.
Yet the support that the church gave to Maggie and her work was amazing. She was a great speaker and theologically grounded. She held a great respect for the pastoral office. She made the mercy medical missions a great success and worked hard at the highest levels to bring life issues to the fore.
She came up here to North Dakota and visited the LWML and attended a rally up at St. Paul’s in St.Thomas if my memory serves. I know that she spent time with former Presidents of the LWML Kay Kreklau (North Dakota and National) and Dotty Sincebaugh (North Dakota) . She asked about them every time I saw her. She was preparing to move to Connecticut at the time and she treated the move like everything else. Whatever was laid before her was a grand adventure and God was the tour guide.
Washed in the merciful waters of baptism, Maggie was free to be merciful. Spoken free in absolution she was freed to speak mercifully. Receiving Christ whole and entire in the blessed Sacrament she was free to give herself whole and entire to her neighbors here and around the world, and she did.
So I am ashamed today for what I did not know about Maggie. I consider myself blessed by what I do know and remember.
Memorials to support the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty — made payable to “The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod” and designated for the “Maggie Karner Memorial Fund” — may be sent to the LCMS, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.