Memorial Service for Lisabeth Marie Feind Holloway
by Reverend Dr. John Nagle
At Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Lisabeth Marie Feind Holloway March 12, 2011
Lisabeth Holloway was born in Mitchell, South Dakota. It's a pleasant enough
little town; I've been there several times. But other than the fact that Lisabeth
was born there, Mitchell is known as the home of the Corn Palace, a municipal
exposition building that attracts tourists from around the world, principally
because of the huge murals that take up every bit of the building's exterior
wall space. Sometimes the pictures boast agricultural themes. Sometimes the
pictures are historical. Always they are made completely out of corn and corn
products. What Pasadena has done for roses, Mitchell, South Dakota, has done
for corn. And it's quite the attraction. Huge pictures. Beautifully done. And
all of it is made from corn. Harvested corn. Dried corn. Corn no longer lively.
Corn that is dead. And in that, is the theme for what I share with you today.
You'd think that when something dies, it is good for nothing. Indeed, that's the
way the world looks at death. That it's an ending, and that there isn't much that
follows. But how different that is from the proclamation of the church that says,
even in death, there is good news that can be proclaimed. Isn't that the theme
of Easter itself that though Jesus died, yet he was raised from the dead. And
that he gained new life. So it is the Mitchell Corn Palace that what anyone,
everyone, said was dead, in the hands of a master designer takes on new life, a
new beauty, a new presentation. And people come from far and wide to see what
is to be seen. To see and be amazed that what was dead is made alive.
The first lesson today says as much. In the 40th chapter of the Old
Testament of Isaiah, we read that "all people are like grass, and all their
faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers
fall." And it's that way with corn too. It's planted, it pokes through the soil,
it grows, it gives its yield, and it dies. And you'd think that's the end of it.
But it's not, for that which dies gives new life. A seed is dry, but it's the
very thing that grows again the next year. Not that the topic right now is
agricultural, but theological. Hear again the words from Isaiah: "the grass
withers and the flowers fall, but the word of God endures forever."
And is that what you need to hear today? That though the world and maybe
you says that death is an ending, the proclamation of the church is that
this is just the beginning. Their is death of course. Who can deny that. But
the death that we feel is but the next step in the life to be lived. And we
shall we say that Lisabeth's death and new life is akin to the witness of the
Mitchell Corn Palace? I've seen the murals on the walls of that hall. They're
beautiful and intricate and a wonder to behold. And I remind you, they're made
from what the world says is dead. But you and I know other pictures pictures
of Lisabeth's life, up there for all to see. Beautiful pictures. Memorable
pictures. Inspiring pictures. Look, there she is portrayed as the daughter of
devout and devoted parents. There she is as a talented and consistent worker.
There she is being honored for her life's work. There is a picture of her
cataloging. There is a picture of her as wife and mother. And there is more.
And you can tell rest of us all about still other images. What we'll call
Lisabeth pictures. Surely you know them. Surely you delight in them. Surely
they are in front of you clearly seen. And are any of those pictures composed
of something dead? No, not at all. Rather, made from something alive. For this
is what the church confesses that though there is death, surely there is
life. That as Jesus died, so we die. But as Jesus was raised from the dead, we
are raised too. And in life, look at the use God made of Lisabeth. Nor was it
just by chance.
On the walls of the Mitchell Corn Palace, those works of art and stories of life
don't just appear there, suddenly and haphazardly. No wind picks up kernels
and shocks and blasts them against a wall. No, what is shown is intentional.
It's a master's vision that takes what was and makes it into something else. A
master, an artist, someone with a careful hand and a loving heart. And do you
think I am still talking about the Corn Palace? No, but talking now about
Lisabeth's life. Life that was arranged by a master, an artist, someone with a
careful hand and a loving heart. And in her was life. God who gave life at the
beginning who gave Lisabeth life too. Who gave her life, and who, at her death,
gave her new life. That's what we proclaim. That's what we believe. That's the
Word of God that endures forever.
And someone says, it's very nice that you picture Lisabeth's life as so kind and
gracious and loving and complete. But would anyone mind if we grieved for
awhile? Not mind at all. It can't be denied that death is a time of sadness, of
longing, maybe even regret. Death is for many people a time of tears. But not
a time of tears only. Scripture says, if for this life only we have hoped in
Christ, we are to be pitied. But instead we live with hope even as Lisabeth
lived with hope. Even died with hope. Even lives again resurrected, as does
And just there is the other picture we see on the walls of the Corn Palace.
The picture we see on the walls of life. Not simply pictures of Lisabeth and
all that she meant, but an even large picture, an even greater picture, of the
Lord who took her by the hand and accompanied her through life. Of the Lord who
himself was dead, lie harvested corn, but who lived again. Who was raised up.
And if he was raised, so is Lisabeth raised. And if Lisabeth is raised, so can
we be at that moment when the world says, it's over. The grass withers and the
flowers fall. That's what the world says. But I know differently, for I've seen
the Corn Palace and the witness it gives. And you have known Lisabeth and the
witness her life has given. That though there is death, there is life. New life.
And it is a gift from God. Though we grieve, surely we can rejoice. Though we
think of what was, we look forward to what will be. And in it all we see the
hand of the artist who fashions our life, even in his image.
Mitchell, South Dakota, is a small town. And for a few years, it was Lisabeth's
town. But now she lives most fully with God, to whom we give all praise and
honor in thanksgiving for his child, Lisabeth, and for all the beautiful pictures
of her life.