Virginia Davis Vacarro (1915-2011)

Her obituary:
A native of Warnerton and resident of Central, she died Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011, at Baton Rouge General Medical Center-Mid City. She was 96. Visiting at Rabenhorst Funeral Home East, 11000 Florida Blvd., on Tuesday, March 1, was from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. Visiting resumes at the funeral home Wednesday from 10 a.m. until religious service in the chapel at 1 p.m., conducted by John Meche. Burial in Roselawn Memorial Park. Virginia is survived by her two sons, Richard E. Rogers, and Roy W. Rogers and his wife, Belinda; granddaughter, Kimberelle Barker and her husband, Shannon; stepgrandson, Jeff Miller and his wife, Angie; great-grandchildren, John Meche and his wife, Charlee, Brandon Barker, Anna Barker, Hayden Miller and Sydney Miller; great-great-grandchildren, Amelie Meche and Judah Meche; and brothers and sisters, James Davis, Saranell Babin, Jewell Davis, Marjorie Forbes and Mary Earle. She was preceded in death by a grandson, Morris Richard Rogers; husbands, Morris R. Rogers, William B. May and Joe Vaccaro; brother, Carroll Davis; and sister, Dora Prather. Pallbearers will be Shannon Barker, John Meche, Brandon Barker, Jeff Miller, Mike Kauffman, Charles Prather and Otis Forbes. Virginia was a member of First Baptist Church of Central and the Order of Eastern Star. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to First Baptist Church of Central Building Fund.
My notes from the sermon I preached at her funeral:
When I was a boy, my great grandmother gave me a bible. Written on the inside in my great grandmother’s handwriting was the phrase, “John, the answer to all of life’s questions are found inside of this book” If this is true -if this is what she believed, then I can think of no greater honor to give her than by placing her life in the context of this book. When I walked into my great grandmother’s hospital room to see her for the last time, I thought to myself, “Wow. 96 years! This is like Hebrews 11.” I knew at that moment that Hebrews 11 would be my text for her funeral. Hebrews 11 is known to many as the hall of faith. The writer of Hebrews is recounting the deeds of the Old Testament saints done by faith in order to encourage the reader to endure in Christ and throw off sin. That is the context of which I want to place my great grandmother’s life.

Virginia was:
1. A person like all other people
Hebrews 11 describes the Old Testament saints in this way:

Abraham: By faith left his home to live in a land that was not his own.
Moses: By faith chose to face oppression with his people, the Israelites, rather than have a seat at Pharaoh's table as an honored relative
Israelites: By faith walked on dry land across the Red Sea
You would think that these people found favor with God because of their impeccable character and good deeds, but this list of acts done by faith were not all that the Bible records about their lives
Abraham: Tried (twice) to pass off his wife as his sister because he thought it would better to have another man sleep with his wife than risk being killed
Moses: Got angry at the Israelites and claimed God’s work as his own.
Israelites: Decided that God was taking too long and instead made a golden cow to worship
Why bring these things up? Because our lives -yours, mine, Virginia’s, and every person in the Bible except one -are a series of hits and misses. We do good things and evil things, wise things and unwise things, righteous things and sinful. What does this leave us to then? To hope that somehow our good deeds outnumber our bad ones? That God has a scale that can be tipped by putting coins in the coffer? This doesn’t work. Our good deeds don’t cancel out our bad deeds, not even here on earth with men. As any state trooper can tell you, it doesn’t matter how many hours a week you volunteer at the soup kitchen, if you do 51 in a 50, you have broken the law and you deserve your ticket.
Why do I bring this up? and at a funeral? because if you don’t understand that Virginia is a person like all other people with the same problem as all other people, you will miss the reason for every bit of kindness and love you received from her. You will miss the reason that she was who she was, specifically that she trusted God’s promise that something outside of herself could be the remedy for the failures, shortcomings, and sins in her life
2. who trusted God's promise
The OT saints died trusting God's promise, and he was not ashamed to be called their God (Heb 11:13-16)
[13] These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. [14] For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. [15] If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. [16] But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
(Hebrews 11:13-16 ESV)
Their desire was to be with God forever, and so they forsook their earthly home in favor of a heavenly one. God is preparing for them a heavenly city not because their good deeds outweigh their bad, but because of their faith in his promise. But what is his promise?
Paul sums it up best in 1 Cor 15:3-5
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”
God put Jesus to death in order to pay the penalty for our sin, and then raised him on the third day to show that death has no victory. This is the promise that the Old Testaments believed, that God could remove their sin, and it is the promise that Virginia believed as well.
How do you know that someone has this faith, that their desire is for a heavenly city rather than for an earthly one? You cannot do an MRI or CT scan and show that an area of someone’s brain lights up when they have faith in Christ. But with each of the people listed in this chapter, we see their actions were done in faith. All we can know of someone’s faith is how it is lived out in the things that they say and do.
I only had 26 years with Virginia, but here is what I saw:

She loved to talk to Jesus. When I had the honor of praying with her throughout my life, she prayed sincere prayers for so many of you who are sitting in this room -that God would protect you, provide for you, and draw you to himself.
She loved the Bible. She read it every night, and when it got hard to read, she got one with bigger print, and when that got hard to read, she got a magnifying glass. I grew up remembering her scribbled notes in the margins of her bible and on church bulletins. She struggled to understand and digest the deep truths of God’s word, and like it was necessary to her health, she partook of it every day.
She loved the church. She gathered faithfully with the saints to worship God, study scripture, and encourage one another on to love and good deeds.
She loved me. She was willing to take this awkward, nerdy, and sometimes downright weird boy into her home for weeks at a time to let him go to VBS, attend church, and to encourage him to place his trust in Christ as his lord and savior. In generous hospitality she let me stay with her through college, and was overjoyed that I would be doing what I am doing right now. She loved me. And I am sure that each person in this room has stories of how her faith was evidenced in their life.
3. and is now a witness whose life points to Christ (Heb 12:1-2)
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

She joins with all of the OT saints and every believer in Christ in looking to us and commending us to place our trust in Christ, throw off sin, and run with endurance. 
So where do you fall? Do you believe that you are a person like every other person? Or are you trying to get by with God based upon your own merit? Do you trust God’s promise, that he has provided a way to forgive your sins in Christ? Are you throwing off your sin and running with endurance the race that God has set before you in order to have God forevermore?

2 comments:

Danielle In The City said...

Very nice, John. Thanks for sharing. I love Hebrews 11, btw.

"Faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen" (HCSB has my favorite version of this particular verse).

Nicholas said...

Sorry about your loss, but dude, this sermon is beautiful. You definitely did her proud.