Friday, 7 May 2010

Funeral sermon

I led my first funeral this week. The text of the sermon I delivered is below. I'd like your feedback on it.

My aims in this sermon were:
1. clearly and simply point people to life in Jesus (= “preach the gospel”);
2. point them to the genuine, deep long-term comfort that Christ provides;
3. give them a positive experience of “church” and “Christianity” in a time of need, so as to increase the chances of them listening to the gospel again sometime in the future.

I’d like your thoughts on (1) these three aims, and (2) whether you think this talk achieves them.

I’ve censored the names of the deceased, and his family, in this text. I don’t think they’d mind it being published – I only say nice things about them – but, I’ll err on the safe side.

Passage: John 11:25-27:
Main point: we need to give over our deceased, and our selves, to the risen, living Christ.

Intro
We have come here today to thank God for Deceased; to support each other, and share each other’s grief; and to give our dear Deceased over to God.

A strong, caring man
Deceased was a very strong man. He worked hard, at outdoor jobs, in the heat and the cold and the rain. And never complained. He worked harder to find a job than most of us work in a job. When he was a car park attendant at Location he checked the cars twice as often as the other attendants. At Location he drove the train in all weather, in stifling heat and freezing cold and soggy wetness.
He was a caring man. He was always thinking of others. He delayed getting the cancer report so that it wouldn’t overshadow the birthday party of one of his granddaughters. He cared for his daughters A and B. He’d give them lifts in the early hours of the morning. He was always there for them.
And not just for his family. He’d do the same for his daughters friends. A and B’s friends saw him as their second dad.

Jesus
In this, Deceased reminds me of someone else. Someone who was a very strong man. And a deeply caring man.
Deceased reminds me of Jesus.
Jesus was a strong man. He was a carpenter. He loved the outdoors. He talked about the birds and the flowers.
And Jesus was a caring man. He cared for his family. He cared for his friends. In fact, he cared for the whole world.
Entrust Deceased to Jesus
We must give our beloved Deceased to Jesus. Because Jesus is even stronger than Deceased. And Jesus loves Deceased even more than we love Deceased.
Deceased was a strong man. He fought the cancer for nearly two years. But he couldn’t beat it. The cancer was stronger than him.
He wanted to fight the cancer because he cared about his family. He wanted to be there for Wife. And for his daughters A and B. And for his grandchildren. His love for them made him want to fight the cancer.
But his love, strong as it was, couldn’t overcome the cancer.
We need to give Deceased to someone stronger than him. We need to give Deceased to Jesus.
The resurrection and the life
The Bible tells us how Jesus went to visit a grieving family. Two sisters – Mary and Martha – had lost their brother, Lazarus. This is what Jesus said to one of the sisters, Martha.
I'm reading from the Bible. John 11:25-27:
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

Jesus died – and rose
The Bible says Jesus experienced death. He was crucified and died. That’s what we remember on Good Friday.
But he did not stay dead. He rose again, on Easter Sunday. The tomb is empty. Jesus is alive now.
This is why Jesus is stronger than Deceased.
Deceased is dead. He’s gone. He can’t love us any more. He can’t look after us any more.
And our love for Deceased won’t bring him back. All we can do is give him this final honour: a dignified burial.
But Jesus is alive. He has conquered death.
And so we can give our Deceased to Jesus. Knowing that Jesus will look after him. Even when we can’t.
Entrust ourselves to Jesus
And we must give ourselves to Jesus.
We all live in the shadow of death. When we look at Deceased, in this coffin before us, we know we will one day face our own death.
Some of us may have already had a close brush with death. We may have been badly sick. Or had an accident.
Even if not, we know we’re not going to live for ever.
One day, we’re going to be in a coffin like this as well. And our family and friends will grieve for us.
This is why we need Jesus.
The Bible says death happens to us because we have all rejected God. We don’t want to live God’s way. We want to live our own way.
God is the source of life. Because we cut ourselves off from the source of life – from God – we die.
It’s like plucking a flower from a bush. The flower doesn’t shrivel up immediately. It stays beautiful for some time. But because the life giving sap doesn’t flow through it any more, it eventually shrivels us and dies.

We are all like that flower. We have taken ourselves away from God, the source of life. We stay beautiful for a while. But eventually, we shrivel up and die.
Jesus can give us back God’s life. Jesus said:
John 11:25 … “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
If we entrust ourselves to Jesus – if we give ourselves to him – then he promises we will live, even though we die. That is: just like Jesus died and then rose again, he promises that one day he will bring us back from the dead. Never to die again. And to live with him. And each other. Forever.
But for that, we must give ourselves to Jesus. We must entrust ourselves to him.
We must say what Martha said:
John 11:27 “Yes, Lord,” she [Martha] told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
We must accept that Jesus is God’s king. Who rules the world. And who rules us.
And we must accept that Jesus is himself God. In the flesh. And worship him, as God.

Conclusion
Deceased was a strong man. And a loving man.
But even his strength and love couldn’t fight off death.
We must give our dear Deceased to someone who is stronger and more loving than him. We must give our Deceased to Jesus.
And we must give our selves to someone even stronger and more loving than Deceased. We must give our selves to Jesus.
Jesus: God in the flesh.
Jesus: God’s king. Who rules the world.
Jesus: who can give us life with God again.
Do you believe this?

1 comment:

Matt said...

I reckon you've done a good job. It's warm and Gospel-centred.