We’ve come to share in the loss of (name of the deceased). We’ve come to weep, to feel, to hope, and to wonder in anguish.
We don’t come today with any glib answers. Let’s face it: This is tough stuff. We’re stunned. We’re hurting. We don’t understand.
It might be difficult to believe, but the Bible says that it’s actually good for us to be here today. In Ecclesiastes 7:2, God says, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every person; the living should take this to heart.” In other words, God says it’s better to go to a funeral than to a party. It’s better to be in a cemetery than at a football game. I think there are at least three reasons for this.
First, this is a time for us to celebrate the life that God gave to (name). We’re sad but we also want to remember his/her uniqueness. (Read obituary.)
Second, it’s a time for us to say good-bye to (name). As hard as it is, this service will help us begin the process of letting go.
And, third, it’s a time for us to take a look at our own lives. We are all going to die someday. It’s a great time to ask some tough questions, questions like, “Am I ready to die?” When it comes right down to it, this service is more for those who are living than for the person who has died.
I. A MESSAGE FROM THE BIBLE
And so today, we’re going to remember, we’re going to say good-bye, and we’re going to reflect on our own lives. Some of you are searching for answers today. I want you to know that it’s okay to ask those questions. It’s natural to wonder why this had to happen.
There’s a story in the Bible that addresses some of the same things that most of us are feeling today. It’s found in the Gospel of John, in the eleventh chapter. Here we read of a funeral that involved hard questions, deep feelings, and budding hope.
The deceased is a man named Lazarus. He comes from a very close family; among them are two sisters, Mary and Martha. Like (name), Lazarus came from a good family and had a bunch of friends—and one of his best friends was Jesus.
Jesus arrives four days after Lazarus dies, and as He approaches the house full of weeping people, both sisters run out to Him at separate times and say, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
I suspect some of you are asking “if” questions as well. “If only I had spent more time with him/her.” “If only I had been nicer.” “If only I had done this or that.” These kinds of “if” questions are normal. But don’t blame yourself. It’s not healthy, and it’s not right.
Well, if we’re not supposed to blame ourselves, then maybe God is to blame for this. That’s precisely the implication both Mary and Martha make when they are grieving over the death of their brother: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
I learned long ago that it’s really senseless to either accuse God or try to defend Him. But neither is it sinful to question Him. Some of you are wondering why God would allow this to happen. It’s okay for you to ask these kinds of questions. Jesus does not scold these sisters for suggesting that perhaps their brother’s death was His fault.
You shouldn’t feel guilty for wondering if there was something God could have done. God could have kept (name) from dying, but for some reason, He didn’t.
II. IT WAS HIS/HER TIME
Ecclesiastes 3:2 reminds us that there is a time to be born and a time to die. While we don’t understand why (name) died, we do know it was his/her time to die.
As we continue with the story of Lazarus, we find the shortest verse in the entire Bible. Surrounded by family and friends, Jesus is deeply moved and asks where the body of Lazarus is. When He views Lazarus, He could have said something profound. Instead, John 11:35 tells us what Jesus did: “Jesus wept.”
Here is Jesus of Nazareth, the world’s most complete, most perfect man, attending the funeral of a friend and openly weeping, without embarrassment and without apology. In fact, those watching Him said, “See how much He loved him!“
If you feel like crying today, don’t hold back. If it was okay for Jesus to cry, it’s okay for you to cry. God feels your pain—He wants you to let it out—and to let Him in on your feelings. He wants to help you work through everything you’re feeling. He wants to be a part of your life. God knows what it’s like to hurt. One day He lost a family member, too, His one and only Son.
(Name) was not planning to die when he/ she did, but since life is like a vapor that appears for a little while and then passes away, it was his/ her time to go.
III. LIFE IS UNPREDICTABLE
Friends, none of us know what will happen to us. Our lives are very fragile, aren’t they? Proverbs 27:1 reminds us to not boast about tomorrow because we don’t know what a day will bring forth. Some people are always bragging about what they’re going to do, and they never do anything. “One of these days I’m going to do this.” “I’ll tackle that later.” But, later may never come.
This passage gives us two very significant reasons why we should never presume upon the future:
• Life is unpredictable. We don’t even know what will happen tonight, much less next week or next year. No one can predict the future.
• Life is brief. Our lives are like a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. The Greek word here is the word atmos, from which we get the word “atmosphere,” which is the invisible layer of water vapor that encircles our planet. In the grand scheme of things, our lives are like a mist.
Friends, life is too unpredictable and too brief
to live it without God at the center. We count our
lives in years, but God tells us in Psalm 90:12 to
number our days. The truth of the matter is that all
of us are just one heartbeat away from eternity.
In 1 Samuel 20:3, David said, “Yet as surely as
the Lord lives and as you live, there is only a step
between me and death.”
Our lives are like a vapor—here one minute
and gone the next. Decide today to give your life
to Jesus. Don’t put off this decision.
Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me will
live, even though he dies.” Do you believe this?
If not, don’t waste another minute of the only life
you have. Right now, right here, decide to pin all
your hopes on Jesus Christ, and Him alone, who
exchanged His life for yours, and who, in the next
life, will greet you on the other side, if you receive
Him into your life now.
Now that (name) is resting, with cherished
memories we therefore commit this body to its
resting place—earth to earth, ashes to ashes,
dust to dust—knowing that the end of all flesh is
the grave; but that in God is our eternal hope.