Summary: A funeral message from Philippians 1:21 ("to live is Christ"), with opening remarks from 2 Timothy 4:6-7 ("departure".)
Funeral for June Amos – April 16, 2003
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Look at the word "departure." That word was used with many meanings. It was a term that sailors used. It was a term for the unmooring of a ship. When a ship would set sail, the departure of that ship is the word that the Apostle Paul used here. Now when a ship would go out of the harbor, people would stand in that harbor and they would watch that ship sail over the horizon. Have you ever done that and seen a ship just slip over the horizon? So the people in that harbor say as the ship embarks and goes over the horizon, there she goes. But somewhere, there’s another harbor and that ship appears on the horizon and they say, Here she comes. Now, not only was it a nautical term, it was a military term. When soldiers would fold up their tent and move on to another campaign, the very taking down of the tent, the very folding up of the tent was the same word that is used here, to depart. Not only was it a term that sailors used, and not only was it a term that soldiers used, but it was also a term that politicians used. It was a political term. It was used for the setting free of a prisoner. When a prisoner was released from jail, this same word was used, a departure. One more thing: it was a farmer’s word. When the farmer would unburden the ox at the end of the day, when he would take the yoke from off the oxen, when he would lay aside that yoke, he used this same word. It was the departure or a laying aside of the yoke.
So, like that ship, June has sailed into another port. And like that soldier, June has pulled up the tent pegs. And like that prisoner, June has been set free. And like that oxen, June has laid down the burden. June has gone home with God.
“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”
I just want to spend a few minutes today in verse 21: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
When the Apostle Paul originally wrote this letter to the church in the town of Phillipi, the circumstances of his life weren’t exactly ideal. He was in prison - under house arrest in Rome – chained to a Roman soldier as his guard. Paul was a prisoner and yet this entire letter shouts with triumph. It is filled with the words “joy” and “rejoicing”. The Christian experience is meant to be the life and mind of Christ working their way into our lives, whatever our circumstances might be. June lived the last years of her life a prisoner in a body that was filled with sickness. Yet she seemed to show joy and to rejoice in her affliction. Someone described her as “well within herself even when other things weren’t.”