Summary: The theme of this funeral homily is that in the midst of death we as Christian Disciples do not loose our courage, our hope, our faith, or our joy because we know Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us but will always take care of us.
Be Not Dismayed, A Funeral Homily
We have heard the reading of our primary text for the funeral homily for our departed sister Barbara Jean Bluff, and perhaps many of you are wondering “How does the story of David’s battle against Goliath” relate the Barb’s passing. While this is our primary text for our mediation as we pay our final respects to Barb today and lay her to rest, let me share three more shorter passages that directly relate to the passage from I Samuel 17.
Recall with me the words of Moses as found in Deuteronomy 31:7-8: “Then Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, ‘Be strong and of good courage, for you must go with this people to the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it. And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”
The LORD Himself is the speaker in Isaiah 41:10, and He says:
Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God,
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
It is always significant when words of Scripture are repeated in two or more books of the Bible, and the texts in Deuteronomy and Isaiah are almost identical.
Our New Testament passage is found in John 14:18. Jesus reassured His disciples at the Last Supper as He does us as well: “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”
My avocation has always been music. From the age of two I always wanted to be able to play the organ and piano in Church someday, and the Lord has given me that opportunity throughout my life. Now as a musician most of the time I have been attracted to a hymn, Gospel song, or praise chorus by the power of the music, but as a pastor I have also been attracted more and more to the message of the lyrics. Since my high school years, the message of the Gospel Hymn “God Will Take Care of You” by Civilla D. Martin, have spoken to my heart, especially in times such as these. I would like to share the lyrics of the first stanza and the refrain with you this morning. You may also find the complete text at Number 130 in our 1989 edition of THE UNTED METHODIST HYMNAL:
Be not dismayed what e’er betide,
God will take care of you;
Beneath his wings of love abide,
God will take care of you.
God will take care of you,
Through every day, o’er all the way;
He will take care of you,
God will take care of you.
I hope you noticed these three words that were included in our passages from I Samuel, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, and by Civilla Martin in her hymn: “Be Not Dismayed.”
Those three words are the title and the theme of our funeral homily for our sister Barbara Jean Bluff this morning, and Charlie, Kim, family, and friends, these words will sustain and keep you going both now and forevermore.
As a musician I would often accompany and/or sing “God Will Take Care of You” while having no idea at all the hope those words “Be Not Dismayed” give us as Disciples of Jesus Christ today.
The Old Testament Word “Dismayed” is a military one, as we see in the case of both David and Goliath and Moses and Joshua. Now Goliath was a threatening, fearful, imposing figure indeed. We are told he was at least nine feet tall. Remember especially I Samuel 17:10-11, “And the Philistine said, ‘Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.’ When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were DISMAYED and greatly afraid.”
It is the time of “The Changing of the Guard” as Moses encourages Joshua, “Do not fear nor BE DISMAYED. Joshua is God’s chosen General to lead His people into the Promised Land. In Hebrew this word DISMAYED means to “to be shattered, broken, terrified.” It describes the “terror or panic of military leaders whose courage has been broken.” As Saul and the Army of Israel saw the imposing stature of Goliath and heard His threatening words, they literally lost all their courage. Instead of looking to the LORD their God to deliver them, they got their eyes fixed on a pagan giant who had no respect for the Living God.
Charlie, Kim, family and friends of Barb, we today so often feel just like them, especially at times like this. We are tempted to loose our courage, all our hope, all our faith, and all our joy. We begin to question God, “How can I go on? How can I continue without the presence of my soul mate, my Mother, my best friend?