Summary: A funeral sermon I preached at my grandmother’s funeral on September 13th, 2003 at Prescott, Iowa.
Jill did a wonderful job and although she probably didn’t know it, her sharing her memories of Grandma actually was a perfect introduction for my message today and what I have on my mind. Memories seem to be the theme of the day for us. It’s served as a basic theme for me to work with ever since a week or two ago when I asked Mom where Grandma’s funeral would likely be and when she said it was probably going to be right here, in the Prescott church, naturally, my thoughts began to turn to all the history that our family has here in Prescott and in particular, this church.. As many of you know probably far better than I, Grandma was a member of this church for a very long time. Going back many years, to the days when this building was still the Methodist church, up until recent years, this church was an important place in Grandma’s life. I am sure she had many pleasant memories of this church. I am sure each of you, Betty, Joye, and Pat, have special memories of this church too. Its here, to this church, that your mother brought you when you were growing up, Sunday after Sunday, to hear God’s Word and to stress how important the Christian faith was in her life, and how important she wanted to be in yours and your families lives. And I know this is something that you have passed on to your own children as well. I’m sure it is fair to say that no one here can keep count anymore of the many times the Ryan Sisters have shared the gift of beautiful music you have sung here in this church, singing songs of worship and praise to God, beautifying so many worship services and other special events in this church and in this community. So in many ways, it is very fitting that you have chosen to bring your mother here one last time as she brought you here to this very church so many times in your life, so that on this day especially, you may be fed with the promises in God’s Word, promises that were important in her life. You weren’t the only ones Grandma brought to this church to hear God’s Word, either. Some of you will remember, it was here in this very church, that my grandfather, Wayne Preston, was baptized late in his life and came week after week to be fed with God’s Word as well. My mother, Lora, was also baptized here many years ago as a teenager, because Grandma did the same thing for her that she did with her daughters before, she loved her step daughter enough to bring her to this church, to hear God’s Word, and learn about the Christian faith, and seeing my mother come to that faith, and pass that on to myself and my brother, Brian. For me to come here, and preach in a church that has so much family history to it is pretty special. I did make a comment recently that you know, it seems the only time I get to preach in this church that has so much of our family history wrapped up in it, is when someone dies and it’s a sad day. It may appear to be that at first. However, the more I think about it, and the more we look into God’s Word, my mind has changed a little bit. Allow me to share with you why.
You know, it’s very common when someone dies, for everyone to share their memories and talk about how good of a person the deceased has been. And the last few days have been absolutely no different either. I have heard many things like that about my grandmother and I could probably be up here for a whole week just sharing with you how wonderful of a grandmother I was blessed with because she married my grandfather and accepted me as if I were her own flesh and blood grandson. I know how impatient people in the pews on Sunday morning get when I start to hit close to a half hour with my sermons, so I will try not to put you through that today. Later today when we come back to gather together and share our memories, I hope you take time to share the memories that you have of Marie with all of us. I also hope that you take a moment to say a prayer of thanks to God for giving her to us to share in our lives, and to be what she was to each of you.
I’ve heard it said before “death is a natural part of life.” But think about that for a moment. If something is natural, the way it was intended to be, it wouldn’t hurt so much would it? I mean, for most of us, it doesn’t hurt to breathe, to laugh, to touch, feel, smell, taste, and all the other natural functions of our lives. They don’t hurt. Death hurts. I’m not talking merely about Grandma here; I am talking about those of us who are here in the pews, hurting because she is no longer with us. I know seeing her in her last days was very hard on me too, it hurt to see my Grandmother in such pain and unable to do the things she loved to do so much in life. I missed being able to come down during a break from school and spend a day taking Grandma wherever she wanted to go, be it out to eat, or shopping, or anything else she wanted to do. None of this is really natural; death isn’t what God intended for His creation. That’s why it hurts so much. That’s what living in a sinful world does to us; it separates us from God, from His intentions for us when He first created the world. And ever since mankind’s fall into sin, we have had to deal with the pain of death. Even our Lord and Savior knows what its like to lose a loved one. Remember Jesus’ reaction to the death of Lazarus? The shortest verse in the whole Bible, Jesus wept. Death hurts. Death isn’t natural. It separates us from our loved ones, and sin separates us from God. This past summer, I was in LuVerne, Iowa talking with their pastor who has become a sort of older brother type for me. He had been through a stretch where he had 3 funerals in a week or so, and I was looking to him for some advice as to how to go about speaking at a funeral. He said the familiar phrase from the Bible, “The wages of sin is death” is never clearer in our lives than it is at a funeral. You have to face the consequence of our sinfulness, like it or not. And today, that’s what we’re faced with here, we can’t avoid it.