Summary: This is a funeral sermon for Bessie McCloud (died 1991), a Christian who was bed-ridden for several years before her death.
Today, we seek to draw some eternal meaning from the life that Bessie McCloud has lived, in hopes that it will help us find God’s will for our own human life. Bessie’s life spanned almost the entire 20th century, but for the Christian who has died, we can see a faith history that stretches back to the creation of the world. Let us recall the Biblical history of the origin of humankind found in Genesis 1 of the Bible:
Here the words of the Lord in Genesis 1:26-28. Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
This is our story. God’s Word clearly tells us that humankind was created in God’s image. God created us to simply praise Him. We were placed in the Garden of Eden with no work, but to simply praise God. Humankind sinned and complicated life, but the one purpose that we as God-created humans beings till have is to praise God. Someone has said, “Praising God is the one thing we do here on earth that we’ll be doing for all eternity.”
The extend to which we praise God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength in this life relates to the peace we will find in heaven, our eternal home. Fulton J. Sheen has written these words, "The human heart is not shaped like a valentine heart, perfect and regular in contour; it is slightly irregular in shape as if a small piece of it were missing out of its side. That missing part...may very well mean that when God created each human heart, he kept a small sample of it in heaven, and sent the rest of it into the world of time where it would each day learn the lesson that it could never be really happy, never be wholly in love, and never be really wholehearted until it went back again to the timeless to recover the sample which God had kept for it for all eternity."
I first met Bessie in 1989 when I was attending the same church as her daughter, Lela Heath. I remember visiting Bessie, where she was confined to her bed in her daughter’s living room. There is one recurring question that Bessie asked me as I visited with her--”Why does God allow me to continue living?” This funeral sermon for Bessie actually was inspired by Bessie’s question to me, “Why does God allow me to continue living?”
What is most important to God? Is God primarily concerned with our work and our busy effort? Or is God primarily concerned that we fulfill our purpose by praising him? I shared with Bessie my conclusion that God’s desire for her and all of us is to praise him (period). That’s why He created us. Praising God simply means that we pledge our allegiance to God and give Him honor in all our life. Our physical condition may limit our ability to work, but it does not change our opportunity to simply have faithful trust in God and praise Him.
In her younger days Bessie worked hard serving her Lord and caring for her children. But the last years of Bessie’s life proved to me that God loves us not for what we do for Him but for who we are. Our task is to praise God with every breath. God allowed Bessie to continue to live into her 90’s as an invalid because her very life praised her Creator. She was a testimony of the God-given strength of the human heart and the God-given soundness of the human mind. As her life began to slow down her life in God’s eyes was actually improving as she continued to focus on praising God and depending upon Him.
It is in this simple life of Bessie that we see the contrast between the goals of Satan and the desires of a Holy God. Society is led by Satan when it says we judge someone by what they do. When their usefulness is not obvious, then we discard them. God stands against the motives of this world by saying humankind was created in the image of God. Their purpose is to praise God. All of life is of extreme value. No life however powerful or strong is any more valuable in God’s eyes than the weakest child or senior citizen, or the most down and out person.