Summary: A Memorial Service I spoke at for a young man who died tragically at the age of 21
(James died of an overdose of drugs at the age of 21. The family asked for a memorial service at the church building and more than 60 people arrived to show their respect).
I can’t tell you how moved I am that so many of you have come to show their love and respect for James and his family. Death is always a difficult time and your presence has gone a long way toward helping this family in their grief.
And the Bible says it’s actually good for us to be here today.
In Ecclesiastes 7:2, God says this:
“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.”
Why would it be good for us to be here?
Because this is a time for us to remember the life God gave James. It’s a time to share our memories and to encourage and lean on each other.
It’s also a time for us to say good-bye to James. Saying goodbye is very important for us because James meant so much to so many of us.
And, lastly, this is a time to ponder our own mortality. Because one day all of us will die. It’s not a matter of IF we’ll die, but only when. Thus, this is a good time to ask ourselves some basic questions.
Questions like, “Am I ready to die?”
And “Where will I go when my life is over?”
When it comes right down to it, this service is more for us who are living than for the person (that we’ve loved) who has died.
READING: John 11:17-44
It’s said that Jesus never performed a funeral.
Whenever Jesus came to a funeral the dead rose from the grave.
And when that happened, the funeral was over.
But this funeral is a little different.
This was a funeral for a man who was one of Jesus’ close friends.
His name was Lazarus.
Lazarus had two sisters Mary and Martha and when Jesus arrived 4 days after Lazarus’s death, each of these sisters ran out to Him at different times and said exactly the same thing:
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
They were blaming Jesus for Lazarus being dead.
After all, Jesus could heal the sick.
If he’d been there Lazarus could have been healed and he wouldn’t have died.
At funerals - sometimes - there’s a tendency by some to blame God for death.
“Lord if You could have made it so my loved one wouldn’t have died.”
I’ve learned long ago it is NOT sinful to question God.
It’s OK for you to ask why God would let the one we love die.
Notice, Jesus didn’t scold the sisters for their words.
God’s a big God and He can handle your emotions.
You shouldn’t feel guilty for wondering if there was something that God could have done. But the fact of the matter is – He didn’t. The day will come when all of us will die. And we’ll die because we live in a world that has been damaged by sin.
What I find interesting about this story is how Jesus responded to his death.
We’re told that Jesus was deeply moved.
When Jesus came to the grave he could have said something extremely profound.
But there’s no sermon, no powerful observations.
Instead, the Bible only tells us what Jesus DID.
It’s the shortest verse in all of scripture and yet… the most profound.
Here is Jesus of Nazareth, the world’s most complete, most perfect man attending the funeral of a friend… and weeping openly.
He weeps without embarrassment, and without apology.
And those standing nearby said, “My… much he loved him!”
If you feel like crying today, it’s ok.
If it was OK for Jesus to cry, it’s OK for you to cry.
And I’m convinced that God weeps with you.
God knows of your pain – He feels your hurt.
And if you’ll let Him… He’ll work inside you to comfort you now.
God knows what it’s like to feel hurt.
God lost a family member too, His one and only son.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever should believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”
Today, we are gathered here to remember and to celebrate James’s life
And to say goodbye to him.
At this point I’d like to give those of you here an opportunity to share your memories about James.
(The Time For sharing)