Summary: funeral sermon
May 13, 2006
I am constantly amazed at the ways in which people allow me into their
lives. I often ask myself just who I am. I’m a guy who went to school – a
long time. I jumped through a whole bunch of denominational hoops on the
way to ordination. Then one day, the Bishop laid his hand on my head, said
the proscribed words, and announced that I was ordained to Word, Order,
and Sacrament. And at that moment, it happened. I became a pastor, a
minister, the leader of a local congregation. People started coming to me
with their joys and sorrows, with their questions and ponderings, with their
doubts and with their fears. For twenty-five years, I have been constantly
amazed that people have enough trust in me to allow me into the most sacred
times in their lives: births, baptisms, graduations, illnesses, family struggles,
and death. I am pretty much just an ordinary guy, but am more humbled
than I can express when I enter into the great passages in people’s lives.
There are great moments in human life; moments when new chapters open
up, new avenues are taken, and new experiences met. These rites of passage
are important moments when we are all changed. Think about the changes
that happen in our lives. Think of how we change from childhood into
adolescence. Think of how we change from adolescence into adulthood.
Think of the changes that occur with the coming of retirement.
These are all times that bring with them a certain sense of the unknown. We
may have some vague idea of what waits, but really don’t know until we get
there. The greatest rite of passage, the greatest change, the greatest
unknown, comes at death.
Now, for those of us who are Christian, we find that the unknown of death is
not that big of a deal because death has lost its fear. Death is not fearful
because, through our faith, we have come to know what waits. We
remember the Scripture in the fourteenth chapter of John, in which Jesus
promises that he is preparing a place for all of us. When that place is
prepared, he will receive us into our new home.
It is death that brings us all here together today. We come here to witness to
our faith, and to the faith of Mary Brandt. We come here to praise God and
proclaim the reality of resurrection. We come here to proclaim that death is
not the final answer, death will not win, and death will not silence our
I want to repeat a story that I told only six weeks ago at the funeral of
another woman in the church. Just a short time before our oldest son was
born, my grandmother died. I left my very pregnant wife in Denver and
flew back to Fort Wayne for the funeral. Dr. William Dean was, at that
time, pastor of Memorial Baptist Church. To this day, I remember the
sermon he preached at her funeral. In fact, I not only remember it, but I use
He was talking about the 23rd Psalm. He told us what a wonderful psalm it
was and how it has provided so much comfort through the ages to countless
generations of God’s people. It is a psalm of confidence and trust. It is a
psalm of hope. It is a psalm of peace, love, gentleness, and security.
It is a psalm of David. King David knew trouble. He knew heartache. He
knew trials and temptations. He knew fear. He knew the depths of his sins.
But he also knew the Lord, his Shepherd. The Shepherd was the One who
protected the sheep under his care, the One who could be trusted, the One
who could be called upon in times of trouble, the One who would never
forsake those who loved him.
Bill Dean told us about the most important word in the psalm. That word is
through. ”Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I
will fear no evil.” Death is just that…a valley through which we all must
walk. We can’t escape it, run from it, or hide from it. We may try to deny
its power, but that only lasts for so long. Death eventually catches up with
all of us. Death is the price of life.
But death is different for those of us who have religious faith; because we
know that the valley of death is not never-ending. We rest in the assurance
that we will emerge from that valley into the light of God’s eternity. Those
who place their faith and trust in God are never left alone, never.
We all knew Mary’s faith. We all knew how much she loved her church.