Summary: Funeral message that focuses on the hope of John 11.
January 7, 2001
Welcome and Prayer
Good afternoon and thank you for coming. We’ve come to share in the loss of Patricia. We’ve come to weep, to feel, and to wonder in anguish.
We don’t come today with any glib answers. Let’s face it. This is tough stuff. We’re stunned. We’re hurting. We don’t understand.
It might be difficult to believe, but the Bible says that 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.
In other words, God says that it’s better to go to a funeral than to a party. It’s better to be in a cemetery than at a football game. I think there are at least three reasons for this.
First, this is a time for us to celebrate the life that God gave to Patricia. We’re sad but we also want to remember Patricia’s uniqueness.
à Read Obituary
When I talked to some of you at the Visitation, I learned that she had a lot of great qualities:
· She loved her grandkids
· She loved country music
· She loved to camp
· She loved her flowers – she’d get mad when one of the grandkids would let a ball roll through them
· She loved dogs
· One of her granddaughters said that she was very nice
· Her husband said that she was a servant
à Mike and Art are going to share some memories as well.
And so, this is a time for us to remember. Second, it’s a time for us to say good-bye to Patricia. As hard as it is, this service will help us begin the process of letting go.
And, third, it’s a time for us to take a look at our own lives. We are all going to die someday. It’s a great time to ask some tough 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 who has died.
And so, we’re going to remember, we’re going to say good-bye, and we’re going to reflect on our own lives.
Some of you are searching for answers this afternoon. I want you to know that it’s OK to ask those questions. It’s natural to wonder why this had to happen.
There’s a story in the Bible that addresses some of the same things that most of us are feeling today. It’s found in the Gospel of John, in the 11th chapter. Here we read of a funeral that involved hard questions, deep feelings, and budding hope.
The deceased is a man named Lazarus. He comes from a very close family -- among them are two sisters -- Mary and Martha. Like Patricia, he came from a good family and had a bunch of friends – and one of his best friends was Jesus.
Jesus arrives four days after Lazarus dies, and as he approaches the house full of people crying, both sisters run out to Him at separate times and say:
Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
I suspect some of you are asking “If” questions as well. “If only I had spent more time with her.” “If only I had been nicer.” “If only I had done this – or that.” These kinds of “If” questions are normal.
Don’t blame yourself – it’s not healthy, and it’s not right.
Well, if we’re not supposed to blame ourselves, then maybe God is to blame for this. That’s precisely the implication both Mary and Martha make when they are grieving over the death of their brother:
Lord if YOU had been here, my brother would not have died.
I’ve learned long ago that it’s really senseless to either accuse God or to try to defend Him. But neither is it sinful to question Him. Some of you are wondering why God would allow this to happen. It’s OK for you to ask these kinds of questions. Jesus does not scold these sisters for suggesting that perhaps their brother’s death was His fault.
You shouldn’t feel guilty for wondering if there was something that God could have done. God could have kept Patricia from dying. But, for some reason, He didn’t.
It Was Patricia’s Time
Ecclesiastes 3:2 reminds us that there is a Time to be born and a Time to die. While we don’t understand why Patricia died, we do know it was her time to die.
As we continue with the story, we find the shortest verse in the entire Bible. Surrounded by family and friends, Jesus is deeply moved and asks where the body of Lazarus is. When he views Lazarus, he could have said something extremely profound. Instead, John 11:35 tells us what Jesus did -- “he wept.”