Summary: A funeral sermon for a member who nearly died in a car crash 6 months earlier, only to die in an accident later, leaving a wife and two small children.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, through your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to your Word, granting us a renewed and strengthened faith, that we might find comfort in your grace, and hope for the future. Enable us to trust in your gift of eternal life, accomplished for us through the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus the Christ, so that we might live our lives in the confidence of being reunited with all your redeemed saints, in the life to come. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
Let me begin by expressing to you, Deanie, [and extend this to Sierra and Jesse], to Charles Nancy and Chucky, to Tom and Shirley, and the rest of Pat’s family and friends, not only my own personal sympathy, but also the sympathy of our congregation. Many of us share with you in the numbness of these last few days. Clearly, the suddenness of Pat’s death has left us all in a state of shock. But I assure you that we lift you in our prayers and concern, that God’s grace might bring you his peace.
To say that this has been a tragic and stressful year for you would be a gross understatement. Even after 25 years of ordained ministry, when I joined you Saturday evening, I felt so inadequate. I could find no words to express my consolation. I could only share in your grief, with tears of my own. From a human perspective, there is little that any of us can say.
But thanks be to God, that the Gospel reaches out to us with words of hope, that can help us, and guide us, in our grief. As a result, I have decided to take a somewhat different approach this morning, and let Scripture speak to us all, for its message is familiar, and touches our lives in a unique way.
In our second lesson that I read, John tells us that there was a family living in Bethany, whom Jesus loved. Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, became seriously ill, and so they sent word to Jesus, beseeching him to come to the aid of their brother. Being persons of faith, we can only imagine the litany of prayers that these sisters, and their closest friends, ceaselessly offered to God on their brother’s behalf.
But for some reason, known only to our Lord, Jesus did not respond to their prayers and urgent request for the healing of Lazarus according to their timetable. John tells us that Jesus delayed his departure to come to the aid of Lazarus for a couple of days. One can only imagine the pain and frustration that Lazarus’ sisters and friends felt, waiting for Jesus to respond with his saving grace.
Several days later, when Jesus did finally arrive, Lazarus’ sisters, family and friends, had given up hope that they would ever relate to Lazarus again. Lazarus had died, and they grieved and mourned, with many tears and sleepless nights. And the ordeal of their watch and vigil, praying for this man whom they loved, drained them of nearly every ounce of energy and strength that they had, spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
And so, when Jesus did finally arrive, the family expressed their pent-up emotion. They said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here. Lord, if you truly loved Lazarus and us, you could have saved him, and us from this grief. It seems hopeless. Yet even now, we know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”
And Jesus, seeing their grief, and feeling their pain, was himself moved to tears. Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, cried with and for this family whom he loved. And then he responded with an act of God’s grace that called Lazarus back to life from the jaws of death. And as a result, Mary and Martha, and all those who loved Lazarus, were given an opportunity to experience a glimpse of the grace of God and to grow in faith.
But what happened that day in Bethany, was but a glimpse of God’s grace. For the truth is, Lazarus returned from the throws of death, to live but for a short while. Although the Scriptures are silent about how long Lazarus lived following that day when Jesus called him from the tomb, all Biblical scholars agree, that his earthly life was finite.
Have we not lived this story over the past several months? Our brother Pat was gravely ill as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident. And each of us through our prayers without ceasing, beseeched our Lord to come to Pat’s aid. And I can remember the frustration we all felt, when our Lord’s aid was delayed, and his recovery seemed in jeopardy for days on end. We can all remember the pain and frustration that those long days in that small waiting room at St. “E’s” brought into our lives.