Summary: A funeral sermon for a believer.
Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”
I have a friend whose grandmother recently passed away. Discussions about her grandma reminded me a lot of Alice. She was a woman who always had a smile. She was kind. She loved her family and she had a very deep faith.
After Grandma’s funeral one of her children made an astute observation. “Grandma taught us that we all have a terminal disease called mortality and she showed us how to die well.”
Those words came to my mind this final week of Alice’s life. She definitely “died well.” And she definitely showed us how to as well.
In particular, Alice taught us that having eternal matters settled allows us to live life on earth more fully.
You see, when we know how to die we have the freedom to live. When we know eternity is secure -- we are free!
I remember the day Alice was told that she had cancer. Jamie says that for a few moments afterwards she teared up but very soon thereafter Alice showed resolve and was smiling again. I visited her an hour or two after she was told. I could tell she was working through the news but I could also tell that, deep within her soul, she had settled the matter with God. We talked candidly that day about heaven and dieing and I left reassured that Alice would soon be with Jesus.
Alice was not afraid to die. She understood what Paul meant when he said “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
That smile that was so familiar to me was possible because of an intimate relationship with Jesus. She knew him personally and intimately. She knew what forgiveness for sin and relationship could do for the human heart. That, of course, gave her a hope for the future as well. She knew the Bible said “For … to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” And the day she heard the news from the doctor was the day those words took on real and tangible meaning. That is why she could smile even while facing a certain death and thereby taught us how to die well.
Alice found strength, solace and joy in her walk with Jesus. She was not afraid.
For us … well … it may be a different story. I left her the other day and while driving home I was thinking about “that terminal condition of mortality” that affects us all. I was asking myself if I would be as courageous and kind in death as Alice was. And I came to the conclusion that if I have the relationship with God and the faith that Alice possessed then yes, I could. She taught me how to die well. She taught me that the secret to living and dieing is the same – Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Rev. 21:6).
I am not a very good typist. Oh, honestly, I am very bad typist. When I began gathering my thought for this sermon I typed a title at the top (“Funeral Sermon”) to keep it separated from all my other projects. Later I scrolled back to the top to read through it and I noticed that I had not written “Funeral Sermon” I had actually typed “Unreal Sermon.”
But that is what it feels like to us doesn’t it? This is unreal. This is a dream. That’s because we are working through grief, and memories, and new adjustments to life with Alice. But let me assure you that to Alice this is all VERY real and VERY good!
Today she is in the presence of the living and loving God.
She is whole. She is happy.
And she sure wants us to learn from her about this terminal disease of mortality and how to die well.
This sermon is provided by Dr. Kenneth Pell
Potsdam Church of the Nazarene, Potsdam, New York