Summary: Funeral sermon for a young man I’ve never met who committed suicide. No family in this Country, a Memorial service for friends.
Funeral Sermon For
Robert Lee Gray
28 June 2002
I would like to begin by expressing my appreciation to each of you for comeing to this memorial service today. Each of you by your words and/or your presence have demonstrated a critical virtue of humanity that we need to see expressed more in our fast pace society. That virtue is “Friendship”.
I did not know Robert, but words of remembrance spoken by those of you who knew him well speak highly of him as a person. By definition, a “Eulogy” is a “tribute or acclamation” to the character of the one gone on. A eulogy is obviously more appropriately given by those who knew the deceased best. And I thank you for your kind words.
My purpose in being here is to share with you from a Biblical and Spiritual perspective some thoughts that will hopefully bring comfort and closure to your hearts and minds in respects to the tragedy of Roberts’s untimely death. I did not come here to user him into heaven, nor to condemn him to hell. That is the job of the Judge of the Universe, and I assure you I am not He. I didn’t come to pronounce Robert a Saint or a Sinner. I didn’t know him, so it would be foolish of me to attempt to do so.
I heard about the death of a man who was the worse scoundrel in a particular community. In fact he was part of a scurrilous family, notorious for their wicked lives. The entire family had lived totally irreligious lives; been in and out of jail; were constantly involved in brawls, fights, and general mayhem; and were just rotten to the core. When this particular fellow died, his brothers searched in vain for a pastor willing to perform the funeral, until finally they offered a local minister $10,000 if he would officiate and somehow pronounce the deceased a “Saint”. Well, for $10,000 this pastor would just have to figure a way. So as he began his funeral message he said, “I want you to know that the man laying before us today was the worse man I’ve ever known. He regularly beat his wife and kids and cursed his neighbors. He was a drunkard and constantly stirred up trouble for everyone who knew him. He was a foulmouthed brawler who spurned God, the law and everything right. But compared to his brothers, He was a ‘Saint’.”
Well, today, I want try to compare Robert to any of you. Though from what I’ve heard about him, he’d probably look OK if I did.
What I want to do for a few minutes is try to help you answers some of the “Whys?” and the “What nows?”. For those who knew Robert well and loved and cared for him, the good memories will long be with you. There will no doubt be times years from now when something he said or did will bring a smile to your face, and you’ll think, “Thanks, Robert!” And nothing can take those memories from you.
Please allow me just a few minutes to ask some pertinent questions for a time like this and attempt to give you some answers.
First, maybe we should consider the question, “What is death?”.
Death is in reality a mere separation. It is separation of a person’s life from his body. At one moment, life fills the body; a moment later it is no longer there. Now I know that physiologically there are certain function of the various organs of the body that make this so, but in essence, when death comes, life goes.
The Bible speaks of three types of death.
1. Physical death – when the physical body no longer possesses the life given it by God. That is when we go to the morgue, pick out a casket, or cremate a body and hold a funeral service.
2. Spiritual death – when a person, because of sin and rebellion is separated from God. Such a person is very much alive physically, but spiritually there is no connection between him and the God who made him.
3. Eternal Death – When a person who is spiritually separated from God dies physically, he is then eternally separated from God.
So, Death is Separation. And that is what makes it so traumatic for us. Someone we love and care about is no longer with us.
The second question we will consider is, “How do people die?”.
Again, physiologically the heart ceases to pump blood and brain wave activity is interrupted for a sufficiently long enough period of time that irreparable damage is done. But that is a bit of a sterile summary.
We know that some people die of what is usually referred to as “natural causes”. Their once strong and healthy bodies over a period of time begin to deteriorate. They may slowly wither away due to age or disease. Or, they may be suddenly taken via a stroke or heart attack. I had a good Pastor friend about 70+ years of age who mowed his yard one Saturday, took a shower, ate supper, reviewed his sermon for the next day and went to bed. His wife joined him about 10 minutes later and he was dead. His heart failed, and he was gone.