Summary: A funeral sermon for a 50 year old man who committed suicide. He was an active member of the congregation, and gave no signs or reason for taking his own life, leaving the family, congregation, and community in a state of shock.
(Read obituary from bulletin)
Dear friends, members of Our Saviour’s, family members, and especially this day you, Holly, Kyle, Beth, Cara, and Loren, may God’s grace, mercy, and peace be with you from God, our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. The word of God that I will be basing this message on for today is based on the Gospel reading from John 14:1-6 which was just read a few moments ago, which we will ponder under the shortest theme I’ve ever used in my ministry, one I know Stan’s family will find appropriate, “Grace” But before we get into our message, will you please join me in a word of prayer. (Typical pre-sermon prayer)
Shock, disbelief, sadness. These words describe what many of us have felt over the past few days when we learned of Stan’s tragic death this past Tuesday. As those of you who are members of our congregation know, this is the first burial for a member of Our Saviour’s that I have had to officiate at, and I never thought I’d be standing here today, trying to provide words of comfort to Stan’s family and friends. I can’t tell you how many times over the last few days I’ve heard “I never thought this would happen to Stan!” That’s what makes this day seem so unreal. Holly, you’re too young to have to make burial plans for your beloved husband. Kyle, Beth, Cara, and Loren, you’re way too young to have to face life without your father, who I know loved you all so very much and was so proud of all that you’ve done in your lives. And for us as a congregation at Our Saviour’s, it’s too early to say good-bye to our dear friend, who was an active part of our congregation through the years as a Sunday School teacher, a member of our church council, and a confirmation mentor for one of our young people this year. This wasn’t supposed to happen! Yet, here we are, on Saturday, October 27th, 2007, here in this place where Stan came week after week, to find comfort and strength in the mist of our grief. As your pastor, I know that I can’t speak words from this pulpit that will miraculously take away your grief and sorrow, and put your lives back the way they used to be. But, what I can do, and what Stan’s family has requested me to do today, is tell you about something I know was important to Stan, and is important for all of us to hear this day.
As I was with the family at the funeral home on Wednesday afternoon as they made plans for this service today, Beth mentioned a word her dad used when he taught Sunday School here; a word that we all need to hear today. You’ll sing about it at the end of this service this morning. That word is: “Grace”. I want to share with you what that word meant to Stan, what it means to you and I, and how in many ways, it’s the one word that will get you through the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.
For the Kjergaard family seated here in the front row (which Holly pointed out to me the other day is abnormal, because y’all are usually seated in the back pew on a given Sunday, being the good Lutherans that you are as I’d put it!) this place has been an important part of your lives. It was in front of this very altar, on July 29th, 1978, that Stan and Holly exchanged their vows and became husband and wife. I know some of you were here that day, it’s a day that I know you, Holly, will never forget. As your family grew with the births of each of your children, you brought them here to this very baptismal font, where you promised before God and this congregation that you would see to it that your children were raised in the Christian faith, and you’ve done a wonderful job in doing just that. You both have been active in our congregation, Stan as a Sunday School teacher and later a member of our church council. You were here countless Sundays to hear promises of God’s Word, promises that will sustain you in the days and weeks ahead. When you think about it, it’s proper for all of us to be here, in this place this morning.
But, Stan didn’t make sure his family was here just for outward appearances, or because that’s just what everyone does on Sunday. Stan came here to hear a message from this pulpit. It’s here that Stan heard the message from God’s Word week after week that yes, he was a sinner, there was nothing that he could do to make himself right with God. On many a Sunday morning, Stan confessed with his brothers and sisters in Christ in this sanctuary that he was “sinful and unclean, and had sinned against God in thought, word, and deed.” Stan knew that, he knew he didn’t deserve or earn God’s favor. He knew what the consequences of being a sinner are. I don’t need to say anymore about it, because we’re faced with that brutal reality today by seeing this casket in front of the altar. But, Stan also knew that the story didn’t end there. Stan learned of his Savior, Jesus Christ. Through hearing the Word of God, he heard of a loving, compassionate God. A God who loved Stan so much, that He gave His one and only Son to die for him, so that Stan could live as a redeemed, forgiven child of God and have eternal life. That’s what grace is all about. Undeserved mercy, favor, and forgiveness from God through what Christ has done for us on the cross and with the empty tomb.