Summary: This a funeral sermon on Psalm 23 given for Janice Henderson (d. 1996).
We are gathered here this morning recognizing that all of us have experienced a loss in the absence of Janice Henderson from our midst. Fred has lost a wife, Steve, Catherine, Suzi, and Jodi have lost a mother, Melissa, John, and Michelle have lost a grandmother, and Mariah has lost a great-grandmother. Our small church has lost a faithful member. All of us have lost a friend.
We can not and need not deny that the path we trod will be more difficult without Janice by our side. If Janice were here today, I believe she would share her faith and encourage us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. The same Jesus Christ who sustained Janice in her last days is able to prepare each of us for success when we cross over to the next world at some unknown time in the future.
One of Janice’s favorite passages of Scripture is found in the 23rd chapter of the book of Psalms. In Psalm 23, we see the imagery of the Lord being our shepherd and host in both the peaceful days and in the difficult days. The good shepherd is with us beside the green pastures and in the valley of the shadow of death.
Janice was from a generation where the church was more a central part of the community life than it is today. More people went to church and tried to make a difference through involvement in their church. People didn’t allow other things to compete with the church. Parents didn’t drop their children off at church, they went with them. The work of the church was important for Janice Henderson and let’s hope that it will be important for those of us who remain behind in so much that God’s church is a light in this dark world, and help for living out our personal faith relationship with Jesus Christ in our every day life.
Psalm 23 is a very encouraging passage in God’s Word, but before it can be appreciated we must have a personal relationship with the Lord. If we don’t live in the center of God’s will for our life, than this is how Psalm 23 will sound to us.
The Lord is not my shepherd; I shall want. I lie down in brown pastures and am led beside poisonous waters. My soul decays. May paths are in unrighteousness. When I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear evil. My enemies triumph over me. Surely wrong and judgment shall follow me all the days of the my life; and I will not dwell in the house of the Lord even one day.
Psalm 23 shows us that the Lord has made preparations for our protection if we allow ourselves to be one of the sheep in the Lord’s pasture. In verse 5 we hear that, “The Lord prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies.” In John 14:1-4, Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
Just this last year Janice Henderson made preparations for this day in her life. She went with her husband Fred to pick out cemetery lots and she planned the arrangements for her body. Before she went in for her heart surgery last month, Janice told me that she wanted “His Eye is on the Sparrow” sung and the 23rd chapter of Psalms read at her funeral.
Another preparation for eternity that Janice made recently was her loyalty to church, that was so characteristic of her earlier and healthier days. In the last six months Janice had a personal renewal of participation, interest and support in this church. I remember in May, when we had pictures taken for our church directory. There was a terrible thunderstorm that night, but Janice showed up for her picture appointment. I learned then just how much of a trooper Janice was. And when those directories are completed, her picture will be in it. She would have wanted it that way.
I’ll also remember the special trip Janice made to bring Vacation Bible School supplies to the church, the Sundays she came to worship at church despite poor health, and the effort she made to make sure the church received her regular financial support even when she was in the hospital.
Someone has said that heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. As each of us lives our life, by the choices we make, we are making preparations for the future we desire. We would do well to remember the words of E. Stanley Jones, “Anything less than God will let you down.”