Summary: This message was preached for a man who had many friends.
Memorial service for John Richards
Good evening. I want to thank each of you for being here today. Your presence means a lot to this family and so do your prayers. I am David Henderson and I pastor the Eagle's Landing Baptist Church in Port Richey.
Prayer. Heavenly Father we come to you today because we know that you alone can help us because you understand everything that we feel today and everything this family is experiencing. You are a God who has feelings….the scripture tells us you love us, the scripture reminds us that you have experienced every feeling we have and so we know that you understand today. We ask for your comfort and peace to be with this family and also with each of these friends who are here today. Give them understanding that grows each day, give them a greater trust in you and grant each one your peace and hope. In Jesus name. Amen.
Today we find ourselves in the valley of death that the Psalmist talked about….it is a difficult place to be but as the psalmist talks about it is also a place where we can experience the presence of God. These words were written down by the shepherd boy, David. Like all of us, David went through some difficult times. In the previous psalm, Psalm 22 we hear David cry out to the Lord with these words, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? We don’t know exactly what he was going through but we do know he was hurting. He experienced grief in the loss of his infant son who was only 7 days old. So he was familiar with this valley of the shadow of death. This valley is an actual place in the Holy Land/Israel. When people would walk through that area as they were traveling they would often be in danger for their lives. They could be robbed, beaten or even murdered. But David said that when he walked through that place he was not afraid…because God was with him…His rod, his staff they comfort me. These were items of protection. God still gives that protection and help to us today. In fact I believe that He is more present at the time of death than perhaps any other time.
John Richards was affectionately called Jeep by many of his friends. When I spoke this week with Kathleen and Megan and learned of John’s life and the things that he enjoyed it reminded me of something that happened in my family years ago. John loved the outdoors, and one of the things he really enjoyed was camping as a family. They spent many weekends together camping and I am sure that they have a lot of great memories of their camping trip.
When my children were much younger my family had decided to purchase our first tent and take out kids camping. They loved it. We could fish, see the mountains and we could do all of this on a pretty low budget. So we decided to invest in our first tent. We were in the hills of Missouri camping…had a long day and laid down for the night to get some rest. It began to rain…I enjoy listening to the rain at night but not when I am in a tent. But we all fell asleep in the safety of our tent.
When I woke up the next morning my boys were already awake and they were laughing at me because the tent had developed a leak in the middle of the night and my head was lying in a small puddle of water.
The apostle Paul in writing in the NT describes our bodies as a tent. And because it was Paul who said that it has a lot more meaning to us. In churches in that day, the pastors were not paid much by the church, if they were paid at all so they had to also have a another job as well. The Bible tells us that Paul was a tentmaker. He would have been familiar with the fabric, how it was sewn together and he would have known the downside of what sometimes happens to a tent, as it did to ours that night.
2 Corinthians 5:1-10 (NLT)
For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down—when we die and leave these bodies—we will have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.  We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing.  For we will not be spirits without bodies, but we will put on new heavenly bodies.  Our dying bodies make us groan and sigh, but it's not that we want to die and have no bodies at all. We want to slip into our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by everlasting life.  God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.  So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord.