Summary: This was a funeral sermon I wrote for a member of our church - I thought it might be helpful for anyone looking for ideas when writing on this subject.

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Funeral for ___________

February 9, 2006

This question has come up a few times in the last week or so: Which is better, to die suddenly or slowly? If one dies suddenly there is no chance for goodbyes, for last words, to make things right with loved ones, to ask forgiveness. A sudden death leaves family in a state of shock. On the other hand, to die a slow death is painful in its longevity. Family gathers around the deathbed and grapples with the conflicting desires to see the loved one get better or to be released to eternity.

The final answer is that there is no painless way to die as far as the surviving family members are concerned. Death is our enemy and God forbid us that we should ever get used to it.

_____’s death was rather quick. Her illness came on without warning. And though she spent several weeks in hospital, I believe we are all still stunned at her passing. How do we find strength to endure the resulting sorrow?

When Abe came to my office on Friday morning, the day before _____ died, he told me that _____ had requested that I speak at her funeral. Abe also said that he and ______ did not want a message that glorified her works or the things she did. It is by grace she has been saved, he said. Shortly after that, Christ’s words to the Apostle Paul began repeating in my head and it has not stopped since that morning: “My grace is sufficient for you…my grace is sufficient for you…”

These words came to Paul as he struggled with what he called a thorn in his flesh. He had seen incredible visions of heaven and of the glory of the Lord. As Paul tells it, the thorn in his flesh was given to him to keep him from becoming conceited after having seen such things.

Someone said that it was appropriate that Paul does not specify what that thorn in the flesh was. If he had been specific and said his problem had been epilepsy or glaucoma, the majority of us would not be able to relate to his struggle. As it is, Paul has left us with a more or less perfect reflection of the trials we experience in our own lives. We all have thorns to deal with.

We can also relate to his pleading with the Lord to take away this thorn. Paul pleaded three times with the Lord to remove this thorn and the Lord did not remove it. How many times did we pray in the month of January that God would restore _____ to health? How many times did we plead with the Lord to remove the obstruction from _____’s abdomen? You see we can relate to the thorn and the pleading.

And what was the Lord’s answer? “My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is made perfect in weakness.” It is the power of God’s grace and love that I want to share with you this afternoon. I believe it is the power that will help you to see past the grief of _____’s passing.

Grace and Salvation – How do we understand grace? Our first thoughts should turn to salvation. That is the first place where we meet the grace of Jesus Christ.

We each begin this life with a thorn in the flesh known as sin. It is not always apparent to us that this thorn is embedded deeply in our flesh, painful as it is. We are oblivious to our situation. Once we discover that sin has been attached to us all this time we are horrified to discover we are not perfect. Our aim in life becomes one of trying to prove that our identity is not wrapped up in this thorn. Of course we fail to remove this thorn, or hide it, or overcome it with our great deeds.

As this reality becomes apparent to us, this is when grace is introduced to us. Christ on the Cross is the only grace that can power us past the curse of the thorn we call sin. There is nothing we can do, we realized, but there is everything Christ can do to save us from sin.

When I visited _____ at the hospital in Steinbach, realizing this time that she was dying, my pastoral senses told me that I should ask about her faith. I didn’t know quite how to word my question. How do you ask about a person’s assurance without offending them? Finally I said, “How’s your faith in all of this?” ______enthusiastically bubbled that she was born again, that she trusted in God’s love and faithfulness despite this cancer. No, there was no doubt in her mind that she was saved by grace through Jesus Christ…then she trailed off, weary from talking.

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