Summary: Funeral Sermon for a young man in our Church
There is an African tribe whom I read about some time ago, whose family customs are rather unique. In many ways they are the typical group of people we Westerners have come to imagine about Africans, especially for those of us who have read national Geographic. Father is the hunter/gather. Mother tends the home camp, cares for the children, and keeps the fire burning, cleaning the hut and so on. But when this family is all together at the end of the day, sitting or lying around the glowing embers of their fire, they are so close to each other that they are literally touching…a foot against a leg, a hand on an arm; its an amazing thing to see…when this family is together, they are really together…their custom of touch bearing witness to their closeness, their interconnectedness, their dependence on each other, their love for each other. And when dad is out hunting and gathering food, mom and children are carrying on with this interconnectedness until he returns…always in touch with one another…what tenderness.
It has been discovered that the human touch is the most powerful communicator of our emotional connection or disconnection with another; along with the power of one’s presence with another. But, nowhere is this more important than in our families; so much so that there is a condition which young children can experience when their parents leave them with relatives, baby-sitters, first day of school, or some other place….it’s called “Separation Anxiety Disorder.” It can be quite traumatic for the child and the whole family. As my wife and I sat with Janet and Robert and their family on Sunday, I observed the African ritual of touch in action…Janet leaning in over Robert, whispering, adjusting his oxygen, stroking his arm, communicating though touch and presence her love for him, not wanting Robert to experience any form of Separation Anxiety. And many of you came and went into that hospital room to do the same for her and for Robert, quietly communicating your love, your compassion, your care for them. How could we possibly get through times like that and this otherwise? Janet chose some pretty awesome and amazing Scriptures for today, to help she and her family, and us to understand that at no time, in no place, are we really ever alone, out of touch, out of presence with someone who loves, cares for, is concerned about US. You know, I don’t think in the short time I had to get to Know Robert, that I ever saw him with a handicap, I just saw him with his mom….
Psalm 23 beautifully describes a relationship so strong, so intimate, so connected, so in touch, that separation anxiety does not get a chance to create fear and loneliness. It is filled with personal pronouns….I, he, me, my, you. It is descriptive of a relationship so close (youth use the word “tight”), that a loving trust in all and every circumstance and experience ensures confidence even in the face of death itself. That’s powerful. Psalm 121begins by asking that pervasive question, “where does my help come from?” and answers it very succinctly…”from the Lord,” the same one who watches over our coming and going, the one who shades me and protects me, the same one who keeps me from ultimate harm….now and forever.
Moms and dads try their level best to watch over their little charges every moment of their waking hours…trying to protect and guide and nurture them…but there comes a time, a point when that becomes almost impossible. For example, my wife and I have three grown sons who live just about 5,000 kms away from us…and we have to daily commit them to God, because we can no longer BE there…BE in TOUCH.
John 14:1-6 is an encouraging, promising, hope filled passage which tells us that in the midst of tragedy of death itself, and the loss of a beloved son and brother…Janet, Elizabeth, family, you do not need to be troubled or afraid. These good, trustworthy words, spoken by Jesus himself, Robert heard, knew, understood and accepted. He knew who his Lord was, and he knew where he was going…this place being prepared for him and for you and I as well….this place being prepared for all who trust Christ.
It is so hard to leave home….(one of our children had to do it 3 times before it took), whether it is to go into the world to get a job, start a family, go on a trip, go to college, another city, another country. I think these goings are harder on Parents (especially moms), than on the children themselves…because no matter how old they are, they never stop being our children. That is why at times like this, we need Jesus’ promises, and comforting words, and hope-filled tenderness….”don’t worry….don’t be afraid….where I am Robert will be also.”