Father, Your Word teaches us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Today as we come together as friends and family to weep and to grieve our loss, today is also a day to rejoice knowing that through Christ, Alonzo has gone to be with You. We ask O Lord that You fill this house with the fragrance of faith, and Your Holy Spirit abide with us today providing peace and comfort beyond our realm of understanding to all those who mourn. We commit this time to You. Have Your way in this place. We ask in the lovely name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, Amen.
Family and friends, thank you for coming today. As we find ourselves sitting here this afternoon reflecting on Alonzo’s life, our minds may race with a wide range of thoughts. Perhaps of how he touched your life, or something he said to you, or just remembering his laughter. I myself can’t help but think of the first time I ever met Alonzo. Sadly enough it was over two years ago in this very room, in a setting very similar to this that I shook Alonzo’s hand for the first time. As friends and family, perhaps many of you who are here today were gathered to remember the life of Nikki, I can’t help but recall the amazing strength that Alonzo and Terri demonstrated during such a difficult time.
No doubt Alonzo was a man of amazing strength and character. But no matter how strong one may be, no one cannot escape the inevitable. You see, should the Lord tarry, we too will face death. Walking through the cemetery you will notice gravestones etched with two dates, one representing birth the other, burial. Those dates may be very close together, while others maybe very far apart. Then of course there are those who fall in between. Death is not a respecter of persons.
It is in times like these that we are prone to ask, “Why God?” “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The fact is, I don’t know. Many scholars and theologians may speculate, but they really don’t have any answers. All I do know for sure is that God has a sovereign will, and “all things work together for good to them that love God, who are called according to His purpose.” With that being said, I would like for us to look to God’s Word to provide solace to us today.
Read John 11:1-44
I would like for us to draw some applications from God’s Word. For you see, this service isn’t for Alonzo’s benefit; it’s for those of us who remain.
• Blaming God – Many of you here today may identify with Martha. Realizing that Christ is all-powerful, but still in her grief she blamed Him for the death of her brother. “If YOU would have been here”. There is a part of us that may want to cry out, “Why God?” Death is as much apart of life as birth. Notice though, that Christ doesn’t not criticize them for their statements. He too, grieves with them during their time of loss. It is not a sign of weakness to grieve. It is a natural course of emotions that all of us who feel this loss must endure. But in the midst of grieving there’s hope in knowing that all things occur for a purpose.
• Remember, there is always a purpose –Lazarus’ death was not an accident, it was for a purpose. Remember Jesus intentionally delayed his visit to Bethany so that God would be glorified. As a result of Lazarus’ death, many believed in Christ as a result of Lazarus’ resurrection. Those around the tomb didn’t understand it at the time, but it was for a reason.
We know that Alonzo touched people’s lives. His life and death was ordained by God before the beginning of time to touch the lives of those around him. But it doesn’t stop here. Revelation 14:13 says, ’Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ““Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them." In other words, Alonzo is free from his toil and his suffering, but his God ordained purpose followed him into the portals of Heaven, and is being fulfilled in this place today.
• Lazarus’ death served a purpose to those present at the tomb, and to us today – Lazarus’ death symbolizes the death we all shall face because of the sin of Adam. His resurrection symbolizes the eternal life and victory over the power of death we have through Christ.
When Lazarus came walking out, he was bound by the grave clothes. Jesus commanded that those be removed, symbolizing that we through Christ cannot be bound by death because He Himself defeated death, hell and the grave.
• Rolling away the stone – Martha thought it was too late – When Jesus asked Martha to roll away the stone, she debated with him. She thought it was too late, that nothing could be done for her brother now. When everything seems dark and dismal, when it seems all hell is breaking loose, that’s when God breaks in. You see, when Jesus is on the scene, everything is going to be all right.
You may be sitting here today thinking that it is too late for you, that your life is spinning out of control. But just as Martha and everyone around the tomb of Lazarus would soon see, it’s not too late for Jesus to orchestrate a miracle in your life. Jesus put it best when He told Martha:
• “Do you believe this?” - "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" Have you made a decision to follow Christ? Alonzo assured me long ago that he accepted Christ, and as a result he is experiencing right now the fulfillment of the abundant life that Christ came to this earth to suffer and die for.
But what about you? If you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, it’s not too late. Today you too, can experience the life God wants you live through His Son, Jesus.
Father, we thank you for this time together to reflect not only upon Alonzo’s life, but to remember of the eternal hope we have in You. As we go from this place to commit this vessel of clay to the earth, keep on the forefront of our minds of the day we will again see our brother. A place where there will be no more sadness, no more tears to dim the eye. A place where there will be no more goodbyes. A place where you have prepared a place for us to be with You throughout all eternity. Go with us from this place providing counsel and comfort as only You can. In Jesus name, Amen.
We ask that you remain seated until the immediate family has been escorted out of the sanctuary. A processional will follow to the grave side where we will conclude this service.
Blessings to you in Jesus Name, Amen.
How fitting at a time such as this to reflect upon the words which has provided comfort to those mourning the loss of a loved one.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.
As we stand here in the midst of many stones, representing those who have gone by way of the grave, we notice that these stones vary in their shape and size. However, there are four notable features each stone has in common. First the person’s name or their identity. The next two are dates, one representing the person’s birth, the second their death. But it is the fourth and final marking that is often overlooked, yet it is the most important; the dash between the dates. For you see it isn’t the person’s name necessarily that we remember, nor the dates of birth and burial that linger in our minds. Yet it what is represented by the dash that will long live in our memory. The dash, of course, represents their life.
Nestled in between two etchings lies a legacy and countless memories that we will all cherish.
Now that Alonzo’s spirit has departed to join the great cloud of witness that rest in Christ, with cherished memories we therefore commit this body to its resting place – from the dust we came and to dust we shall return – knowing that the end of all flesh is the grave; but Christ is our eternal hope.
May “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” (Phil 4:7,20,23)