Summary: A Funeral Sermon
The Seasoned Joker
Friends, we are gathered here to honor the memory of our departed friend and family member, Gary Elzey. We have come not to mourn his death, but to celebrate his life. And indeed there are many things to celebrate.
There are many stories we could tell about Gary; he was a man who “could walk into a room with 20 strangers and given a couple of hours he would come away with their life stories,” he had a way of making it seem like he had known you for years. He was someone who always wore a smile, in fact his smile was the first thing he put on and the last thing he took off as natural as getting undressed at night.
To me, Gary was a joker, but I don’t need to tell any of you that. I don’t know how many times he would pull me aside and say, “Hey Sean, have you heard the one about…” and he would get about halfway through the joke and say to me, “Oh, I forgot who I was talking to.” Then I’d loosen my tie and tell him “I’m not a pastor anymore,” and he would laugh and we would talk for quite a while after. But I knew I was always in trouble when he’d start a joke saying, “A rabbi and the Pope went to Heaven.”
Gary was a man whose presence will be both deeply missed and richly celebrated, but one thing we can’t help but do is to praise God for the time we were given with him.
Let us pray:
O God, our Father, Creator of us all, giver and preserver of all life: We confess to you our slowness to accept death as part of your plan for life. We confess our reluctance to commit to you those whom we love. Restore our faith that we may come to trust in your care and providence; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Teddy Roosevelt once said that both life and death were part of the same Great Adventure and that the only ones fit for that adventure were those who did not run away from the joys of living. Gary was one of those that was fit for the Great Adventure, he knew the joy of living, and he passed it on to each and every one of us gathered here today.
I heard it said that time is a predator that stalks us all of our life, but I prefer to think of time as a companion who accompanies us on the journey, reminding us to cherish every moment, for they will never come again. Gary taught us to remember and cherish the moments we had. He always was there when someone needed him. He never neglected to put others before himself. And he has left us with an opportunity to spread some of the joy that he gave us.
Joy is a gift from God, that when given to us can be either positive or a negative, depending on where it is derived from. Joy can be positive when we hear the laughter of a friend or family member, joy can be positive when we see a baby born, and joy can be positive when we accomplish something great. Joy can be negative if we derive it from the weaknesses, shortcomings, or pain of others. Gary’s joy was very much positive and can be best summed up by the poem Afterglow.
I’d like the memory of me to be a happy one,
I’d like to leave an afterglow of smiles when life is done.
I’d like to leave an echo whispering softly down the ways,
Of happy times and laughing times and bright and sunny days.
I believe that Gary would want us to remember him for both the smiles he put on our faces, and for the smile that was forever imprinted on his. There are few words that I can offer you today as comfort. But I can tell you that God is a loving and caring God. This same loving and caring God wrote these words through his servant David in the 23rd psalm:
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth 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 thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: