Summary: A funeral sermon that celebrates the presence of the Good Shepherd and offers hope to those who need The Presence!
Recite Psalm 23 – King James Version
Read Psalm 23 – NLT
An old man and a young man were featured on a stage. Their performance was to recite the 23rd Psalm. The young man, trained in public speaking and drama, presented the Psalm most eloquently. His impression on the audience led to an applause asking him to perform the recitation again.
It was the old man’s turn. He made his way to the stage with the support of his cane. His feeble, shaking voice began the recitation and when he reached the end of the Psalm the silence reached into the heart’s of the listeners and enveloped the audience in mystery and awe. Some wiped tears from their eyes; others appeared to be in prayer reflection.
The young man who preceded the older gentleman came back to the stage to make a comment. “Friends, I can explain why, when I recited the Psalm you applauded but when this man did so, you were silent. What is the difference? I know the Psalm but he knows the Shepherd of the Psalm.
• Why a favored Psalm at funerals? For the same reasons in our story:
1. Our Foundation is Front Row Center
• V1 – “The LORD”
• A young entertainer had preformed one of Beethoven’s fantastic symphony arrangements. The young violinist wooed the crowd and electrified the air with his passionate presentation. When the last note fell silent, there was a momentary pause, a brief ‘Selah’ when suddenly a thunderous applause filled the auditorium. One would expect the young musician to bow and soak up the recognition and smile approvingly of his performance. Yet, his eyes were fixed on a seat in the second balcony. He looked to his teacher who smiled, nodded and stood in recognition. The young musician, having his teacher’s approval, took his place and received the appreciation of the listeners.
• When we stand back to assess and evaluate all that brings us to this present moment, we search for the object that has been our life’s focus. As the final scene is played and the curtain begins to fall, we look to see the effect of our life’s play, the motivating Force and we find him – “The LORD”!
2. It is an Individual and Personal Experience
• Note personal pronouns
• One who has not known the Shepherd can only know the Psalm as a piece of poetry. Those who know the Shepherd know the Psalm as a Personal experience.
• The experiences that follow the pronouns cannot be met by human love or temporal experience (e.g. v1: “I have everything I need” – without God, what we have is never enough; v4: “…Valley of death, I will not be afraid” – death only holds peace for those who know the Shepherd’s Presence!)
Brandon Markette tells a story that he called “Facing the Great Inevitable”.
“If there exists one experience that, throughout history and around the world, binds mankind together, it is death. Death is something we all must face--no exercise or diet regimen, no meditation techniques, no amount of money can avoid it. It is the great equalizer.
“The finality of death, coupled with the uncertainty of an afterlife, results in fear, for many. We see it all around us as we try so hard to stop the aging process. We hope that the next pill, the next surgery, or the next genetic discovery will be the key to extending our lives.
“Not everyone, however, faces death with fear and uncertainty. A few years ago a friend of mine faced this faceless enemy. At 16 he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. The doctors tried every treatment at their disposal, all to no avail. For a year and a half Rob was in three different hospitals in two different cities. In that time he lost 90 pounds and all of his hair. He was an inpatient and an outpatient. Sadly, after 18 months, nothing remained to be done for him.
“Having reached the end of their rope, Rob’s doctors did the only thing left to do. They sent him home to try to enjoy the last days of his life. At this point, I was horribly sad, afraid of losing a dear friend and mad at God. I was mad that God did not heal him. I was also mad that Rob would miss out on so much.
“Amazingly, Rob did not share my anger. In fact, he seemed to be meeting this horrible fate with the anxiety one might experience on a first date. To this day, when I think of his peace in the face of the storm, I am in awe.
“His peace was not merely an inborn, laid-back look at life. Nor did it spring from a devil-may-care attitude. Instead it came from a decision Rob made only months before the initial diagnosis. With that decision, Rob found peace with God.”