Summary: This message was preached for the funeral of a Christian woman who died after a year-long battle with cancer. It takes from 1 Thessalonians 4 three statements that the woman would like to have shared with those gathered for her funeral.
On behalf of the family of Loretta *****, I want to thank everyone for joining us in this home going memorial celebration for Loretta … and though today can be a difficult day, I believe Loretta would encourage us to begin with our thoughts directed heavenward, recognizing our reliance on the giver and source of life:
Take time to listen to these words from Psalm 91. I know that Loretta loved the Psalms. And I have a suspicion that this Psalm would have provided much encouragement to her during her battle with cancer over the last year. Reading from the New Living Translation:
1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.
3 For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease.
4 He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day.
6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
7 Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you.
8 Just open your eyes, and see how the wicked are punished.
9 If you make the LORD your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
14 The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”
Loretta was special to ghis church. Her value and influence on the church can hardly be exaggerated.
Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized Sunday morning as the most segregated time of the week in America. Dr. John Perkins said that while we profess our belief in "every tribe, and language, and people and nation" gathered before the throne for eternity, we have settled for an "apartheid church."
In January 1993, Loretta along with her sister, crossed that racial line and became members of "the white church" at First Christian Church of Chicago. Since that Sunday, the church has never been the same.
"And now, brothers and sisters, I want you to know what will happen to the Christians who have died so you will not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus comes, God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever. So comfort and encourage one another with these words."
(1 Thess 4:13, 14, 17)
There are three messages of comfort and encouragement for all of us that Loretta would want us to hear from this passage of Scripture. They are three words that she would share with us. One message for everyone; a message for those who share her faith; and a message for those she wishes to share her faith:
The message for all of us: Be comforted, I am with my Lord.
Someday Christ will come again. That time it will not be as a babe in a manger, not as a sacrificial lamb. He will be as a victorious Redeemer – breaking through the clouds. On that day he will gather all of those who have committed themselves to following him to enjoy their presence with him throughout eternity – the way that we were created to.
Yet, Loretta has the advantage. Loretta no longer has to wait. Today, she stands in the presence of her Savior and Redeemer – She’s with the Lord.
This was the principle message that Paul wanted to share with the Thessalonian believers. It is alright to experience grief at the passing of a loved one. However, there is no need to be overwhelmed with sorrow for those who have died.