Summary: Funeral message for woman who sat in same chair every Sunday, attending both of our services for years.

"Find us Faithful" -- Special Music

What an appropriate song as we celebrate Berniece¡¦s life. She was fully faithful. [Walk over and pick up Berniece¡¦s chair and bring back to stage.] This is where Berniece faithfully sat every Sunday morning ¡V for both services! I want to bring her chair up here on the stage as a metaphor for her life.

1. Berniece liked to sit with people. Every time I would visit her and Ray in their apartment she would say, ¡§Can you sit down and talk for awhile?¡¨ One time she even made me a chicken salad sandwich. That was the only time she cooked for me, but on occasions too numerous to count, Ray and Berniece took our family out to dinner. When the check would come, she would get a big smile on her face, reach into her purse, pull out some money and pay the bill for the Bill¡¦s! She was an extremely generous person. In fact, for several years she would bring a box of Mento¡¦s to church every Sunday and place them in my hand. She always smiled and gave me a kiss when she did so. I think she probably thought I had bad breath so I needed the mints!

2. Berniece loved to sit and listen to music. In fact, she not only attended both services for many years, she also came early to the services so she could listen to the sound checks. She loved to sing along with the teams as they got ready. That¡¦s why we have so much music in her celebration service from the Statler Brothers to Steve Green to hymns and choruses.

3. Berniece loved to sit and laugh as she told funny stories or even jokes (some of which I can¡¦t repeat in church). Tim tells me about the one and only time their family went camping. They had never set up a tent before so that took some time. When everything was settled, Berniece¡¦s air mattress developed a leak in it and so she didn¡¦t sleep at all ¡Vand she was not a happy camper! Suffice it to say that that was the last time they ever camped as a family. This proves the saying, ¡§If momma ain¡¦t happy, ain¡¦t nobody happy.¡¨

When Tim told me this story yesterday it made me think of 2 Timothy 4:6-7: ¡§For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.¡¨ While we¡¦re sad to see Berniece leave, we¡¦re also glad to see her go. Why¡¦s that? Because of what she¡¦s experiencing right now. Psalm 116:15: ¡§Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.¡¨ The word departure literally means, ¡§an unloosing¡¨ and was used when throwing off a ship¡¦s cables, pulling up anchor and setting sail. It was also used of taking down a tent and of freeing the bonds of a prisoner.

When Berniece died, the cables that bound her to this life were loosened and she set sail for the shores of heaven. Paul called our bodies an earthly tent in 2 Corinthians 5:1. When we die, this earthly tent is taken down and we move into ¡§an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.¡¨ When Berniece arrived in heaven, she was released from the shackles of sin and suffering through 27 different surgeries, never to be imprisoned by them again. Tim tells me that when he took his mom to the nursing home, she said to him, ¡§Release me, release me.¡¨ Berniece has been released and is now in her new home!

4. Berniece loved to sit and talk with her friends. She loved it when her good friend Maxine Williams would come over and visit, which she did on many occasions. Maxine, thank you for sitting with your friend and giving Ray a break so he could come to church or go exercise.

5. Berniece loved to sit and be with Ray. They loved to spend time together. Ray, you have been a faithful husband and you have fulfilled your vows. Thank you for modeling what it means to love God and love others and for making your marriage work when so many around us today are falling apart.

6. Berniece loved to sit with her family. I understand that one time she was concerned that her boys would not be able to sit for awhile so she intervened. They had gotten into trouble¡Kagain and so Ray had all three of them lined up, had his belt off and was ready to let them have it. Berniece grabbed the belt and yelled, ¡§Boys, run.¡¨ They scattered to the far corners of the house. And this just happened last year!

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