Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Anonymous Funeral Sermon

Why would I put this here? I don't know. For the morbid people, or maybe for some of the young seminarians or newly ordained folk I know. Maybe this might be interesting. Facts are extremely loosely based on a real funeral I did, but there's no way you could know who it is, so don't even start to guess.

It is an honor for me to be here tonight with all of you. I did not know [x] while he was alive. But I have spoken with several of you, and I know that though he has died, he lives on. Jesus said, I am the Resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. He said this to his good friend Martha just after her brother and his friend had died. His name was Lazarus.

In fact, Martha and her sister Mary and their brother Lazarus were all close friends of Jesus. He used to go to their house for dinner quite often. Jesus came to their house that day knowing that his friend had died. Martha came outside to meet him and she said, “Jesus, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” That’s when Jesus said to her, I am the Resurrection and the life. She replied simply, “I believe.” A few minutes later, Mary found Jesus and she said the same thing Martha had said. And Jesus cried and wept with them both.

Then, Jesus went to the tomb, to the cave where Lazarus was buried. He asked the attendants to roll away the stone. They were reluctant to do this because it had been several days and the body had surely begun to deteriorate. However, they complied with Jesus’ request. Jesus then yelled, “Lazarus, Come!” And what a great miracle, Lazarus walked out of his grave. He lived for many more years.

I think it is curious the order in which Jesus did things. He had told his disciples before he went to the house of Mary and Martha that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. So, even though he knew that there was going to be a happy ending, Jesus cried with Mary and Martha and mourned the loss of their brother. Why?

Well, I think, in part, that the reason that Jesus cried with Mary and Martha was this – he was known as a Man of Sorrows. That is, he was always very sympathetic to those who were suffering and mourning. That was just who he was, and it is who he is. He knows the pain of those who suffer and he shares it with them. He was always attracted to the weak, the broken, the handicapped, the sick, the dying, the outcasts, the vulnerable, the children, the abused.

And you know, that reminds me of [X]. [X] loved dogs. Not just any dogs, he was involved in the Guardian Angel Great Dane Rescue, and he had adopted Angel and Gary. He was their guardian angel. He saw two dogs that were outcasts, nobody cared for them, they had no home, he gave them a home, and good place to stay and he loved them very much. I’m told he used to take them to the firing range. Angel usually got scared, but Gary didn’t mind the guns. They were not his first dogs. In fact, he kept Sandy’s ashes until the day he died. He loved dogs very much. Especially dogs that needed a home, dogs that needed respect, dogs that needed love. He gave them all that and more.

In this way, [X] reminds me of how Jesus treats us. When we are abandoned, feeling all alone, when we mourn such as tonight, Jesus comes close to us and comforts us, he is attracted to us and lets us know that he understands that this world is a hard place to live in at times, and it’s just not fair. He takes us into his family and calls us his own.

When I spoke with Amelia, she told me that he was like her big brother. Amelia told me that [X] didn’t show up at work, and he didn’t call in on that fateful day. She was concerned about him because he was always so faithful. She told me about how he kept his word, when he said something, you could count on it. So it was just not like him to skip a day and not tell anyone. No, he was loyal. Not only a faithful employee, but a loyal friend. He did not have many friends, but his commitment to his friends was deep, and strong. And that reminds me of Jesus, too. You see, Jesus is committed to us for life. And death.

He is attracted to the weak and the vulnerable and those who don’t understand. And for those of us who call out to him in our time of need, he makes a commitment to us that he never breaks. Not in life, not in death. If Jesus never suffered, if he never mourned, if he was never vulnerable, if he was never weak, it would be hard for him to make a commitment to be with us in our weakness. But we know that he suffered tremendously, he mourned the loss of his friend Lazarus, and many others. He knows. He is with us. Someone might ask how?

Jesus is not here with us, where is he? The Bible talks about the church – that is, the community of believers – as the “body of Christ.” So, while he is not here with us physically, he is with us in Spirit. When a close friend cries with you, and allows you to vent, and share your hurts, and your memories, and how you miss [X] – they are the tangible reality of Jesus to you at that moment. When someone calls you on the phone at just the right time with a word of comfort, “I’m thinking about you, how are you doing?” that is the Spirit of Jesus.

I would guess that many of you are feeling a mix of emotions now. You wish [X] was still with us. Perhaps you remember his faithfulness and his compassion as I have mentioned here. Perhaps his memory brings to you happy thoughts and feelings. I would guess that his memory also brings sad thoughts and feelings. [X] was not a perfect person, none of us are. For all of his compassion, he could be abrasive as well. Some of us, perhaps, wish we could have done some things differently. If we had to do it all over again, there might be some changes. We never expected to be here, now, grieving over the loss of such a young man. How can these feelings be resolved? Well, not quickly, for sure. But I would encourage you to take your mixed-up feelings and thoughts to God and to those you trust. Don’t keep them bottled up inside.

May God help us to call out to him in our time of need, and also to look for opportunities to share the Spirit of Jesus with those in need, even as [X] saw needy dogs and shared himself with them.


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