Funeral Sermon \ Pastor Terry Defoe \ Diane Lane \ May 4th, 2015 \ Psalm 116
My message this afternoon is based on these words from the 116th Psalm:
I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.
The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me. I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord – ‘O Lord, save me!’
The Lord is gracious and righteous. Our God is full of compassion. Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.
How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
A funeral is an appropriate time to hear from the Bible – God's unchanging Word for a changing world. Funerals raise some of life's most important issues. They confront us with our mortality. A funeral is a solemn occasion – a time to remember and a time to take stock. A funeral is a time to remember God – and his love. And it's obviously a time to remember someone special – someone who has passed from this life to the next. At a funeral, we pause to remember a loved one. A friend. A fellow‑pilgrim on life's journey. What I'd like to do this afternoon, as I often do on an occasion like this, is have a look at one of the Psalms. I'd like to consider Diane Lane’s life in the context of Psalm 116. I pray that God would enable us to hear his word and take it to heart this day and every day.
Psalm 116 begins with these words:
"I love the LORD, for he heard my voice: he heard my cry for mercy.”
Psalm 116 speaks of vows made to the Lord – vows made in the presence of God and of his people. Like many of us here today, during her lifetime, Diane Lane made vows to the Lord – or vows were made on her behalf – and these vows were also made in the presence of God and of his people. Diane was baptized at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Southey, Saskatchewan, on September 14th, 1944. She confirmed the faith given to her at her baptism on July 24th, 1944, again at Southey. Her marriage vows were made on August 10th, 1968. Along with the rest of God’s people, Diane made these vows, with the promise that she would keep them, “With the help of God.”
Psalm 116 verse 5 says:
"The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion."
God's grace is his undeserved love for us and for all the world. God loves people who don't deserve his love. That means you and me. God loves people who fall short of his standards of righteousness. Again, that means you and me. The truth is that God loves everyone in this world. He loved Diane Lane. And Diane responded to that love.
As we heard earlier in the tribute, Diane Lane was an extravert. She was an outgoing person. She was good at dealing with people – all kinds of people. For a while, she worked as an operator for the phone company. Then she worked in the challenging area of collections, something that not every person is equipped to do – or wants to do! She often impressed people with her well-chosen words and her grace and kindness. Diane enjoyed dealing with people – that was one of her gifts or talents from God. She always had a ready smile. She was confident and independent. Her faith accompanied her throughout her life and prompted her to reconnect with the church in these last few years. Her faith was of the quiet variety. She didn’t wear it on her sleeve, but there was certainly evidence of it’s influence on her life. In the last while, her faith was there when she needed it, and we thank God for that.
Psalm 116 openly talks about death – a subject that most people are uncomfortable with. The Psalm-writer says:
"The cords of death entangled me, and the anguish of the grave came upon me. I was overcome by trouble and sorrow."
The Psalm‑writer compares death to cords that entangle and don't let go. He says that death brings anguish – it brings great fear and dread. The Psalm‑writer tells us that he was overcome by trouble and sorrow. Then he cried out to God:
“O Lord, save me!"
Like God’s people in every generation, when the Psalm‑writer experienced trouble, he prayed. And God answered his prayers. What the Psalm‑writer experienced is part and parcel of the human condition. Christian people face these things knowing that God's grace and love goes with them. Christian people know that God’s grace and love are seen, most clearly, in Jesus Christ. Jesus came to this earth to make things right between us and God. He came to take away the wall that sin had built up between us. He died on the cross to forgive our sins and to re‑establish our broken relationship with our Heavenly Father. The truth is that all of us are separated from God because of our sins. All of us need the rescue that God offers through his Son. The Bible tells us that God loves all people without showing favoritism. Diane Lane was one of God’s baptized children. Jesus' rescue‑mission was intended for all people, and it included Diane. She simply let God save her. She let God rescue her, through Jesus Christ, his Son.
Christian people know that God understands our situation – he understands that fail to measure up to his standards, by what we say, and by what we do. But God has acted to deal with our dilemma. That's why the Psalm‑writer says, in Psalm 116, verse 15:
"Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints."
You and I are precious to God. He cares for us in this life. And he continues to care for us, even in death. He is present with us, in this life. And, when we trust him and trust his Son, he is eternally present with us, in heaven.
Psalm 116, verse 7 says,
"Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you."
Diane Lane is now at rest. The Lord has been good to her. Psalm 116 says that God takes away all tears from our eyes. He removes those things that cause us to stumble and fall. He makes a way for us to walk before him, in the land of the living. We could never hope to repay him for all his gracious gifts – especially for the gift of salvation that he offers us through the life and death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.
As I mentioned a moment ago, the Christian faith proclaims a simple message to the world: God understands. He understands our predicament. He understands what we’re going through. He understands our joys and also our sorrows. His Son came to live among us. His Son took our sins on himself. When we have trouble, he understands what it’s like.
The story’s told of a store-owner in a small town who displayed a sign that said,
"Puppies For Sale.”
Signs like that have a way of attracting small children and sure enough, a little boy appeared to check things out.
"How much are you going to sell the puppies for?" he asked.
The store owner replied, "Anywhere from $30 to $50."
The little boy reached in his pocket and pulled out what he had.
"I have this,” he said, and it turned out to be a little more than $2.
"Can I please look at them?"
The store owner whistled and out of the kennel came Lady, who ran down the aisle followed by five tiny balls of fur. One puppy lagged behind. Immediately the little boy singled out the lagging, limping puppy and said,
"What's wrong with that one?"
The store owner explained that the veterinarian had examined the little puppy and discovered it didn't have a hip socket. It would always limp. It would always be lame.
The little boy said,
"That is the puppy that I want.”
The store owner said,
"You don't want to buy that little dog. If you really want him, I'll give him to you. "
The little boy got quite upset. He said,
"That puppy is worth as much as the others. I'll pay what you ask. I'll pay you a little every a month until I have him paid for."
The store owner said,
“You really don't want to buy this little dog. He is never going to be able to run and play with you like the other puppies. "
The little boy reached down and rolled up his pant leg to reveal a malformed left and a brace. He said:
"Well, I don't run so well myself, and that puppy will need someone who understands!"
When it comes right down to it, the heart of the Christian message is a simple one – God understands. He understands our problem – our weakness – that there’s something wrong with us from the time of our birth. And he knows exactly what to do about it. His son – Jesus Christ – made our problem his own and dealt with it at the cross. God understands. Amen.