Blog / Book of the Month / Alexander Honey Funeral Sermon - Psalm 23 November 12th 2022 / For You are with me

Alexander Honey Funeral Sermon - Psalm 23 November 12th 2022 / For You are with me

Alexander Honey Funeral Sermon - Psalm 23 November 12th 2022 / For You are with me

Alexander Honey Funeral Sermon / Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Saturday November 12th 2022: Season of Pentecost / Psalm 23, "For You are with me"

          The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

                    He makes me lie down in green pastures.

          He leads me beside still waters.

                    He restores my soul.

          He leads me in paths of righteousness

                   for His name’s sake. 

          Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

                   I will fear no evil,

          for you are with me;

                   your rod and your staff,

                   they comfort me.     

          You prepare a table before me

                   in the presence of my enemies;

          you anoint my head with oil;

                   my cup overflows.

          Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

                   all the days of my life,

          and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD


Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Family and Friends of Alexander Honey, later we will lift up our voices in prayer and sing, “Stay with us, till night has come … Bless our bread, Open our eyes: Jesus, be our great surprise.”[1] We have all been caught off guard; this accident that ended Alex’s life so suddenly and unexpectedly, crushes the soul and frightens the mind, it makes the spirit angry, and mixes our hearts with a confusing combination of grief, joyful reminiscing, weeping, appreciation, sadness, giving thanks for the man Alex proved to be and if you are the praying type it also brings forth prayers.

All these emotions, all these thoughts, all these minuets that feel like hours and hours that blur by like minutes provide an opportunity for each of us to consider the words of promise found in the 23rd Psalm. “Stay with us, till night has come …” in the Psalm we hear how the Good Shepherd, who in our Gospel reading is revealed to be none other than Jesus Himself the very Son of God,[2] is there with us day in and day out: how He leads us, comforts us, follows after us, watches over us, restores our soul, and even walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death so we need not fear the evils of the World, promising all along the way never to leave us alone. The one baptised into Christ Jesus receives the promise that Jesus Himself will be with them every hour, every minute of the day and no matter what the circumstances of their death the Christian does not die alone. And we who are left, who continue to live in this life, we are not left alone either. And knowing the answer before we ask it, yet still needing to be comforted and reassured, we pray to Jesus saying “Stay with us, till night has come …” trusting that He will stay with us, and not only stay with us till night has come but all through the night and into the next day too, “[Walking] with us, [when] our spirits sigh: [hearing us] when our weary spirits cry, [so when we] feel again [and again] our loss, our pain: [That this Good Shepherd] Jesus, [will] take us to [His] side.” That He will be right there with us, never leaving us alone.

This 23rd Psalm, and the promises found there, were important to Alex, he had them tattooed on the inside of his bicep with a cross as part of a sleeve showing the gates of heaven opening and a guardian angel emblazed with his grandfathers initials, so it is fitting that we hear them today and think on them and what they mean for us.

Over and over again Jesus makes promises to us, we find these promises not just in Psalm 23 but all over the place in the Bible. As we heard in the Gospel of Saint John Jesus says, that all those given to Him by His heavenly Father, all those who belong to Him, that He Himself gives them eternal life, that they will never perish, and that no one will snatch them out of His almighty hand.[3] That’s a promise.

Speaking to Martha the grieving sister of His dear friend Lazarus who had died Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”[4] He said to her, “I Am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die,” [and then He asked her] “Do you believe this?”[5] Just days later before His own death upon the cross of Good Friday Jesus said to His disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.”[6] These too are promises.

And then when He had risen from the dead on that first Easter Morning, when He had resurrected from the dead, this flesh and blood Jesus brought peace and forgiveness and comfort to those He loved before ascending to heaven departing with these words, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I Am with you always, to the end of the age.”[7] That is a promise.

This is the Jesus into whom Alexander was baptised, this same Jesus who faced a brutal death at the age of 33, the One who Death could not hold, the One who says, “I am The Way, and The Truth, and The Life,”[8]  makes these promises. Back on May 5th 1991 Alexander received the gift of eternal life in His baptism and all the promises of Jesus were added to him that day, so when Jesus the Good Shepherd says no one will snatch His sheep out of His hands that includes Alex. Drawing from these promises Saint Paul provides these words of encouragement amidst all the daily distractions saying to the baptised, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”[9] Last Saturday was not the end of the story for Alex and today is not the end of the story for you.

As we walk now this unexpected bend in the road we look forward to the end of our weeping, and we are invited to turn to Jesus to lift the heavy cross of our grief. I mentioned that song, “Stay With Us,” that we’ll sing together at the end of our service and in the forth verse we’ll pray to Jesus, as we sing, asking Him to, “Talk with us, till we behold a joyful life You will unfold: [We’ll pray] Heal our eyes to see the prize: Jesus, take us to the light.” Now maybe there is something in those words that jump out at you? “Heal our eyes to see the prize” Maybe you’ve heard something like that from Alex: “Keep your eyes on the prize!” He would want you to take that encouragement seriously today as much as he would any day: to be healed from your pain at his sudden death and to grab hold of what is right in front of you in this life, and I’ll add to grab hold of what is promised to you in Christ. Online Kyle, Alex’s brother-in-law, Lindsay’s husband, reflecting on this way of approaching life and thinking about Alex said of him, “you had no idea [when you left your house that day, how] you would be teaching so many people so many valuable life lessons. Don't take any day for granted. Live life to the fullest. Don't sweat the small things. Make time for your people.” If someone was struggling, if they needed encouragement, if they needed words of perspective to get them going in the right direction, whether it was in sports, or in work, or in life, Alex was ready to provide those words. He was wise beyond his years and had a way about him that cared for the one in need: Today you are in need, in need of comfort and peace. So here we go: At the cross Jesus kicked Death’s teeth in and Death doesn’t get the final word, not on Alex, not on you. Jesus is the Life, He promised Alex life in his baptism and that’s what Alex has in Christ. This is a promise for you as well. And for today as we live this life we remember what Saint John writes, “We love because [God] first loved us.”[10] What are we to make of these words? From everything I have heard regarding Alex it’s safe to say Alex had a lot of love for the people around him, and if you are here to support the family and you didn’t have the good pleasure to be on the receiving end of that love, remember the source of that love and think about these words from Psalm 23 where the Psalmist says, “my cup overflows.”[11] The love of God poured into Alex overflowed onto practically everyone he came into contact with, take that to heart as you make time for your people, as you learn not to sweat the small things, as you endeavour to live life to the fullest and strive to never take any day for granted. May your hearts likewise overflow with such love to the benefit of everyone around, and may you have eyes to see this and be thankful for it.

In this life we don’t know how many days we have: For the Christian eternal life starts not at the hour of death but rather in the hour that faith is given to us as a gift,[12] and each day we are called to live courageously, giving our all in praise of God and in love for everyone around us,[13] trusting that Jesus our Good Shepherd perfectly gave His all for us. And when we fail at this our forgiveness is in this same Jesus. Whether Alex talked about it or not having those words from Psalm 23 tattooed into his skin, having the opening gates of heaven tattooed into his skin, tells us that Alex knew where he was going in the end and he knew whose Almighty hand he was in. Be thankful for the time you shared together with Alex and for all the wonderful experiences you now hold dear in your hearts, and look forward to what is to come, remembering the last words of Psalm 23, where the Psalmist says with confidence after contemplating the valley of the shadow of death and the ups and downs of this life, “I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” “[Lord] teach us to number our days that we may [likewise] get a heart of wisdom.”[14] Amen.    

Let us pray:

Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] Stay With Us, Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House 2006, #879
[2] John 10:10:14-16, 27-30
[3] John 10:28
[4] John 11:23
[5] John 11:25–26
[6] John 14:1–3
[7] Matthew 28:18–20
[8] John 14:6
[9] Colossians 3:2–4
[10] 1 John 4:19
[11] Psalm 23:5
[12] Ephesians 2:8–10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
[13] Matthew 22:37-40
[14] Psalm 90:12

Photo Credits: Main Photo provided by the family and Mount Olive Lutheran Church; Photo of Alex provided by family; detail of Shepherd from pexels; detail of Painting of Jesus Crucified from pexels; detail of Painting of Jesus Risen on Easter Day from pexels; detail of Marble statue of The Good Shepherd carrying a lamb, c. 300-350, from the Catacombs of Domitilla from wikimedia.