Funeral Sermon, Martha Wood/ Monday March 19th 2018
Text: Psalm 23
Theme: We belong to Him
Intr – Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to meet Jeff and Randy here at Church, when we sat down to talk and plan this Funeral Service. It was a good conversation where we settled the details about it. Among other things, we talked about Bible passages that we might be using today. As I asked if they would have a passage to suggest, there was less than half a second of silence before the answer came: Psalm 23. And there it is, in our Church Bulletins for today, one of the most cherished Bible passages around the world.
Psalm 23 brings the Word of God to our hearts in a special way, and interestingly enough, it comes from over 3 thousand years ago. For the last 3 millenia, millions and millions of people have resorted to it over and over again to be nurtured by its beautiful and powerful content.
Now, how come such an old text can be read still today with meaning for our time and meaning for our moment today, when we remember the blessings God bestowed over Martha’s life?
I could mention at least these four reasons:
Belonging – We all long to belong. We like to have the sense of belonging to our family history. We may belong to a Church, to a club, to a group of friends that share a common interest. We may belong to football teams and people who we love. We long to belong. Psalm 23 says “The Lord is my shepherd.” Which means that by faith I am his sheep. I belong to him. Martha was baptized. So from that day on she was connected to Christ. She belonged to Christ, not only until that Friday when she passed away, but forever. He is my shepherd, he is your Sheperd. We belong to Him.
Care and Comfort – The Psalm talks about the waters and pastures the Shepherd provides, how He anoints our head with oil, how He prepares a table with an overflowing cup. He cares about us. Who doesn’t like to receive care from a loving hand? Along 93 years of life, as a baptized Christian, how many times did Martha realize and dwell in the care the Good Shepherd provided for her? Not a few, I am sure. This same care that is extended to each one of us. Also, the Psalm states: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” - He walks with us. In times like these, when we lose a loved one, we know how important that is. To receive comfort, to be comforted in the hope of eternal life.
Goodness and mercy – In these rough and complicated times we live, with difficult situations to deal and cope with, it is reassuring to hear Psalm 23 assuring us that “Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”, we are reminded that in Christ we have those God’s promises. We are led by His hand so we can face even grief and sorrow as we face today with the goodness and mercy He provides for our hearts.
Life – We still go through death in this life. The existence of sin is proven everytime a person dies. The wages of sin is death. But the promise of God to all of us today, and always, is: Death is like a comma in a sentence, not like a period at the end of the sentence. Not a final point. Death is the penultimate word. The last word, in CHRIST, is always LIFE. Eternal Life. “I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever”, says David, the King, the writer of this beautiful Psalm. But even though we must go through it, when we belong to the shepherd, we know we will live. And also, that we can live right here, right know, under his care, comfort and love. Not because of merely human hopes, but because He promised us so.
Cc - Psalm 23. That was the answer from Jeff and Randy. And I was glad about the fortunate coincidence – or God-cidence: two weeks ago when I saw Martha for the first and for the last time in this side of heaven, Psalm 23 was one of the readings I shared with her. She went to meet her Saviour a couple days after she heard this passage; after she heard the Lord’s prayer once again. After she received the blessing of the Lord.
This is the same blessing, comfort and care, goodness and mercy and belonging that is close to our hearts as we remain in this world carrying on with our lives. No matter where we are, by faith in Christ, HE is our Shepherd and we are his sheep. Then, we know that belonging to the Good Sheperd we live in the assuredness that on the last day we will be reunited again we will live forever in the heavenly green pastures and still waters that the Good Sheperd has already prepared for us. Amen.