Funeral/Dick Parker (Father-in-law)
1 John 3:1-2 (Epistle)/Josh. 24:14-15 (Chosen by the Deceased)
Focus: God calls us His children throughout our lives and for eternity through the resurrection.
Function: That the hearers rejoice as children of God and have hope in His resurrection.[DS1]
Sermon Structure: Problem/Solution
We’re here today to remember and thank God for a special man, my father-in-law, Richard Parker. Dick has been more than a father-in-law to me. [DS2] He truly was a special man in the way that he trusted and put his hope in Jesus Christ our Lord, and I, like all of you here today, will miss him dearly. One of the reasons I’m standing here speaking to you today is because of the encouragement, support, and love of this special man. [DS3] He is gone from us now, for he goes to be with Jesus and we can be sure that we will see him again at the time of the resurrection[DS4] .. This we know through the word of God. What we can be certain of is that there is no sting of death, it is gone. This death is merely a separation of his soul from his body. He is with his Lord and dawns the crown of eternal life. Now what did God give us through the life of Dick Parker?
[DS5] He was very social. He liked to be around people. He could be dogged determined and focused. Sometimes he could overbid in Pinochle…Okay;, no one could overbid in Pinochle like Dick. He loved the Lord and wanted to share his message of salvation with others. He loved this wonderful womanlady, Joanie, and their three beautiful daughters and nine grandchildren. You’ve probably all seen his license plate, GRAMPS 9. It’s a testament to his love for his family. He loved them as a child of God and with the knowledge that they were also children of God. He served His Lord through serving his family[DS6] .
We all aren’t perfect, as Dick wasn’t perfect. He made mistakes, (I mentioned the overbidding in Pinochle). He had his worries and regrets. What I admire most about Dick was that he lived his life “...as unto the Lord”. He knew the forgiveness of the Cross and he was not shy about sharing that message of forgiveness with anyone he met.
[DS7] There are times when we wonder if anyone understands our lives and what we are all about. I think Dick sometimes questioned whether or not people knew what was really important to him. I believe this is typical of us Christians. We live our lives loving our Lord, raising our families, doing our work, and yet do we display a clear witness of our faith? Do people know who’s we are? Are we just seen as strange or even a bit loony? I think the world doesn’t understand us because we are not of the world.
Our Epistle verse today speaks of this dilemma. [DS8] John explains that our Lord has lavished His love on us and plucked us out of this world to become one of His. His child! [DS9] Now this should give us incredible clout in this world, now that we are the children of the creator of the universe… Well, that must mean we have the run of the place. I mean, hey, He is the “King of Kings,” the maker of all things! But it turns out the world doesn’t know Him. Those that are not believers never knew Him and have no idea who He is. Therefore, we do not have the rights of a prince, or princess in this world as the children of God. As a matter of fact, we seem to have fewer rights as Christians, especially in some of the other countries of this world. Yet this passage teaches us that we are “children of God” and when He comes again we will be like Him, and not only that, we will see Him as He is! I know Dick knew this teaching.
He went about His life as though he understood this great love that our Lord has for all of us. He knew that he was saved by the grace of God through his baptism. He just kept on serving His Lord even when people cocked their heads to the side like dogs that don’t seem to understand what they are hearing or seeing. He always seemed to want to help his fellow man even when it seemed a strange thing to do. I have been the recipient of this help countless times, and I know many of you have also. But, I really believe his greatest joy came from helping people he didn’t even know. It always seemed to be against the grain of the world and when he did it in front of me I was convicted by the fact that it was against the grain of what I would have done. Especially when he would share his faith with anyone we met together. Yet this is what we are to do as Christians right…share our faith. But the world doesn’t necessarily seem to be too keen on this. In fact, we can get into trouble nowadays when we share our faith. This is because the world does not know Jesus Christ and therefore they do not know us. Dick loved to share Christ with others he met. Whether it was; with his neighbors, at the gym in the Jacuzzi after his 6AM workout, at the gas station, or even in the hardware store. Wherever, he wanted to try to pass on his understanding of who Jesus was. As children of God that is what we are called to do, even if the world doesn’t understand what we are doing. In Dick’s life, you could see Christ’s love and Christ at work in his life.
[DS10] Dick chose to have us read Joshua 24:14 and 15. Gabrielle (or Luke-his eldest Grandchildren) read the whole passage for you. I’m going to highlight verse 14a and 15b[DS11] .
“Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness...But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Often people are defined by their job or what they do. You know, this guy, oh, he’s a lawyer, a baker, he works at the sawmill, etc. With Dick, he could only really be defined by how he saw himself, who he was. A child of God. He always seemed to be wearing a pin, a shirt, or a hat that told people whosewho’s he was. There is a book that Dick enjoyed entitled God At Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life, by Gene Edward Veith. The book talks about living your life for the Glory of God. It details that in every aspect, every role, even the very ordinary areas of our lives you have an opportunity to serve Christ. I states, “In each task He has given us-in our workplaces, and families, our churches and society-God Himself is at work.”
That was Dick. Not defined by his roles, work, or jobs, but being Christ’s representative in every aspect of his life. You can see it in his life as he served in the church as President or property director, in the insights and wisdom he shared at the Lifelight Bible studies he attended.
You can witness his legacy of serving in his children’s families. His Daughter, Peggi, and her family sharing their gifts of music, Jackie and the Andersons, as missionaries in Nigeria serving the widows and orphans. As I preach and proclaim God’s Good News of forgiveness you can know that Dick’s love and encouragement helped me be here and these other children continue to serve the Lord and remember that we are children of God no matter what the world has to say about it.
We have this same knowledge that Dick had. We know that we are children of God and He loves every single one of us no matter what our flaws and faults are. [DS12] He has called us to be His children and we have the resurrection to look forward to just as Dick does. We only have to serve Him through serving His people until that day comes. His coming again is the time in which we will witness His glory and the greatness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is the hope that we have. Christ is the final climactic ending to all death in this world and the victory over all sin. This is when we will see the redemption of all of His creation.
In Dick’s life you can see the message in both 1 Jn. and Josh. 24...
“Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness. This is because we are loved lavishly and He calls us children of God through our baptism.
Thanks for your self-reflections on your own struggles with this sermon. I appreciate the fact that you are aware of the struggle with coherence in this piece. While it does not help the sermon as a whole, it does demonstrate that you are growing in your ability to critically evaluate your own work and I would agree with your assessment.
In terms of the funeral sermon, you do well in this sermon to offer us concrete references to Dick’s life. That part of the sermon is quite clear. Dick, according to your proclamation, was a model of Christian witness and also of Christian vocation. Your sermon does well to highlight particular aspects of the life of the deceased and incorporate them into our reflection on his life and death. This allows the hearers a moment to think about Dick, in terms of God’s gifts and works through him, and to offer a prayer of thanks to God for his gracious working. The only problem, however, is that this aspect of the sermon is much much too long. The sermon almost has moved out of the realm of a sermon and into the realm of a eulogy. You speak praiseworthy things about Dick, but seem to offer only a glance toward the hearers. When you do glance at the hearers, notice how you are not really treating the issue of grief or mourning but rather are treating the topic of evangelism or Christian witness. Here, Mark, you will want to really think about this situation. At the funeral, the hearers will be grieving the loss of one they loved and they will be confronted with death and its pain and will be seeking a word of comfort from God. This sermon, rather than naming that problem and pointing to Christ, instead points to the problem of witnessing in the Christian life and uses Dick as an example to show us how to live. This is inappropriate. You want to actually preach the death and resurrection of Christ to comfort your hearers in a time of great loss; in this sermon. Otherwise, it could appear to many people that you are preaching Dick’s life to teach us how to live and, for some, this could actually backfire and make them feel guilty as they think about their lives in comparison to the deceased.
So, my suggestion in terms of the funeral sermon in general and this one in particular is to allow the sermon to have a very specific text that you offer us early on in the sermon. Let the dynamic of the sermon be one where you recognize our situation of grief and offer us a word from God that changes how we view things, that brings us comfort in Christ’s death and resurrection and offers us hope in the future raising of the dead. As you do this, you may, if the individual who has died is one who has lived a strong witness to the faith as Dick did, make some references to how God was at work in the life of the deceased but I would avoid using the deceased as an example on how we need to live and I would avoid having our problem be something other than our suffering in the face of this loss, this death . . . our grieving. For me, this sermon seems to treat the problem of Christian witness in post-Christian America, a problem for which Dick’s life is an example of a solution and he leads the way. More work with a clear text, a clear proclamation of Christ, and a clear focus upon how the work of Christ brings comfort to those who are grieving is what you will want to offer in your funeral sermons in the future. I can understand how your personal relationship to Dick may have clouded your judgment in this case (along with the fact that you are preaching at an imaginary funeral and are not really thinking of speaking to people who you know are grieving and at a loss for what to do because of this death). It may be that (1) less of a familial and more of a pastoral connection to the deceased and (2) a more realistic experience of the needs of hearers who are suffering loss will strengthen your work in the future. This, indeed, is a hard assignment and I’m sorry that the personal relationship and references seemed to overtake the proclamation in this sermon of the work of God in Christ to comfort those who mourn.
[DS1]It seems to me that your goal in this sermon is that the hearers witness to others about their faith. That seems to be your primary concern.
[DS2]This is always a bit difficult in funeral preaching: preaching at the funeral of a relative (and you will actually probably want to be worshiping at the service rather than preaching at it in cases such as this). If this were to happen, you may want to reference yourself first in terms of your Christian relationship to Dick (you are his pastor) rather than your familial relationship. The reason I say this is that a family member speaking at a funeral is often seen as a eulogy and you want to make clear that this is not a eulogy but a sermon, preached by a pastor, for a Christian who has died.
[DS3]It seems to me that this might have been a good concrete story to share for people later in the sermon – you could help us see how Dick pointed you to Christ and then proclaim how Christ is there for all of us this day.
[DS4]Good work here in working with the language that we can use about death and resurrection. You are helping us state that which we know to be comforting and yet also pointing to the great comfort that we receive at the resurrection of the dead.
[DS5]At this point, your sermon seems to go wrong and become a eulogy rather than a sermon. Instead of asking at this point in the sermon what God gave us through Dick, you will want to be asking what God says to us through his word that brings comfort this day. That way, our focus will be on God and his word of comfort this day and that will then enable us to see God at work in the life of Dick, and now in our lives through Jesus Christ.
[DS6]I appreciate the types of references that you are offering here. I think you do well to offer a bit of light humor that is very concrete and also to point toward Dick’s faith in your description here. The problem, however, is that these appear to be random events that you are listing without much reason for the order in which you offer them. Notice how the randomness causes the message of salvation to get lost in the midst of a game of cards.
[DS7]This is the one point that you will want to develop more fully for us and that you will want to develop after you have chosen a text to guide our reflection in this sermon.
[DS8]This seems rather strange to me. Right now, your hearers are mourning the loss of a loved one. The real deep felt need in their lives is God’s comfort in the midst of grief. The sermon at this point seems to move into a separate sermon on evangelism and witnessing, as if that is the main problem or struggle that people are having at this point.
[DS9]If this is one of your verses, I would clearly state this verse and actually open the body of the sermon with this verse and the teaching that you are then going to use from it for the rest of the sermon. It seems buried away at this point and underdeveloped for the hearers. Also notice how I think this is really part of the gospel proclamation of your sermon (we are God’s children) and yet this is not clearly proclaimed for us, even in the face of our sorrow over death. Law/gospel dynamics need to be more carefully thought through here.
[DS10]Notice how the sermon seems to be using Dick in a “third use of the law” way for the hearers at this point. He is an example for us, showing us how to live. Again, you will want to think about the comfort that people need at this point in the sermon and how Christ provides that comfort through his death and resurrection.
[DS11]Here, I think I can see how you are beginning another sermon on another passage relating to Dick. Again, notice how this passage points to a eulogy about Dick’s life (and God’s work in it) and less to a sermon proclaiming God’s work in Christ for us that brings us comfort this day.
[DS12]How do we know that we are God’s children? Here is where you will want to proclaim the gospel for us.