Funeral Sermon For A Nominal Member Served In Final Illness
FUNERAL SERMON FOR A NOMINAL MEMBER SERVED IN FINAL ILLNESS
Our Faithful God – 2 Timothy 2:11-13
Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we continue in him, we will also reign with him. If we deny him, he will also deny us. If we are faithless, he on his part will remain faithful, for he cannot deny himself.
You gather today as a family to say "Good-bye" to one who has been an important part of your lives in your family circle. God gave him to you and blessed you in many ways through him. And now God has called him away from you to stand before him.
This is an occasion for looking back over the years you shared with him and remembering. A mixture of feelings surely well up as you do so. Certainly there will be a sense of gratitude – a "Thank You" to God and to your loved one – for the many ways in which he influenced your lives for good, through service lovingly given and happily received. Truly, your life would not be what it is had he not been a part of it to influence you by word and example. (Personalize to the family situation.)
There will also be other emotions – as you remember difficulties and problems that you worked your way through together, or as you remember times when your relationship was not what it should have been. Perhaps, mingled with the "thank yous" there will also be a soft-spoken "I’m sorry" – which God will surely hear and cover with his forgiving love.
Closest to the surface in these days, of course, will be the deep sense of sorrow and loss. Life will be different for you because of the passing of your loved one. There will be an empty spot that only time and changing circumstance – and the grace of God – can fill. The loss of a loved one brings us to a clear awareness that life really finds meaning and purpose in the interaction between us and those who are near and dear to us. That’s what makes loss and grief so real and so penetrating. But standing near is a heavenly Father, awaiting our invitation to apply his own healing to our hurt, and promising us an interaction with him that gives our lives their ultimate meaning and purpose. That’s what’s behind the Bible’s assurance that "God works for good in everything for those who love him, those who are called according to his purpose."
As I remember ___, it surely will be as one to whom our Lord showed significant grace and mercy. ___ was a member of ___ Lutheran Church for many years. He was not, however, what we would call an active member, for he participated only occasionally in the congregation’s worship, and sometimes years passed before he would again accept the Lord invitation to his Holy Supper.
During my ministry at ___ I visited with ___ periodically, admonishing and encouraging him. I reminded him that in his Baptism, by God’s grace, he had died with Christ. He had been identified with Christ’s death on the cross so that his sins were forgiven and he had been given new life. I reminded him that in his Confirmation he had committed himself to live with Christ and had been blessed with the Holy Spirit’s power. And I reminded him that it was through contact with the Word and Sacrament that God’s gift of faith would be nourished and find its place at the center of his life.
___ was usually congenial as I visited him in this way, and there usually was some renewal of participation in the congregation’s life of worship – but in time, for whatever reason, his former pattern would return. And in time I would be making a pastoral visit again.
Paul wrote, "If we are faithless, God on his part will remain faithful, for he cannot deny himself." In this Paul was saying that God is God, and his nature and person and will are unchanging and unchangeable. This is true of his judgment of sin and faithlessness, and it is true of his gracious desire that sinners receive new life in Christ and continue with Christ throughout life. So Paul said in his trustworthy saying: "If we continue in Christ we will also reign with him," but he also had to say, "If we deny him, he will also deny us." It cannot be otherwise. God must be true to himself as God!
In the past weeks our Lord’s faithfulness to himself manifested itself in showing grace and mercy to one of his occasional disciples, ___. He did not call ___ to stand before him suddenly, but brought him to the end of his life through a lengthy illness. God gave him time – and he gave me time to provide a pastoral ministry of comfort and assurance in the Gospel. When a pastor visits with admonition there is always some tension. But ___ received my ministry of comfort and assurance in his last weeks with open arms and heart. Through Confession and Absolution he prepared his heart for the blessing of The Lord’s Supper, rejoicing to know the forgiving love of Jesus.
One of the Scriptures I shared with ___ was from Hebrews ten: "Since we have confidence to enter God’s Most Holy Place through the blood of Jesus, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful."
We are not saved, as some think, by being "good church members". We are saved by faith in the One who gave himself to be our Savior. But that faith is never far removed from life in the Church and its ministry of Word and Sacrament. The Hebrews passage goes on: "Let us consider how to stir one another on toward love and good works. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as we see Judgment Day approaching." That we are saved by faith does not give us license to ignore the Christian fellowship and just go it alone.
God was good and gracious to ___ in the circumstances of his last days among us. He was led to a sincere confession of faith and hope. Take comfort in that, for St. Paul wrote, "If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are made right with God, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."
And then be encouraged to have your mouth join your heart. Make it a point to not neglect the Church’s meeting together around Word and Sacrament. Draw near to God continually in full assurance of faith, holding unswervingly to the hope you profess, and being eager to stir others on and to be stirred on yourself toward love and good works.
___ was given time to stop and consider and confess. However, that is not something you and I should plan on. The time may not be given to us. Or, if it is given, there may not be in our hearts the inclination to respond. To us who hear the Word today, as we praise God for our brother’s response of faith and commend him to the Lord, the Bible’s encouragement is: "Now is the opportune time. Now is the day of salvation."