Jays Funeral Sermon
Life is confusing and hard. 36 years ago Patti, you were pregnant with Jay. I am sure as you felt Jay kick when he was inside your womb you dreamed of holding him, of smelling the clean, pure little baby smell that only babies have. I am sure the first time you held Jay after his birth you dreamed of what he would be when he grew up. Craig, as a father I know it was the same with you. Placing your hand on Patti’s tummy feeling jay kick and push against your hand. Already displaying his independent streak. Did you bend over and talk to Patti’s tummy? Where you amazed the first time you held Jay in your arms? Y’all watched him grow. At 4 years old, Jay battled bad guys saving his mommy and daddy. As a teenager, his first date. As a young man, moving out on his own. Today, you are at Jay’s funeral. How could this happen? Your Jay, gone.
Today is a tough day. One of many tough days that you will endure. Maybe you have been asking, “why did this happen?” I wish I could explain why Jay died so tragically and at such a young age.. This is a mystery that can’t be explained. We are not meant to understand everything. If we did, that would mean we are as wise as God. None of us is God. I can’t explain why this tragedy occurred but I do know this:
When you lose a parent, you lose your past.
When you lose a spouse, you lose your present….
But when you lose a child, you lose your future.
A wife who loses her husband is called a widow.
A husband who loses his wife is called a widower
A child who loses their parents is called an orphan
But there is no word for a parent who loses a child….That’s how awful the loss is.
As Christians we believe Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We believe God cares then we find ourselves in a situation where we think God has forgotten about us.
The question is how are you going to handle it now that you find yourself in this situation? Are you angry at Jay, angry at yourself, angry at God? I want you to know that I think it is ok to be angry for a time at God. Job was angry at God. He questioned God, but remember, even after his wife told him to, “Curse God and die.” Job responded, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. Are you going to allow your anger, and hurt to fester and push you away from friends, family and God? Share my anger at Mr. Depner. I want to read Luke 8:22-25.
One day Jesus said to his disciples, "Let's go over to the other side of the lake." So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Master, Master, we're going to drown!" He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?" he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, "Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him."
During the boat trip Jesus fell asleep. All of a sudden a squall came down on the lake. A squall is defined as a sudden, violent gust of wind, often accompanied by rain, sleet or snow or a sudden disturbance or commotion. This is eerily similar to what you are enduring today. So, the sea was churning. The boat was slippery so they could not hold on. The disciples were being thrown against each other. They couldn’t see because their hair was hanging in their eyes. They wiped their eyes in an attempt to see what was happening. Their clothes were heavy with water throwing off their balance. Describe Fiji experience with high waves. This was a frightening experience so the Disciples woke up Jesus saying, “Master, Master, we are going to drown.” The Disciples were scared they were going to die. Jesus then calmed the storm and asked a question, “Where is your faith?” I ask you the same question. Jesus expects us to put our faith to work in the most difficult situations.
We should refuse to panic because of our faith. The boat was being swamped. Their fear was real. As believers we have something no one else possesses. We have the promise that God is with us even when the storm we find ourselves in does not make sense.
Faith can proceed without answers. We try so hard to piece together what happened Sunday night, and little by little some of those pieces are coming together. And yet, there are a lot of answers that escape us. We don't really know what happened in Tennessee, and certainly the answers to the bigger questions escape us: Why did it have to happen? And how in the world can we make sense out of this? There are no answers to those questions.
So what do you do when you don't have answers? Do you tell God, “You'd better give me one good reason why this has happened. And if you don't, I'm going to hold it against you. I'll never trust you again." No. Faith does something different. Faith weeps... Faith grieves... Faith hurts... But then faith goes on from there. Faith remembers we don't have answers, but remembers that God said he is holy... Faith remembers that God said he is sovereign... Faith remembers that God said he is always trustworthy... Faith remembers that God said he cares for us... Faith remembers that God sent his Son, Jesus, to die for our salvation... And faith remembers that that God the Son, Jesus, said he is the Resurrection and the life... And Faith remembers that he said he will never desert us... He will never forsake us. He will never leave us. And I believe that. And so even though I don't have answers, I will trust him. I know he is to be trusted, and I will go ahead trusting, even without answers. That's what faith does.Faith accepts the fact that our life will include tough times, unhappy moments.
In Luke 8 the disciples were frightened. They were in a storm that they wanted to end. They cried out to Jesus to save them. In Luke 9, you will read about these same Disciples being sent out as courageous and effective missionaries. I think there is a connection between these two events. God was busy at work in their lives in the midst of that storm. That fruit can be seen in Luke 9. You must remember that today.
Finally, Faith allows us to look at God and not the storm. We realize that our faith or relationship with God is far more important than getting answers to our questions. I know this is difficult. It took a long time for me to not want to know why Eva, Daniel, Tiffany and Dallis were killed August 21, 1999 and I survived. I am not bragging but it is impossible for me to be alive. Less than ½ of 1% of the people who sustain one of my neck fractures survive. I broke my neck in 4 places. I asked so many questions. If I wasn’t in such a hurry for the kids to get in my microbus maybe they would still be alive. If I had say yes to Tiffany when she pleaded to ride just one more ride. Why was Mr. Depner on the road that night?
I still struggle with the fact that my daughter Abigaele Eden’s due date was 8/21/05. Yes, the anniversary of the accident. Abigaele had Trisomy 18, a chromosomal disorder that is not conducive for life. She lived for 38 hrs and 24 min and died in my arms. I ask God, “How could you allow Mollie and I to believe, to have hope that something wonderful would happen on 8/21 then dash our hopes just weeks later.” Trust me, I know how difficult this is. I know every time I see the pain in my wife’s eyes. I know it every time Elijah tells me, “I have a sister in heaven with Jesus. Her name is Abbey.” I know every time I see a little girl that would be Abbey’s age.
All of my questions led me further and further away from God. I no longer focused on him but on myself and my pain. My desire for retribution. My desire for me to be made whole through revenge. I looked inward and not upward.
I know you may feel abandoned by God. I see it in your eyes. Draw strength from the fact that Jesus felt the same. Matthew 27:46 says, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Just think, when Jesus felt the most abandoned by God is when He was being used the most for our sake, for our salvation. He served as the substitute for our sins. Remember in John 11:35, Jesus wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus. Jesus grieved. We stand at Jay’s grave grieve for him, a son, a grandson, a friend.
I can’t answer the question ‘why’ Jay died. Faith doesn’t need to demand answers from God. Having the answers would not lessen your pain, confusion and loss. Share Abbey dying in my arms. Faith can grieve and hurt and remember that God is sovereign and holy. We can live without knowing the answers to our questions, but not without knowing God.
We know God through Jesus Christ, So, I point you to Christ Jesus because He is the answer to the ultimate question. Where will you spend all of eternity? I pray that He will be with you. I pray that you accept Him as your personal Savior if you haven’t. I pray that in your grief you will depend on Jesus, that He will become your treasure. Gary, I know that you pride yourself on pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. I look at your hands with thick calluses, knurled knuckles and multiple scars. Patti, I know that you are angry. I ask that neither of you nor anyone else allow Jay’s death to cause you to turn your back on God. Remember, we see death as a disaster. When Jesus Christ sees death, He sees deliverance. Gary, Patti, I know it is not in your nature to ask for help. Craig, I have not met you prior to today but my first impression of you tells me you are the same. Gary, I remember a conversation we had approximately 6 weeks after the accident. You told me that it scared you because I was home all alone. Each night the only light in my house was from the candles that I lit. The flames casting a ghostly pale on the walls of my house that frightened you. You were right to be frightened. We need to grieve as a community not alone where our thoughts, our anger, our fear can take root slowly, insidiously snake its way inside our hearts, our soul. Fouling everything it touches until we are not recognizable. The death of a child is too big for anyone to handle alone. Reach out to family, friends and God. Don’t grieve alone. Once again, we can look to Jesus as our example. In Mt 26:38 it says, “My soul (this is Jesus talking) is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Jesus asks Peter, James and John to “come to a quiet place with him. Jesus needed some brothers to pray with him and hold him up.” Ask people to hold you up. To be Jesus with skin on for you. Ask Jesus to hold you up. That goes for everyone here. Be assured you have no reason to fear because Jesus is invincible and will never leave us, never leave you.
That's the heart of it all. God has made it clear how we can know that we belong to him through Jesus. He made that clear through the Cross…, dying there for our sins. He made it clear by the empty tomb… He was raised so we could be raised…. And he made it clear by the Gospels…, in which he calls all of us during these years that he gives us on this planet to repent of our sins and trust him as Savior and put our lives into his hands as Lord…. Doing that is far more important than getting answers to all of the questions that whirl around us today.
Jesus is holding Jay right now. Is Jesus holding you? If not, and you want Jesus to hold you, to be your personal savior then I ask that you silently pray this prayer with me..
I admit that I am a sinner…..<pause, 1, 2, 3>
I have done many things that don’t please you…..<pause, 1, 2, 3>
I have lived my life for myself…... <pause, 1, 2, 3>
I am sorry and I repent….. <pause, 1, 2, 3>
I ask you to forgive me……<pause, 1, 2, 3>
I believe that you died on the cross for me, to save me…... <pause, 1, 2, 3>
You did what I could not do for myself…… <pause, 1, 2, 3>
I come to you now and ask you to take control of my life….,<pause, 1, 2, 3>
I give it to you…... <pause, 1, 2, 3>
Help me to live every day in a way that pleases you…... <pause, 1, 2, 3>
I love you, Lord….. <pause, 1, 2, 3>
and I thank you that I will spend all eternity with you….. <pause, 1, 2, 3>