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SERMONS FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS AND ISSUES
FUNERAL SERMON FOR A SUDDEN INFANT DEATH
By Rev. Richard J. Fairchild

   The following service was a baby girl who died suddenly at 42 days
   of age.  The service was held, as is normal in these circumstances,
   well before the final autopsy results were available.   SIDS (Sudden
   Infant Death Syndrome) is a diagnosis of last resort - and of course
   a difficult one to make and/or to accept.  The following reflects
   on the kinds of issues that thus arise - issues that can be
   generalized to any death among the very young.  The names have been
   changed in what follows.  The fact that the very young parents were 
   not church going folk has little impact on the following - nor would
   I suggest should it. 

   The funeral director, not much given to praise, commented afterwards
   that this was one of the best services he has attended for a young
   child.  I, and the family, and indeed our larger community, are
   deeply indebted to the Internet community and especially to two
   persons who shared their funeral sermon for an infant with me when I
   asked for help here on-line.  They are  Paul Larsen
   (paullarsen@mediaone.net) who reminded me in his sermon for a young boy 
   of the inappropriate things people say, and  Marjory MacMartin
   (marj.macmartin@sympatico.ca) who provided the rose image and other 
   helpful ideas.

   Note that the child was cremated and the ashes, along with
   photographs and so forth were present in the church.   Also note
   that the music choice was given over to the young parents - who are
   not church going folk.  The selections of contemporary rock music
   worked very well - but can obviously be replaced by other pieces.


           FUNERAL OR MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR MARIE ANNE JOHNSON
                   Born 2001 - Age 42 days - Died 2001


ENTRANCE OF FAMILY


INTRODUCTION:
Friends and Family - members of the community, within the healing embrace
of God's love we have gathered here to remember of life of Marie Anne
Johnson and to entrust her into God's eternal care, knowing that God's good
purpose for his people cannot be defeated by sin and death.  We are all
children of God, and in the faith that God has given to us, we turn to God
now asking for his comfort and his grace to be upon us - and to dwell in a
special way upon Shawna and upon those who were privileged to love Marie
during her brief stay with us upon this earth.. 


LET US BOW OUR HEADS IN PRAYER:  Compassionate and loving God, yours is the
beauty of childhood and yours is the fullness of years.   Comfort us in our
sorrow, strengthen us with hope, and breathe peace into our troubled
hearts.   Assure us that the love we had for Marie was not in vain - indeed
make it a part of the store of goodness you are even now pouring out upon
her in your eternal kingdom.  Indeed help us to bless you for the gift you
gave us in her, for the joy she gave all who knew her, for the memories
that will abide with us, and for the assurance that she lives forever in
the joy and peace of your presence.   Guide us through this time of sadness
with the light of your love and the strength of your compassion - we ask it
in the name of Christ Jesus.  Amen.


CD - SONG 
Joan and Doug have picked three songs that have meaning for them during
this time of sorrow.  We will now hear the first of these - a song entitled
"Mirror, Mirror".


SCRIPTURE AND WORDS OF CONSOLATION/EULOGIES
Listen to these words from the Holy Bible, words written by the Apostle
Paul as he considered the perils of human life and the sorrows that
overcome it - and within these - the love of God as revealed through Christ
Jesus - who died on the cross that we might live - and rose from the dead
that we might never die.

   I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth
   comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.  We know that
   in everything that God works for the good with those who love him,
   who are called according to his purpose.  

   What then shall we say to this?  If God is for us, who is against
   us?  He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for us
   all, will he not also give us all things with him?  Who shall
   separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or
   distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or peril, or
   sword?  No - in all these things we are more than conquerors through
   him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor
   angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come,
   nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all
   creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ
   Jesus our Lord.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God.  Knowing this - in our sorrow
today - we give thanks to God for the inheritance that Marie, though but a
tender infant, has received from God's hands.  We  thank God, not for
taking her from us - for it is not God's will that anyone should perish -
but rather for granting her a place with all the saints - a place where,
when our time is over - we may join her and know  the fullness of that
which, in our life here, we had just begun to know.

As we continue this service of remembering and of calling upon God to
comfort us in our sorrow, I invite  any of you who are present now to share
any thoughts and feelings you have regarding Marie that may help us to
remember and encourage us - and especially Joan and Doug and their families
- in the coming days.


EULOGIES - (two were given by a two teams of two teenaged or close to teenaged
 men and women)

 
CD - SONG
Let us now hear the second of the songs chosen for today - the song "Arms
Wide Open"


SCRIPTURE
I would like now to share with you two brief scripture readings and then
say a few words about them and about what we do this day.  

The first reading is taken from the Gospel According To Matthew - in the
18th Chapter.  It goes likes this:

   At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the
   greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a child, whom he
   put among them, and said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change
   and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of
   heaven.  Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest
   in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my
   name welcomes me.

   "Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I
   tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my
   Father in heaven.  What do you think?  If a shepherd has a
   hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave
   the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that
   went astray?  And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices
   over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 
   So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these
   little ones should be lost.

The second reading is taken from the book of the Prophet Isaiah and speaks
of the time when the Kingdom of God is fully established upon the earth. 
In it we hear the voice of God speaking of that time which is yet to come: 


    "Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth" (says the Lord)
   "The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to
   mind.  But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I
   will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.  I will
   rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of
   weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.  Never again will
   there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who
   does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be
   thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be
   considered accursed.   They will build houses and dwell in them;
   they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

This is the word of God, 
Thanks be to his name.  Amen.


SERMON
During the last week as each of us considered the untimely death of baby
Marie our hearts have been full of questions - chief amongst them being
"how did this happen?" and "why did this happen?"  These questions  have
not only been in the hearts and minds of Joan and Doug and their families,
but upon the lips of many of you  who are here today - and indeed they have
been heard throughout our community.

We are not here today to answer these questions - even if we could.
Rather we are here to mourn - to mourn and to commend Marie into God's
care, and to ask God to help us - and to most especially help Joan and Doug
through this tragedy.

In the most beautiful of gardens, even those tended by the most skillful of
botanists, there is an occasional rose that buds, but never opens.  In all
respects the rose is like all the others,  but something keeps it from
blooming.  It fades away - or disappears - without having reached maturity. 

What happens in nature's garden happens once in a while also in the garden
of God's human family.  A baby is born, beautiful, precious, but fails to
come to its rightful unfolding.  This child, like the bud that never fully
opens, is gathered back into God's heavenly garden of souls - where all
imperfections are made perfect; all injustices made right; all mysteries
are explained; and all sorrows turned to happiness.

Today we mourn our loss of such a child.  We weep, just as Jesus himself
wept at the death of his friend Lazarus.  Even if we knew the answers to
the questions that rise so naturally to our hearts and minds at times like
this, there still would be no adequate explanation for this loss.  It is
painful.

And I believe it is also painful to God, who created the world intending
for it to be perfect.   As Jesus himself said in the reading that I shared
earlier: "It is not the will of your  Father that one of these little ones
should perish." 

And, as promised to us by God through the prophet Isaiah, there will come a
time when there is a new heaven and a new earth - a time when never again
will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who
does not live out his years - a time so glorious in its presence that a
person who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; and they who
fail to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. 

But this is not yet that time.

Rather this is the time when heaven yet remains above - and the earth
below; the time when the joy of eternal life is only experienced in its
fullness once our mortal bodies perish, much as a flower can come forth
only after a seed or bulb is planted in the earth and loses its form.

There are angels above.  Angels who watch over the little ones of this
earth.  Jesus speaks of them when he tells his disciples to be careful not
to think less of little children simply because they are little children,
for in heaven, he says,  their angels continually see the face of my Father
in heaven.

There is a special place in the heart of God and amongst the angels for the
little ones of this world
just as there is a special place in our hearts today for Marie.

And so we weep at what has happened.  
And so too - God weeps with us.

What can be said that might ease the pain or assuage the grief that you -
and all of us feel today?

There isn't much we can say that will help.
We can express our sympathy and sorrow.
We can offer words of love, care and concern.
We can say we will pray for you.
But other than that we don't know what to say about these things.

Maybe it is because people don't know what to say that they sometimes say
the wrong things.
   
Some people may say that Marie's death at this time was God's will.  Don't
believe them.  The God we worship, the God who watches over us, doesn't
will the death of babies or the pain of their parents.  Many, many things
that happen in this world are not the will of God. That is part of the
price of the freedom we have been given by God.

Some people may say to you that God wanted Marie in heaven with him.  While
I am confident God has welcomed Marie into his kingdom, I am sure God did
not want her to die right now so that He could have her there.

Some people may seek to comfort you by saying to you that you are young and
that you can have other children.  That may be true, but other children
will not replace Marie.  She was her own person.  The empty place her death
has left in your heart will not be filled simply because you have another
child.  Nor should it be.  Every child is unique and precious.

I am sure the people who say things like this say them with a desire to
comfort.  They want to say something that will help.  Bless them for it  -
but know that we are faced with a mystery - the mystery of life - and of
death - in which there are no easy answers.

"What" then, "are we to say to these things?"  

What St. Paul answers is,   "If God is for us, who is against us?  He who
                            did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up
                            for all of us, will he not with him also give
                            us everything else?"

It is important to know that God is for you.  God did not do this to you. 
God did not will Marie's death or your pain.  But God is with you in the
midst of it all and will help you through it.  God is for you.  What is
more, God gave up his own son for us all.  

Joan and Doug, God understands your pain.  God had a son who died also. 
Jesus died on the cross for us. 

Now, you may think, "Sure, but Jesus rose from the dead."  Well, because
Jesus rose to new life you can be confident that Marie has new life also,
one that can never be snatched away from her - or from you.

Today - in our grief - know - as your father said some days ago now - there
is another angel in heaven.  Cling to that hope - that promise of our God -
and allow your tears to wash away the pain in the days and months to come.


PRAYER
Heavenly Father, whose Son Jesus Christ did take little children  into his
arms and bless them; we thank you that you gave Marie to us, even for a
brief time; and we thank you that you caused our hearts to love her. We
praise and bless you for the assurance that you have received her to
yourself, and that you will keep her now and always.
        
O God, whose compassion never fails; we commend to you those who mourn,
especially Joan and Doug.  We remember too ... family member names.... and
all the family members who have been denied the joy of seeing Marie blossom
and grow in our midst.   Grant unto them, and all of us who weep today,
your strength - and uphold them with a living hope.  May the words of
Jesus, which reveal his love for little children, speak peace to their
troubled hearts.  Make them know that the child who has been taken out of
their sight is with you, safe in your eternal care, with all suffering
passed.  May they also have assurance in their hearts that in your  own
good time they will see him again.  This we ask in the name of Jesus, who
taught us to pray, saying,

   OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN, HALLOWED BE THY NAME; THY KINGDOM
   COME, THY WILL BE DONE, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.  GIVE US THIS
   DAY OUR DAILY BREAD; AND FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES, AS WE FORGIVE
   THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US; AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION, BUT
   DELIVER US FROM EVIL.  FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM, THE POWER AND THE
   GLORY, FOR EVER AND EVER.  AMEN


CD-SONG
Before our departing prayer and words of committal, let us hear the third
song picked for today, the song "Follow Me". 


WORDS OF COMMITTAL
As Christians, it is our conviction that our loved ones move on into the
nearer presence of God, where they shall hunger no more, either thirst any
more; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.  For the Lamb
in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them
to springs of living water; and God himself will wipe away every tear from
their eyes.

Having this faith, we now commend into God's keeping our sister, Marie
Johnson, here departed.  We commit her mortal remains to the elements from
which they first arose: earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,
trusting in Gods great mercy by which we have been born anew to a living
hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

God's peace is hers.
God's peace will be ours.

Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
Amen


BENEDICTION:
Go now in peace, and may the blessings of God Almighty, the Father, The
Son, and Thy Holy Spirit, rest upon you and remain with you all, both now
and forevermore - Amen


FUNERAL RECESSIONAL


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