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SERMONS FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS AND ISSUES
FUNERAL SERMON FOR A YOUNG MAN - SUICIDE


JOHN QPUBLIC

- Year of Age, 22 -
Services at Chapel / Burial at Cemetery


CALL TO WORSHIP:

We are gathered here today to worship God and to give thanks unto him for the life, the death, and the resurrection of John QPublic.

SCRIPTURE SENTENCES:

On the night of his betrayal, on the eve of his own untimely death, Jesus said to his disciples: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me, that you also may be where I am.

LET US PRAY: Compassionate and loving God, you who love us with an everlasting love and canst turn the shadow of death into the light of a new day, as we gather to commend John into your most gracious hands, help us to wait upon thee with penitent and believing hearts, trusting in your great promise to us through Jesus Christ our Lord - he who died that we might live, and who rose from the dead that we might never die. Lift us, we pray, into the joy and peace of thy presence - we ask it in Jesus' name - Amen.

INTRODUCTION AND SCRIPTURE

Today we do one of the most difficult of all things to do - we gather to mourn the passing of a young man - a son, a brother, and a friend - and to commend him into God's care.

Grief is never an easy burden to bear - and never more so when it comes to us in what we can only regard as an untimely fashion. It causes to arise within us many questions - questions about ourselves and what we might or might not have done to make things different - questions about the one we loved and just what it was that he experienced during all his days - and questions about God and God's goodness.

We gather in such grief today - carrying a burden that not only seems to be, but in fact is, overwhelming. Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, knew such grief when he walked among us, he understood and took upon himself our pain and our sorrow, our sin and our guilt, our fear and our anger, and - in the end he died our death. But then something special happened - something that he believed would happen, hoped would happen, trusted would happen. He rose to life again - a new and glorious life - a life which he said, before he died - that he would share with all who came to him. It was with such a faith in God and what God would accomplish through him, that he said to his disciples before his death and his resurrection:

"Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."


We come today, in our grief, in our pain, in our anger, in our doubt, in our confusion. We come to ask God to take our burden from us and give us in it's place the burden Christ spoke of. We come in the hope that the shadow of death might be turned into the light of a new day. We come to ask God to be merciful to us - and to John - and grant us new life. new life here - and the new life Jesus spoke of in the heavenly places above.

Today I want to share with you only one reading of scripture - and then I wish to share with you a tribute written by his sister and a poem she wrote - and reflect with you upon these things and upon the good news of our faith before ending off with a time of prayer.

The Scripture is from the great and wise ancestor of Jesus we know as Solomon. He wrote in his Book of Wisdom these words:

"The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God, there no torment shall ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seem to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself. Their reward is with the Lord, the most High takes care of them."

LET US PRAY: Grace O God, the words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.

TRIBUTE AND SERMON

Tammy, whose joy was so complete only a month ago, knew John as only a loving and caring sister can know a man. Johnnie spent much time with her and Jeff in their new home - and shared himself as best he could with them. In the midst of her grief she wrote this tribute for John - this expression of faith and hope - which I now share with you .

For 22 years, John shared his life with me as brother, confidant, a dear close friend. We shared frustration at rough times, tears in desperation, and laughter in the best of times. He was the only one to appreciate my driest of humour and had become pretty crafty in the art himself.

Anyone who knew my brother well, if asked, would describe him as a kind, caring, considerate and generous young man. Everything he attempted was nothing but perfection. Even to those whom he would casually meet, Johnnie gave the shirt off his back and the last dollar to his name.

There were times I dearly remember, seeing piles of Johnnie' mail containing receipts from all the various charities who call to solicit donations to their cause. With only as much as a pay-cheque in the bank, he would disperse of his every last penny to make sure that someone else in desperate needful times would be cared for.

June 20th 1996 will always leave an overly large scar in my heart, never to heal. The only peace that I can find, is that all of the pain and suffering that Johnnie has personally endured, for sometimes I think all of his lifetime, has now been put to rest. I choose to believe, as I hope - in time - the rest of you that are sharing in our sorrow believe, that he is truly free now and in a better place than he found here among us.

However tragic and upsetting it is for us, this day the family, the friends, the classmates, must remember that Johnnie is no longer trapped in a place that he no longer chose to be.

With these words, I place my brother into the hands of God and leave you with a poem I have written a few years ago:

The poem which I will now read is called A LONE and was written on December 9th 1991. Though not written specifically about John - I believe it speaks very clearly of the kind of pain that he knew all his days:

A LONE:
The silence,
so deafening
So alone,
in the grace of many.
A mortuary of the dead
entraps a body full of life
Embalmed with fear
I screamed out loud
Screams that never
reached another.
My tongue wrote scrolls of poetry
Locked inside my head
A single word
so hard to find
I found in silence
there is no peace.
The surgeon of solitude
has wired shut my jaw
In hopes to overload my brain
with thoughts of pain uncovered
In his attempt to make me strong
Loneliness had won the battle.
The pen and the paper were my sword
A way to defend my honour
A psychology of time and pain
That no one could uncover.
I see a man of the cloth
That has a vow to keep
We had never even passed a word
And yet he heard my pain,
If I was to learn from this
An experience from which to grow
I hope I took it to my grave
The answers for others to find.
I'm so tired of carrying this pain
The load has gotten heavy
It's time for me to pass alone
My existence is a shadow.
The epitaph upon my grave,
has more words than which I spoke
"For beauteous thoughts unspoken and
kept by man alone".
So deafening,
the silence
In the grace of millions,
so alone.

Tammy, there is so much power in what you wrote - then and now. So much truth that I can only say that God has touched you that not only has Johnnie put his arm on your shoulder - but the Spirit of God as well....

Alone, so alone - that words can never tell; fearful, so fearful - that words can never express. Sadness, so full - that the mind cannot comprehend.

We are family here today my brothers and sisters. the family of God; the family of the flesh which perishes and of the spirit which, by God's love, lives forever.

As family - we need to know that often in us, and often in others to a degree that is totally beyond us, there is a weakness that is beyond our control; a vulnerability, a pain, a despair, that is completely shielded from all that human kind can do.

For all of us it is true that sometimes we don't hear the voice of love - though its tender sound is all round us. Sometimes we don't realize the arms of love that enfold us - really are caring arms. Sometimes we don't grasp that the songs that are sung - are truly sung for us and that we - in our in strength and in our weakness, in our labour and in our rest, in our goodness and in our evil, are accepted, and valued, and treasured, and welcomed and loved for who we are, just as we are - without condition or qualification or merit or any other measure of judgement.

For others of us - what is true sometimes - is true almost all the time and it is more than a soul can bear.

Today we bear witness together to the truth of this - a fine young man is no longer with us in the flesh; a young man who was reasonably free from the vices of our ages -- free from tobacco and alcohol and drugs - free from selfishness and greed - free from self promotion and ever present ego - free from the plague of uncaring - unhelpfulness - and unloving that curses our society -- has succumbed to the loneliness within that most of us only know a little of.

As Gayle said to me - "John didn't know how many friends he had."

John didn't know - though he was so often told - just how much he was appreciated - just how precious he was.

Joe and Debbie can testify to his care and his concern, his help and his love - when after Joe was electrocuted last October he spent four weeks with them - driving, filling in at the shop in Brussels, and opening jars at their home - jars that Joe could not open on his own.

Alice at the store can testify to how John would not only come to enjoy the peace and quiet of her drop-in centre and to use her computer to do school work - but how he would volunteer to help her out - painting the walls and stocking shelves when the need arose.

Lorne, and Michael, and Gayle, and Tammy, can testify how he pitched in at home - how he with the wonderful talent that God gave him - with his wonderful and demanding sense of what was right - took a cherry picker that broke - and welded and painted and worked on it - so that it would never come apart - so that it would last forever.

One of John's classmates in the Manufacturing-Engineering Technology Program can testify how, even as he struggled to get his own work as perfect as possible, he paused to help her complete and finish her project - a project that she was really struggling with until he assisted her.

There are so many who can testify, so many who can say in truth - that John did the best he could - that he cared the best he could - for others - and - even in his pain - the best he could for himself.

John didn't know how many friends he had. And though he was told - in so many ways, and at so many different times - he didn't know how much he was loved.

Knowledgable, precise, detailed, a perfectionist who kept things locked inside himself - he felt that he was not good enough, that he could not measure up, that there was - no hope for him.

Sometimes we don't hear the voice of love - though its tender sound is all around us.

Today I ask you to hear the voice of love - to know and believe that John is truly free now and in a better place than he found here among us.

I ask you to hear in the silence of our hearts the words of Solomon: that the righteous are in the hands of God where no torment shall ever touch them; that their reward is with the Lord, the most High takes care of them,

I ask you to hear and perchance to feel - his words in our minds and his arm upon our shoulders, his words saying: "I don't hurt anymore. It's alright. I'm happy. Don't cry. Be glad for me"

I ask you to hear and to know the voice of love that speaks to us in our need and says: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me, that you also may be where I am".


LET US PRAY: Gracious God, in your love you have fathomed the depth of human suffering in the cross of Jesus Christ, and in all our afflictions you are afflicted. To your steadfast love and care we commend John, who was overcome by the chaos of the world without and the agony of soul within. Where wrong has been done by anyone, where responsibility has been evaded, and where the ties of affection have been broken, we pray that you in your mercy will judge and in your love forgive - even as you have promised through Jesus - who died that we might live and who lives that we might never die.

Eternal Father - in the midst of our pain and grief we thank you for the good that you granted us to see and experience in and through John. We remember the joy that he brought us - the love that he showed - the kindness that he shared as he reached out to help others and we thank you for it. We recall him before you as a dear and precious son - a caring brother - a quiet and trustworthy friend. Bless, we pray, and use our memories of John as instruments of your healing grace and set fast in our minds and our hearts the good news of our faith - the news that through Christ death has no dominion - the news that all that is right - all that is beautiful - all that is noble - all that is fine - is not lost to us, but rather brought to full flower in your eternal presence where no torment can ever touch it, where you yourself wipe away every tear from our eyes.

Gracious God - we thank you for your steadfast and life-giving love. Comfort we pray, your servants to whom this trial has come. Be with Gayle and Lorne, and Tammy and Jeff, and Michael and Maryanne - be their stay, their strength and their shield. Grant that they, and Jarvis and Anne, might be touched by your Spirit and hear your voice. Lighten their darkness and bring them out of all their distress. Indeed, O God, touch all our hearts with your love in this hour, that the springs of compassion may flow. Grant us grace to help and comfort those who find themselves desolate and lead us with them in the paths of quietness and hope through Christ Jesus our Lord - he who taught us to pray together as one family, saying... OUR FATHER...

BENEDICTION

Go in peace - and may the blessings of God Almighty - the Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit be with you all - both now and evermore. Amen

INTERMENT: John QPublic



SCRIPTURE SENTENCES:

I will lift up my eyes unto the hills; - from whence cometh my help? My help comes from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved, he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is thy keeper; the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil, he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out, and thy coming in, from this forth and even for evermore.

LET US PRAY O God, whose days are without end, and whose mercies cannot be numbered: make us deeply sensitive to the shortness and uncertainty of human life, and let thy Holy Spirit lead us through this present world in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life, so that when we have served thee in our day and generation, we may be received by thee our Father, having the testimony of a good conscience, in the communion of thy church, in the confidence of a certain faith, in the comfort of a holy hope, in favour with thee our God, and in perfect charity with all mankind. We ask it through Jesus Christ Our Lord, AMEN.

I WOULD LIKE TO SHARE A POEM WITH YOU AT THIS TIME - they are words that I believe John himself would say now that he has discovered his voice and found for himself the truth concerning how much he is loved by God - and by you here today. It is called "Do Not Stand"

Do not stand at my grave and weep;

I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there. I do not die.

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 Brother - John QPublic - here departed. We commit his body to the ground: 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.

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

BENEDICTION: Go in peace, look to and care for one another - forgive anything that needs forgiving - share all that needs sharing - and may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, by the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will and bring praise and honour and glory to his name - both now and evermore. Amen.**



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