Last weekend I had the honor of preaching the message at my uncles funeral. While I expected the service to be difficult I was not prepared for the battle that awaited me. To give you some context, my uncle was 59 years young when he died from his five year battle with cancer. His brother (my father) and daughter have also passed from their battle with cancer within the last three years. My grandparents are still living and have now had the horrific experience of burying their two and only sons and granddaughter. My aunt has now had to bury her daughter and husband. Words struggle to describe the hurt this family has faced in the last few years.
As I was preparing for the service, I sat with my laptop open, Evernote ready and an utter loss for words. What do you say to a family – my family – that has suffered so much hurt and pain in such a short amount of time? What can I say that will encourage them of God’s love and to give them hope in the future grace of God. The standard “we have come to celebrate” sermon did not seem adequate nor appropriate for such an occasion. The family needed to hear to bold declaration of God’s love for them in the midst of this tragedy. So for what it is worth, I have put down a few reflections from this past weekend for anyone that may have to deliver such a message in such a dark time.
1. Be honest // One of the worst decisions that I could have made for the family would have been to perform the cookie cut funeral service and not address the pink elephant in the room. “Why was their so much suffering and where was God” was on the minds and hearts of many. While I did not seek to deliver a theological dissertation of the problem of evil I did seek to provide hope – hope that is only found in the empty tomb – Jesus. Be honest with the family and friends – address the issues at hand from the scriptures. Know that your biblical honesty, in love brings glory to God and the family will thank you.
2. Honor what is honorable // I was fortunate that I was able to speak freely about a man worthy of honor.
3. Leave them thirsty // My goal at the end of the sermon was to leave everyone in attendance wanting more of God’s love. Paint such a grand picture of Gods love for all people that in the midst of their suffering that they will willingly run to the fountain and drink. Leave them wanting to live a life for the glory of God because their is no greater legacy to leave.
4. Love the hurting // Do whatever you can to come along side those who are suffering to show them the love of God. Most people are not looking for answers in a time of suffering they are looking for a journeyman. Someone to walk with them through the shadows till the day breaks.