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Funeral Message for ___________

(I don’t often put a funeral message in the main part of this blog, but a friend suggested that I should share this one with you.  I have either changed or omitted the names to spare the family from any embarrassment.)

I would like to thank each of you today for making the effort to attend this service.  A funeral represents one of the few opportunities in our hectic, busy, distracted microwave lives when we actually stop long enough to think, to reflect, and to embrace the distasteful subject of mortality.  It is all some of you can do to resist looking at your smart phones for a text message or a Facebook posting!  Some of you have already yielded to temptation! 

We have come here today to fulfill several purposes, all of them worthwhile and significant.  First, we have come to reflect on Reggie and how much he meant to us and impacted our lives.  Second, we have come to extend our condolences to his family and let them know how much we love and care for them.  But last, we have also come to contemplate the fact of a tragic loss, a relatively young man who left us before his time.  And, may I say at the outset, we must not fail at this final purpose.

To know Reggie Baker was to like him.  When he flashed his engaging smile, shook your hand and put his arm around your shoulder, you could not help but be attracted to him and his personality.  He always had a ready compliment and a kind expression of appreciation.  Regardless of how he was feeling (he lived in constant, chronic pain), he took time to come directly to you and either in some small way or in a magnanimous gesture, he would acknowledge your presence.  His loving and congenial spirit could warm a cold heart when it was needed the most. 

But, there was more to Reggie than a smile and a handshake.  As was noted in the obituary, he was tenderhearted and had a deep respect for God and the church, and for all things spiritual.  When he was still a young child, he experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit and was baptized in water according to Acts 2:38.  He loved Sunday School, and when he was four or five years old, his picture was taken with his teacher, who happened to be his aunt, _____, and it was featured on the cover of a national Christian Education magazine.  As an adult, Reggie came to church services often, and on a memorable Sunday morning two weeks ago, he came forward for prayer.  He lingered long at the altar that day, and a number of people stood around him and supported him in prayer.  Also, it is worth noting, that some two months ago, he saw a young lady outside the office of his apartment complex and struck up a conversation about spiritual things.  That talk turned into an impromptu prayer meeting, and the young lady, an member of an Apostolic church in _______, told me personally that there was an incredible presence of the Holy Spirit that descended on both of them in that corridor.  Acts 17:27-28 (KJV)  “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:  For in him we live, and move, and have our being.”

Yes, there was more to Reggie than personality, and there was more than tenderness.  But it would not serve his memory well, nor would it benefit any of us, to lead you to believe that Reggie didn’t have his challenges.  He died too soon, and his untimely departure prevented him from grasping that final, spiritual goal that he desired in this life.   I found this verse in Psalm 88:9 that gives me some insight into Reggie’s heart.  “Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction: LORD, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee.”  This is what David wrote about himself, but here, lying in state before you, is also a man who lived with his hands stretched out, searching, reaching, longing for something that he desperately wanted but always felt that he could not attain.  Some would call it good intentions.  And it is interesting that this relevant scripture was written by David, because David, as king, didn’t fulfill the ultimate vision for his life.  Let me explain. 

David wanted to build a house for God—a temple, if you will.  He drew the plans for it.  He spent millions of dollars and gathered the most exquisite materials from far and wide.  But just as he completed his preparations, God spoke and denied him the opportunity and the thrill of building the temple.  The reason was that David was a man of war; there was blood on his hands.  Instead, God instructed David’s son, Solomon, to proceed with the building.  Thus, that magnificent structure that David had planned and procured the materials to build was not called David’s Temple, but Solomon’s Temple. 

At last, the temple was finished and the day of dedication had arrived.  Solomon stood up in the midst of all the priests, elders and multitudes of people and made this intriguing statement.  “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which spake with his mouth unto David my father, and hath with his hand fulfilled it, saying, 16  Since the day that I brought forth my people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel to build an house, that my name might be therein; but I chose David to be over my people Israel. 17  And it was in the heart of David my father to build an house for the name of the LORD God of Israel. 18  And the LORD said unto David my father, Whereas it was in thine heart to build an house unto my name, thou didst well that it was in thine heart. 1 Kings 8:15-18 (KJV) 

And so, I say to you today, the questions, the fears, the blank spaces we want to be filled in are all answered in God’s assessment of David, “You did well that it was in your heart.”   Had life proceeded according to plan, David would have built the temple.  It didn’t happen, but God saw what was in his heart. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.  And for Reggie, we can be encouraged that to live reaching means to die grasping.  For now we can echo the 100th Psalm:  “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. 2  Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. 3  Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4  Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. 5  For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”

Next, let me say to those who grieve today; we cannot displace your pain and sorrow now, but we can remind you that you are among people who love you, people who are praying for you.  The heartache you feel can only find consolation in the arms of Christ.  Indeed, Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.” 2 Thess. 2:16-17.   These are the times when we rediscover the true value of the church.  The body of Christ now comes together to bind up the wounds of the hurting and pour in the soothing oil and wine. 

Finally, I address those of you who today are waist-deep in your busyness, dealing with your own challenges of life.  You may be restless, unsure, tentative about the direction you are headed.  Let this day be a defining moment in your lives.  Could it be that God has orchestrated this sobering moment in your schedule?  Until you look into the face of death, you cannot know the value of life.  I want to paraphrase the poetic voice of Thomas Gray, poet, classical scholar and Cambridge (1716 - 1771).

If I should die and leave you
Be not like the others, living undone
Who keep long vigils by the silent
dust and weep.

For my sake turn to life and smile
Nerving your heart and trembling
hand to comfort weaker souls than you.
Complete these unfinished tasks of mine
And I perchance may therein comfort thee.

The Bible says, “It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this, the judgment.”  Hebrews 9:27.  You must not come and go from a funeral parlor without sustaining a strong and solemn impact on your fragile soul.  You may be still numb from this sad event, or you may not have processed the reality of it all, but it will all be in vain if you fail to understand the meaning it holds for yourself.  Living within you is an eternal soul, a soul that will not die with the flesh, but will live forever, according to the Scriptures.  Because, as the poet said, “The world is too much with us,” that we ignore, neglect or postpone the vital conversation we need to have with our Creator.  And, always remember, you are the sole arbiter of your destiny.  No one else can or will co-opt the decision-making power over your life.  It is you who must choose.

Joshua 24:15 (KJV) “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Choose life, choose truth, choose God.  Let us pray.

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