Diane Smith Funeral (Psalm 4)

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Service Notes

  • Order of Service: Funeral Service
  • Readings: Psalm 4; Lamentations 3:22-26, 31-33; 1 Corinthians 15:51-57; Luke 23:33-46

Theme Verse

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! (Psalm 4:1)

Sermon Text

To all who knew and loved Diane: Grace, mercy and peace be yours from God our Father through His crucified and resurrected Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Psalms are prayers that only Christians can truly pray. As with the rest of the Bible, they find their fulfillment in Jesus. Not only His actions but His words as well. Psalm 4 is an excellent example of a prayer Jesus prayed. In the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before He was nailed to the cross, Jesus prayed in such agony that “His sweat became like great drops of blood.” He was in the greatest distress any human being has ever experienced. But He never lost faith in His Father’s graciousness and mercy. Even as He prayed, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me,” He never lost faith. “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” His faith never wavered.

But we are not Jesus. Our faith wavers in our distress. Our agony takes control of us. It makes us doubt God’s goodness and graciousness. We begin to cry out in our distress. We forget that “the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” We forget that God will have compassion on us even and especially in our grief and distress.

Although I did not know Diane, I understand her struggle. Even though she didn’t communicate verbally, her soul still plead that God would end her suffering. That is the Christian’s prayer throughout life: “Lord, have mercy.” It is a cry of faith. Belief that Jesus is able—and willing—to show mercy. Diane sought refuge from her struggles in this life. She sought release from her sufferings. She sought the moment where God would call her to her heavenly home. Now that He has, we are left in our grief.

In our grief we shed our tears. In our grief we question God. We question His goodness and mercy. We cry out about God’s unfairness in life and in death. Can we really trust that God will answer us? Absolutely! “Great is Your faithfulness,” we pray. In His faithfulness, God answers our prayers. He simply commands us to wait for His time. He is in ultimate control of all things. Even in our grief and distress, we can know that He will show His mercy and grace in due time. “The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.”

But grief is seldom quiet. Grief takes on a life of its own. But we do not grieve as those who have no hope. We grieve the loss of earthly life. We grieve the hole that is now in our hearts and lives. But we grieve with faith “in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” We believe that not only was Jesus raised from the dead. We believe that we also will be raised from the dead. Our Baptism links us with Jesus in His death and resurrection. Jesus was raised to be “the firstborn among many brothers.” God gives us this knowledge so that we might be able to continue in our life despite our grief and distress.

This knowledge gives us the foretaste of the relief God has promised to give. But we see this relief in two different ways in this life: healing and death. We most often pray for the first type of relief. We want to see God bring about healing. Especially if it is a miraculous healing. We read about the many miracles Jesus did in His ministry. We know Jesus can do these things. We hope that it will happen, but we get discouraged when it doesn’t happen as soon as we’re done praying.

God uses miracles, but He also uses ordinary means to grant relief. Doctors, nurses, medications, therapy. These can be wonderful in granting relief, but they don’t always work. So we don’t put our faith in them. Our faith is in the God who grants relief. God uses means such as people and words to give relief. This is what I am called to do. To grant relief through the words of God’s promises. Promises that allow you to lie down and sleep in peace. This peace comes as He grants relief. This peace comes as we pray for the wisdom to understand God’s plan and purpose in these things. We will pray for this as we ask for God’s help “to believe and find comfort in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” God grants relief through His Word and His Church. The continued hearing of God’s promises grants the relief we so desperately seek. Especially when God decides to grant relief through the second method.

At times the only thing that will grant relief is the death of His children. “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.” As Paul contemplates His own mortality, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.” We are not in control of our lives, but we know who is in control of our destinies.

We saw this with the repentant thief on the cross next to Jesus. His simple, faithful plea: “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Jesus turned to him with compassion and said, “Today, you will be with Me in Paradise.” Jesus didn’t take him down off the cross. Jesus didn’t keep him from dying. Jesus promised Paradise because of his faith.

So He has done for Diane. He has answered her prayers. He has granted the deepest desires of her heart. He has brought her into Paradise. She now waits with all the saints who have gone before for the fulfillment of all things. Especially the Day when “Death is swallowed up in victory.” The Day when we all are with Jesus in Paradise. The Day when we see with our own eyes that “the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end.” The Day when our mortal bodies put on immortality. The Day when our distress is over.

Our distress will be over because our sin will be gone. We will no longer be bound to sickness and death. God will make us dwell in the safety of the forgiveness of our sins. We will see His victory over death. Jesus gives us this victory in Baptism. He strengthens it through His Word and Sacraments. Through them He comes to you with His grace and mercy. This is how we thrive these days. We stay in His Word. We stay connected to His Church. If you don’t have one, talk to me. I am happy to talk to you about Redeemer or point you to a faithful congregation closer to you. Hearing God’s Word in its truth and purity will bring you His peace in your grief and distress. His peace is the relief you are seeking. The relief He lovingly and freely gives. Amen.