Sunday, November 19, 2017

Funeral Message - Romans 8 (following a suicide)

Romans 8
31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 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? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.[w] 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
    we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 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.

Today is a difficult time to gather together.  We are grieving the loss of someone who died all too young.

We feel discouraged and sorrowful.

And we are reminded that Nicholas felt dark days as well.

We sometimes think that a person of faith would never become depressed or discouraged.  If a person admits to being sad, that is like confessing a sin.  Christians are always happy.  They are always upbeat.  Always positive.

And yet the Bible strips away such silly myths.

Moses – if there was ever a man of God, it was Moses!  He had faith and was an example to all of us.
However, in the Old Testament Book of Numbers, Moses was under tremendous pressure from the people.  They were tired of the Wilderness, tired of the trip to the Promised Land and they were begging Moses to take them back to Egypt. Moses says in chapter 11 of Numbers, “I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness” (Numbers 11:14–15).

Being overwhelmed is not a sign that one is not a Christian.  It is a sign that one is human.

Elijah is another person of great faith.  In the Old Testament book of First Kings, Elijah had a moment of tremendous success.  He had challenged 400 prophets of the false idol Baal to a test and he won!  Elijah was vindicated.  He celebrated by running in front of the king’s chariot.  It was a great moment.  But then he heard that Jezebel vowed to kill him. In his fear and exhaustion he went into the wilderness, sat down under a broom tree, and said, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am no better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:4).

Can people of God feel discouragement?  Yes!  Moses did.  As did Elijah.  As did Jonah.  Everyone of faith sometimes feels discouraged.  They hit low points.

When bad things happen to us, or to others, we want to have an answer as to why.  Why did someone do this, or why did someone do that?  And then there is the big question, why did God do what he did?

The problem with asking that question is that you may get an answer – but you may not. 

In Romans 11, St. Paul wrote, “Who has understood the mind of God?”  

The answer, no one.

Because we don’t always get the answer to the question why, let me suggest that in this time of grief, we ask a different question – one that can be asked, AND answered.

Forget why.

Ask: “Who is loved here?”

If you ask why these things happened, you may get an answer, perhaps!

But if you ask who is loved here you will definitely get an answer very quickly.

Who is loved here?

Nicholas.  You are here today because you loved Nicholas.  He was someone’s son, someone’s husband, a father of two children.  He was someone’s brother, someone’s uncle, cousin, friend, buddy.
You love Nicholas and God loves Nicholas. We have no doubt of that. 
St. Paul said in in the New Testament that nothing that Nicholas was or did or thought could separate him from God’s love.

We find that in chapter 8 of Romans.  “I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So in asking the question who is loved here?  Nicholas is.

And not just Nicholas.  You are loved.

You are loved by the people around you.  You are loved by Nicholas.  You are loved by God.

You are here today because you are grieving.  You are grieving our loss of Nicholas.  Perhaps being here reminds you that you are still grieving the loss of your own child, or husband, or brother, or another friend.  Grief takes time.  It is not a short journey, but a long one. 

And on this journey you need others with you who will love you and sustain you. 

Who is loved here?  You are.  Feel free to show that love to one another.  Feel free to be comforted by God’s love.  And feel relieved that Nicholas is loved by you and by God Almighty.