The Shepherd Of Our Souls, Stands At Ashley's Side And Yours Too

The following 'Funeral Service Sermon' is posted with family permission.  May the Lord give to the family of Ashley Ann Anderson, and all who mourn, comfort in their grief and a sure confidence in the Lord's loving care.  To listen to the "Visitation and Prayer Service Sermon" by CLICKING HERE.

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. [Psalm 23:4]

Ashley Anderson: 
Born a Child of Man on August 12, 1987,
Asleep in Jesus on March 17, 2015
Brady, Lydia, Charli, Jerry, Patty, Andrew, Katie, Avery, Gary, Mary Ann, William, Mary, Patricia, family, and friends… this is a beautiful text taken from a beautiful psalm. It sings and proclaims of the blessings and riches of a life under the shepherd-like care of the Lord. The care Ashley and all of you have lived under since childhood.

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters; He restoreth my soul;
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

A beautiful psalm; full of comfort and protection—for you.

But how does this psalm also fit into this moment of death and grief and pain and sorrow, when a husband has to part from his wife and children from their mother and parents from a daughter and a brother from a sister and grand-parents from a grand-daughter?

Brady, you have lost a wife with which you have lived and worked together for the last four plus years, in times of sunshine and rain, of success and loss, of happiness and sorrow. Although I am sure that you did not always agree and at times viewed life and its tasks from a different angle, it is obvious that there was a secret tie that tied you together and during the years this tie did not become loose, it grew firmer. Each child you and Ashley brought home from the hospital gave you increased happiness and tied you closer together. Every sickness that visited your home exercised a deepening force upon your union and helped cement it. So you were two and still one. Now the union has ended. The tie torn apart. It has pleased God to call your wife from your side to Himself and you stand alone. That, truly, is a loss that saddens your heart, all the more so when you look for assurance, for an understanding heart, and for a helping hand.

And to you, Lydia and Charli, even though not fully comprehended at this point and time, the death of your mother is likewise a great loss.  In the years to come when joy fills your hearts, both of you will want to go to mother and tell her and have her participate in your joy. When the shadows of life with their sadness and trying sorrow fall over you, you may want to hurry to mommy to find strength and consolation from her loving heart and experienced advice. This you will no longer have, and that is what makes this hour an occasion of sorrow and pain for you and for all of us here with you.

Painting by Stephen Dawson
But now listen to our psalm, which has a word for you and for all of us in this time of distress. Here we find the comforting words:

 “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” 

The Psalmist feared no evil. Why not? Because the Lord was with him. The Lord’s rod and staff comforted him. The Lord was his rod that showed him the way even in the dark. He was his staff that protected him and gave him strength to go his way fearlessly, although enemies were lying in wait for him at the right and at the left. So it is with you who mourn for Ashley.

It is true, the road of your life Brady , is narrow, the shadows of evening will fall upon you and the dangers of lonesomeness and bodily weakness will threaten you—and it is a terrible thing to be lonesome and to have no one to whom one can tell his inmost thoughts—but be not afraid. Listen to the Psalmist:

“I fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

Brady, the Lord, the almighty and merciful One stands with you always.

It is the LORD, the Good Shepherd, Jesus Himself. He is with you, that you need not fear. His rod and staff will comfort you. He has overcome death when He died on the cross and rose again Easter morning. He can console you when the hour of death overshadows you. He has taken away the sin of the world. Mine, yours, and your beloved wife’s. Therefore you shall not want, neither in life nor in death.

The same is true with you, dear Lydia and Charli. The Lord stands ready to be with you in this hour of distress. To be with you in all the life before you. As you listen to this recording of this sermon in the years to come, I say to you, do not push the Lord away. Do not hush His voice. Do not let Him stand and then you go your way without Him. Indeed, your mother nurtured you and comforted you. The Lord is a still-better comforter. He stirs up the soul. He gives courage in loss, strength in weakness. He cleanses our heart with forgiveness. He enables our mind. He directs our thoughts to that which is everlasting. He will be our rod and staff in all the confusion and anxiety of life and death. The Lord is your shepherd, with Him at your side You shall not want...

Family and friends, we must all descend into the shadow of the valley of death. We descend by various paths and at various ages, but we must all descend. The hour may be much nearer than we think. Last week and this past Sunday none of us imagined that we would assemble here this afternoon around the casket of our departed sister. Today we are well. Tomorrow we may be dead. Who knows how near this end may be? Is there anyone ready to step to our side? Is there anyone ready to protect us from this?

There is One. He will be with us. We need not fear anything, not even bodily death. His rod and staff comfort us. He overcame death when He died on the cross and showed us our hope in the resurrection is sure and true when He rose again on Easter morning. Thus, even now, when the hurt that has settled into our hearts over Ashley’s death seems ready to wash away hope, we cling to the consolation that is with us always. Only God’s baptismal promises can sustain us when the hour of death threatens to overwhelm us. That is, by Jesus’ death in our name, and by our baptismal death in His Name, we already have one foot in the resurrection.

In God’s baptismal promises, Ashley and all of you can rest, not in your heart’s desires, which fade, wither, and wear out over time, but in the grace of God which works entirely by raising the dead.

No uncertainties.

No anxiety.

Just God's abundant, unbreakable promise that,

“We were buried with Him by baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of God the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.” [Romans 6:3-5]

This is our mighty Lord, the Shepherd of our souls, Jesus Christ who stands at our side. Upon Him depends all, your death and your eternal life. I beg you, then, this afternoon, listen to His voice. He comes to you with His words of comfort and protection. Hear them. Use them, especially now when you are so terribly shaken by Ashley’s death. In Jesus’ sheepfold you shall not want, neither in death nor in eternal life.

Now may the Lord of peace Himself, Jesus Christ, lead you with His rod and staff through the darkness and dread of sin and death, and give you peace, hope, and courage always in every way until He graciously takes you from this vale of tears to Himself into heaven. Amen.

Note: This sermon is indebted to Rev. Donavon Riley of Webster, MN. 

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