There Is One Who Stands For Us

The following 'Funeral Sermon' is posted with family permission.  May the Lord give to the family of Clarice Bunt, and all who mourn, comfort in their grief and a sure confidence in the Lord's loving care.

Text:  Psalm 23:1-6

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]

Wayne, Lorna, Allan, 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 Clarice 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.”

Indeed, it is a beautiful psalm; full of comfort and protection—for you.  It is full of comfort and protection especially right now in the midst of your grief and in the midst of the death of Clarice. 

But how does this psalm specifically fit into this moment of death and grief and pain and sorrow, when a mother has departed from her children, a grandmother from her grandchildren?

Well, there is no doubt about it that you as a family loved and were loved by Clarice.  There was no doubt about it that Clarice was loved at the swing bed unit in Lisbon, where she smiled and loved the staff back.  All the years together, all the coloring sheets, and all the sewing projects were ways that her relationships were strengthened and deepened with you.  However, now all of this has ended.  It has pleased the Lord God to call her home, which means that you sit without her, which means that you sit with sadness in your heart, while looking for assurance, for an understanding heart and maybe a helping hand. 

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 Clarice.

It is true, the road of our lives are narrow, the shadows of evening will fall upon us and the dangers of lonesomeness and bodily weakness will threaten us—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.”

Dear family and friends of Clarice, 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 Clarice’s. Therefore you shall not want, neither in life nor in death.

Wayne, Lorna, Allan, the Lord stands ready to be with you in this hour of distress. 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. 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 Clarice’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, Clarice 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 Clarice’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.

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