What Death Brings Rev. Tony Cooke
Today, we have heard wonderful testimony of a woman who love and served the Lord. We have heard reflections and memories of a genuine lady whose life made an impact on all who knew her.
It is only fitting that the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ be uplifted in her Memorial Service as it was throughout her life.
The world doesn’t understand how we as Christians can stand here this day, and rejoice… not only in a life that was beautifully lived, but in the hope of a glorious eternity.
It is a fact that our view of death is different than what the world possesses.
I’d like to share with you today Four Facts about WHAT DEATH BRINGS.
1. Death Brings a Painful Reminder
There is an element of sorrow in death.
There is the human emotion of missing a person… realizing that for a season, we will not be able to enjoy their company and their fellowship.
The Bible does not deny or minimize the reality of human emotion.
Jesus himself said, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
In the midst of the painfulness of death, in the midst of grief and mourning, we have a Father who cares, a Savior who understands, and a Spirit who comforts.
It is up to each of us this day to open up our hearts to the care, the understanding, and the comfort of God, and give Him every heartache and care that we might have this day.
But beyond the human emotion of missing someone, there is also the painful reminder of the human condition.
Because we are human, we are all identified physically with our first parents, Adam and Eve. As a result, we are all partakers of the consequences of their actions.
Romans 5:12 says: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
We are imperfect people, living in an imperfect world.
Paul said: “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26).
We recognize this day, that in one sense, death is definitely an enemy. It reminds us of a universal problem. But we don’t focus on the problem. We choose today to focus on the one who conquered death, hell, and the grave: Jesus Christ.
2. Death Brings Positive Reflections
Death can never rob us of the memories left behind by our loved one.
Death can never remove the legacy of love and godliness that she imparted into our lives.
Death can never change the fact that _____________________ made a great difference in the lives of countless people.
Proverbs 10:7 says, “…the memory of the just is blessed.”
(Septuagint) “The just are remembered with praises.”
(Jerusalem) “The virtuous man is remembered with blessings.”
There is no easier funeral to preach and no easier eulogy to deliver than for a person like ____________________.
Her life really speaks for itself today!
3. DEATH BRINGS A PRECIOUS REALIZATION
What could be more precious than to realize that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8)?
What could be more comforting at a time like this than to realize that “to depart and be with Christ is far better” (Philippians 1:23)?
What could be better at this very moment than to recall Jesus’ words?
1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
Millions of saints throughout the ages have conquered the fear of death and have actually anticipated heaven because of the Precious Realization provided by the Scriptures.
The story is told of old Bishop Warren Chandler, after whom the school of theology at Emory University was named. As he lay on his death bed, a friend inquired as to whether or not he was afraid. "Please tell me frankly," he said, "do you fear crossing over the river of death?" "Why," replied Chandler, "I belong to a father who owns the land on both sides of the river."
4. DEATH BRINGS A PROMISED RESURRECTION
There was a woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. As she was getting her things in order, she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discus certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him the songs she wanted sung at her funeral, the scriptures she wanted read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. The woman also requested to be buried with her favorite Bible. Everything seemed in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.
“There’s one thing more,” she said excitedly. “What’s that?” came the pastor’s reply. “This is very important,” the woman continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.” The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say. That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the woman asked. “Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the pastor.
The woman explained. “In all my years of attending church socials and pot-luck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, “Keep your fork.” It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming, like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance! So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder, “What’s with the fork?” Then I want you to tell them: “Keep your fork. The best is yet to come.”
The pastor’s eyes welled up with tears as he hugged the woman goodbye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She knew that something better was coming.
At the funeral, people were walking by the woman’s casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing, her favorite Bible, and the fork in her right hand. Over and over the pastor heard the question, “What’s with the fork?” And over and over he smiled. During the message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the woman shortly before she died, and explained the meaning of the fork. The pastor told the people he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to either. He was right. So the next time you find yourself reaching for the fork, remind yourself that the best is yet to come.
What we’re talking about today is not wishful thinking designed to make us feel good. What we’re talking about today is founded upon the eternal, infallible, unchanging Word of God!
1 Corinthians 15:19-20; 49-57
19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20 But now is
Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
49 …as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth
corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we
shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet
shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this
corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this
corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall
be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where
is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is
the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
As we stand here this day, we do not deny the human elements that God designed in us when he created us. We will miss ___________________________. Everytime one of our loved one dies, there is a painful reminder of the human condition.
But we have more than a painful reminder today.
We celebrate POSITIVE REFLECTIONS of a life beautifully lived!
We have a PRECIOUS REALIZATION that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
We have a PROMISED RESURRECTION. It is not in this life only that we have hope in Christ, and we are not of all men most miserable. We are kings and priests in this world, and we have hope not only in this world, but also in the world to come.
We rejoice this day because ______________________ has gone to her eternal reward. We look beyond our own human feelings of loss and sadness, and we choose to be glad for her… because she’s better off.
Perhaps nothing is more appropriate to close with than the words of the old hymn:
Ring out the welcome.
Swing wide the gates.
Choirs of angels stand and sing, “Amazing Grace.”
There’s one more soldier of the King.
Whose trials are past.
Ring out the welcome loud and clear
(S)he’s home at last.