Good Friday Sermon March 21, 2008 “A Good (Friday) Funeral Message” There weren’t many people at our communion

service at Good Samaritan on Monday. Four to be exact. There used to be ten or twelve, but many of those who used to come have died during the past year; Jolene, Marjorie, Amanda, Florence, Howard, and Chad. Recognizing that made me think about how many other deaths that there have been just since November—Earl, Doris, Lola, Don, Gordon, Rex and Marj. Perhaps we don’t like to think about death—but we would be remiss not to do so today, for today we stare death in the face. The death of Jesus Christ our Lord. In a sense, Good Friday is the day of Jesus’ funeral. And what a sad funeral it was. Taken down from the tree, His body was buried in the tomb before sundown so as not to break the Sabbath day regulations. No flowers. Very few family members and friends. No time for fellowship following. No one to play a rousing hymn or deliver a heartfelt homily. No fancy casket . . . just a cold, dark cave. Scripture tells us that we were drowned, killed, crucified with Christ in Holy Baptism. On Good Friday as we recall Jesus’ death, we also remember ours. On this day as we again hear the last words spoken by Jesus on the cross, we might want to consider the last words spoken about us at our funeral. Yes, Good Friday is a good day to not only think about Jesus’ funeral, but about ours as well, and the message to be spoken.
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When I first started the ministry in Chicago, IL our circuit counselor was a very wise veteran of inner city ministry named Don Becker. He once told the other pastors that when he did a funeral he would always say three things about the departed person. This was so well-received that he had parishioners come to him wanting to hear what he was going to say about them while they were still alive! Jesus had many things said about Him while He was dying—some kind—like “Remember me when you come into your kingdom”, and “Truly this was the Son of God.” Some not so good, like “He saved others, let Him save Himself.” What three things would you like said about you at your funeral? Probably something good, right? Like “He was very generous” or “She was the best mother a person could ever want.” Allow me to suggest the three best things that can be said about you at your funeral. First--You were a baptized Child of God. It is important to remember that the man we see dying on the cross today was a child. The child of Mary, certainly. That is what gave Him His human nature and allowed Him to take our place on the cross. But He was also the child, the Only Son, of His Father in heaven. God gave His child to us and for us so that we could become His children. That is what He has done for us in holy baptism. Think of what great joy the birth of a child gives their parent. Now magnify that one hundred-fold and it will give you an idea of what joy the Father has when we are born again in water and the spirit. Jesus was baptized in His blood on the cross in order to quench the fires
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of hell and drown death. Thus we are assured that by being baptized into Him we need not fear death and hell. At our death we are going home to be with our Heavenly Father. We are going where we truly and rightfully belong. The second thing that should be said about you at your funeral is that you were a sinner. To some people this would be unwelcomed, inappropriate, or offensive. It would be as if we were speaking disrespectfully about the person who had died. But the fact of the matter is, this is the reason we go to funerals in the first place! The person is dead because of sin. Scripture makes this clear: the wages of sin is death! Death is the penalty for sin. It has been that way from the beginning—God said to Adam and Eve. “The day you eat of the forbidden fruit you shall die.” We were born into their sin, and we spend our lives like them partaking of the forbidden fruit. It is fruit that comes in many shapes and sizes—all of which are pleasing to the eye. And though we think that these things will bring us a good life—they ultimately bring death. Sin explains why we die. But there is another reason to speak of sin at your funeral. It is a way to take the focus of those who are gathered there off of US--and direct it to where it should be—To Christ and the cross. Sin is the reason we see Jesus hanging on the cross on this Good Friday. Not the sin of other people. Not the sin of “really bad” people. But OUR sin! Remember this, believers and unbelievers alike were present at Jesus’ funeral, just as they will be at yours. Whatever they thought about Jesus—they were all looking at Jesus dying on the cross. And that is what we would want at our funeral, isn’t it? We don’t want people
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staring at our dead, lifeless body—nobody looks good lying in a casket —we prefer for people to see Jesus. I’m sure you’ve heard it said that our funerals are the last opportunity we have to bear witness to the Faith. This is true not only of what is SAID about our sin, and about our savior Jesus—but also by what is sung. Think of having hymns like “Chief of Sinners Though I Be” and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” in addition to the old favorites like “Amazing Grace”. This leads to the third and final point that should be made at your funeral: Namely that you are a saint. This part is perhaps the most important—for here is where the Gospel comes shining through! Most people are portrayed as saints when they are dead—We’ve all been to funerals where so many good things were said about the deceased that it’s left us wondering if that was the same person that we know—but we are TRULY saints! Not because of what good things we’ve done—but because of what Christ has done for us! He has bestowed up us, blessed us, saved us by His grace! “Grace, Tis a Charming Sound”—that’s one of our hymns. We are also familiar with “Amazing Grace” and “By Grace I’m Saved, Grace Free and Boundless”, and of course “God of Mercy, God of Grace.” There are many others, all of which convey the same message —we are saints—saved not because of the good things that others will say about us—but because of the good that Christ did for us! St. Matthew tells us something both strange and wonderful in His Gospel—that at the dead of Jesus the bombs were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. At His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. In the
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resurrection of Jesus the dead are also raised. In Revelation we see the saints, the believers, gathered around the throne in heaven. It is a fulfillment of Paul’s words that “we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed. In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” What a day to look forward to! Just as the saints came out of their tombs at the death of Jesus, so too we will come out of our graves at His second coming. This is why we often-times end funerals with that glorious hymn “For All the Saints.” So on this Good Friday, as we hear the last words of Jesus, may we consider also the last words that will be spoken about us at our funerals. And may we look forward to being greeted by the first words spoken to us in heaven, “Well Done, good and faithful servant.” Amen

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