Funeral Service For Pamela Sweeney
We have gathered here this afternoon to honor the life of Pamela Sweeney. I did not have the privilege of knowing Pamela personally. However, I know that Pamela was a special person. I know this because, like all of us, Pamela was given life by the LORD. He is our Creator and He had made each of us in His image. Therefore we are a reflection of Him in some ways. We are image bearers of the God who made us, who gives us life and who cares for us. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 139, ‘For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made...My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, everyone of them.”
I did not know Pamela as well as many of you did. Many of you could share personal stories and fond memories. Yet, we can be confident that her creator knew her best of all. He cared for her. He faithfully provided for her. He kept His watchful eye upon her even when her life could not be observed by us.
Over Pamela’s 59 years of life the LORD has been faithful to reach out to her and to make Himself known. And I know that even as we gather here today on this occasion it is the LORD’s intention to make Himself known to you. To this end I have fashioned this service. May the LORD grant us ears to hear, minds to understand, and hearts to respond to the LORD through faith.
Celebration of God’s Sacrificial Love: 2 Corinthians 1:3-11
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
In this passage Paul has shown us that God is the God of all comfort. He has also shown us that we can fully trust and rely upon God in very difficult times. And Paul has reminded us that one way that we display our faith and trust in God during such times is through prayer. Therefore, let us go to the LORD in prayer today.
I would like to read from three verses as we begin this morning. The first is found in 1 Samuel 25:1 and it says, “Now Samuel died. And all Israel assembled and mourned for him, and they buried him in his house at Ramah.”
The second text is from 2 Samuel 4:1, “When Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, heard that Abner had died at Hebron, his courage failed, and all Israel was dismayed.”
The third is found in 1 Kings 2:10-11, “Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David. And the time that David reigned over Israel was forty years. He reigned seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem.”
Here are three verses that speak about the death of three individuals in Israel’s history: a prophet, a General of Israel’s armies, and a king. We see in these passages that there are three reactions by the people to the deaths of these men.
All Israel mourned for the prophet Samuel as they buried him.
When Abner died the peoples courage failed and all Israel was dismayed.
Surprisingly, however, when King David dies, the most renowned king in Israel’s history until Jesus Christ, the Scriptures do not spend any time in this text talking about grief, mourning, or dismay.
We can understand why the people would mourn when a great prophet like Samuel died. It is hard to replace a man like Samuel who spoke the Word of God faithfully and who lived with great integrity. We can also understand why the peoples courage would fail and be dismayed when a great military leader dies. But then we must ask, why are we not told that the people did any of these things when David died? After all, he was the greater than all of these men. David was a prophet, a king and a great military leader.
I think that we can assume that the people grieved when David died. But this scripture chooses not to emphasize this. Instead the Scriptures emphasize something more important. The context of this passage shows us that faith in God and trust in His Word overcomes the fear of death for the person who dies and for the people who love them.
The scriptures in this context shows us that David had prepared himself, his family, his friends, and the nation for his death by speaking about their need to look to the LORD after he had departed. David says in 1 Kings 2:2-3, “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself courageous, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in His ways and keeping His statutes, His commandments, His rules, and His testimonies, as it was written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn…”
David had taught his family, friends, and the people of Israel that they were to live and die courageously by honoring God and responding in faith to the Good News that is revealed in His Word. King David was a great man of faith. Therefore David always pointed to the promise that God had made that He would send someone who could save the people from their sins and give them salvation and eternal life.
This is the reason why when David died the people could rejoice and have hope. On the day of David’s death they gave their attention to God and to His Word. The people had heard the Good News that David often spoke about and believed that God would accomplish it. And He has when He sent His Son Jesus Christ to live and die for us!
Have you believed upon the LORD Jesus Christ unto eternal life? Does your heart have hope, confidence and joy?
One of the reasons I wanted to begin with these three verses this afternoon was to remind us that in moments like this, at funerals where we honor our loved ones, we can expect to experience a wide range of emotions. Some of us will feel great loss, sadness, and sorrow. Some will feel a sense of dismay and this death may lead you to ask some very important questions before God. Some of us may come face to face with this death and be overwhelmed with the finality of it all.
Having said that, we can also expect that moments like these can also reveal the hope, the courage, the truth and the comfort that God alone can provide to us. As David says, “We will all go the way of all the earth.” But those who will have faith in God and in His Word can be strong and courageous in both life and in the day of death.
Song: It Is Well With My Soul
I would like to read to you a section of scripture from John 11:38-44. It says,
“Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
One of the reasons that John 11 came to my mind when Dean asked me to officiate this service was because this entire chapter is about a fried of Jesus, a man whom we are told that Jesus loved, and this man has died. In this+ chapter we see that there are a lot of different ways that people react in this moment. Similarly, as I have previously stated, there are also many different ways in which all of us will respond to moments like this one when we loose someone like Pamela. You have lost a mother, a mother-in-law, a grandmother, a sister and a friend.
Let me briefly discuss some of the reactions that we would see in this chapter if we were to read the entire chapter.
Jesus’ close friends send word that Lazarus is very sick; and yet, Jesus does not immediately leave to go be with Lazarus.
When Jesus speaks about this situation to His disciples they do not really know how to rightly understand these events.
When Jesus decides to go see Lazarus His disciples are convinced that they will all die in Judea because Jesus is sought by the religious and political leaders.
When Jesus arrives near the home of Lazarus one of his sisters, Martha, hurries out to see Jesus. She says to Him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not died.” She believes that Jesus is capable of doing anything but she still has a hard time understanding spiritual things.
Mary comes to see Jesus, and many others follow her believing that she is going to the tomb, and when she comes to Jesus she says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Mary and the others are weeping at the death of Lazarus and this deeply moves Jesus in His spirit and He is greatly troubled. Then we see that “Jesus weeps”.
In this moment the crowd is not unified in their interpretation of these things. When some see Jesus weeping they say, “See how this man loved him!” Others, however, say, “Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
We must appreciate this moment in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’ ministry began three years earlier when He performed a miracle at a wedding by turning water into wine. Now His earthly ministry is coming to an end as He performs this great miracle where He will raise a man who had been dead for four days from the grave.
Jesus can be very present with us as we celebrate the joys in life like weddings. And He can be very present with you and I when we face the day of death. If Jesus promises to be with us in these moments then will He not also be with us in all of the moments in between?
A few moments ago we invited the LORD to be here with us and I believe that He is by His Spirit. And we can also be greatly comforted by the fact that we can invite Jesus to be with us in all of the moments that you are yet to encounter. He can be invited to be with you as you deal with the grief, sorrow and loss of this moment and the many moments that you are still to face.
It is appropriate that we note carefully that in both of these events Jesus had been invited. Someone invited Jesus to the wedding and Lazarus’s sisters invited Jesus to come when their brother became sick.
Oh, how important it is that we invite Jesus to be with us every day. He will join us throughout every moment of our lives if we will do so. Many people are invited to the special moments of our lives but have we invited Jesus to be present? Many of those who were invited to my wedding will not be there when I die. Jesus, however, can be with us on both of those occasions and during everything in between. Jesus has promised to be with all those who will invite Him by faith into every moment of our life. He is a friend that will stick closer than a brother. He has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us.
There is another thing that we should consider about this moment. The miracle that Jesus did at the wedding and this miracle that is done in John 11 are great miracles; but both were done for one important reason. We are told what this is in John 11:4 when He says, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified in it.” In other words, Jesus did all that He did so that His glory would be manifested and people would believe upon Him unto eternal life. These signs, like King David’s life, were pointing to something greater.
As great as these miracles were they were not the climactic event in the gospels. All of these miracles and sermons that Jesus did were intended to allow us to see Jesus more clearly and to believe upon Him for eternal life. As great as these miracles are they become just one part of His life that led to His suffering, death, burial, resurrection and assent into heaven. In doing these things for us we are told that all of those who will repent of their sins and believe upon Jesus Christ will be saved and receive eternal life.
In John 11, and also in the particular text that we read in John 11:38-44, we see that we often struggle to believe what God has spoken to us. For example, Jesus gives them a promise that Lazarus will live but they struggle to believe. Jesus says, “Take away the stone”, and Martha says, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” In this moment Jesus says to them, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” In faith they did as Jesus commanded and they did see the glory of God. After the stone had been rolled away Jesus prayed to the Father and cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out” and he did!
The bible does not tell us anything about Lazarus and what he was like after this moment. I am pretty sure that Lazarus was still very much like he was before he had died. He still was very much like me and you. The change in Lazarus did not happen because of this moment, as wonderful as this moment is! No, the change came when Lazarus believed upon Christ and began to live by faith in the Son of God.
It is faith in Jesus that changes a persons life. It is when we consider Jesus and all that He has done for us that our natures are changed and we begin to partake in the grace of God. Jesus took upon Himself our sins and was judged for them on the cross. He died, He was buried, and He rose from the dead and He is now exalted in the heavens where He intercedes for His people.
As we begin to see these things by faith our life will never be the same. Many people believed upon Jesus at this funeral in John 11. My hope is that we all who have gathered here today at this funeral to honor Pamela Sweeney will look to Jesus and respond with the same saving faith that they did.
Song: Amazing Grace