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Four Funerals & A Wedding - Funeral #1 ::

NEIL ATWOOD & LUKE TATTERSALL share sermon ideas for funerals and weddings.

Source: Perspective Vo10 No3&4 ©Perspective 2003

All five sermons in PDF format:

Funeral – John 11:17-44

A funeral service is a profound opportunity for ministry of the Word. People are asking big questions, and while they are also very distracted and vulnerable and we can’t hope to answer all of them in a half hour service, I’ve found this sermon adapts itself well to many funeral situations. While the passage is a tad long, I’ve read it (or had it read by one or two people) and simply cut out some of the other standard “Anglican” Bible readings out. Many people have commented that they found the passage very helpful as it presents a very human (as he grieves with the sisters) and a very divine (as he raises Lazarus) side to Jesus.

The passage we have just heard is one that always touches me deeply.
When I hear It, I am saddened at the situation, similar to that which brings us together today – the death of a loved one and a friend. But I am also encouraged because the passage speaks of the hope that it’s possible for all of us to have. I want to share briefly with you some of the things that make the passage so meaningful for me.

However many times I read it, I’m always drawn into the sadness of the occasion. Death touches us all.
There’s no escaping it. And I find myself sharing the sorrow of these sisters, Martha and Mary, over the death of their brother Lazarus, as we today share in the sorrow over the loss of .
And this passage reminds us that it is right to grieve over the loss of those dear to us. It is not something to ashamed of, or to hide. For we are whole people, not just flesh and blood. We are emotional and spiritual people, and it’s natural to express our grief in a way that expresses our emotions and all parts of our personality. It’s natural to remember… to sorrow…. to weep.
We see in the passage how Jesus wept. He wept then over the death of Lazarus. He wept over the sadness of the sisters and their friends. And Jesus still cares enough to grieve with us today. But he did more than just grieve. He went on to give his own life that we might have the chance to experience eternal life.

Fragility of life
This passage also reminds me of how fragile life is. It is 2000 years since the raising of Lazarus occurred. 2000 years since Jesus lived and died for us. What has really changed in that time? Sure we live in a more sophisticated age. Sure technology abounds – we have computers and television and we’ve even put men on the moon. But at a basic level, what has changed? People are still the same. We are all a mixture of good and bad. That hasn’t changed. The things that make life worthwhile, laughter and love and friendship – they haven’t changed. The fact that life is so fragile and the certainty of death is still the same. Death does not call according to our plans and schedules. Lazarus was a relatively young man…. Death will not be ignored. So, today we recognise the inevitability of death, as we
grieve the loss of . and we also recognise we have to face the inevitability of our own death one day. There is no escaping it. The Psalmist says:

The days of man are but as grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; when the wind goes over it, it is gone.

We each have to come to terms with the fragility of our own life.
But , if that was all this passage says to us, it would be sad indeed. However, it is a joyful passage because it also speaks of hope.
For Jesus not oily raised a dear friend Lazarus from the dead. He also spoke of the resurrection hope that is offered to us all. All of our sophisticated technology can never conquer – death. At best it can only defer it. Only God himself can cancel death. Only he can offer us the prospect of eternal life. And that is what Jesus does offer us. A life where there will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain. An eternal life, with God in heaven, who is the source of life, the creator of all things! That is what Jesus refers to in the passage when he says to Martha:

l am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies,’ and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.

Jesus does not deny that we will all face death, but he does say that there is a life beyond death. A better life. An eternal life – for all who truly believe in him. Let me say that having eternal life in Jesus does not depend on how we die, in one sense it doesn’t even depend on how we live. It depends on our attitude to Jesus in this life. Whether our belief in him is dinkum enough to show in our lives.

Certainly this occasion, this passage, does remind us that life is fragile.
It reminds us that we must all face death. But it shows us how we can face death with hope, because it points us to Jesus Christ. As we come to know Jesus, to put our trust in him, we can take his words to Martha and apply them to ourselves.

l am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies,’ and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.

Let us pray …

Neil Atwood serves as Associate Minister at Toongabbie Anglican Church, Sydney

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These are articles dealing more broadly with the general topic of preaching.

There are sample sermons for those challenging occasions like funerals and weddings, articles looking at preaching on difficult topics such as sex, and even the full text of an evangelistic sermon based on Isaiah!

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