Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Funeral Sermon

A sermon for Norma Lee Burnett's funeral.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost+

Jerry, Jimmy, Verlin, friends and family of our sister in Christ Norma Lee, grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father, and our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. There is a verse in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus says that He longed to gather the people of Israel as a hen gathers her brood under her wings. When you saw Norma Lee care for her family, you understood this image that Jesus uses. In many ways she was like a mother hen, always going around and gathering everyone together in a most warm and amazing way. The amount of care and compassion that Norma Lee showed to during the course of her life is astounding – especially when it involved children. I have heard that if there was a problem, the solution was to go to Grandma’s house – that’s where things would be taken care of. Now, I only came to know Norma Lee when she was a bit older, not as quick or strong as she used to be, but the care for her family, especially the youngest ones, was clear even to me. She made it clear. I can hear saying, “and Pastor, I told them, ‘we’ve got to get those babies baptized,’” and she said it with such love and passion and fire. The love that she showed was warm and intense and sincere – and I hope you know and understand what a fantastic, awesome blessing to have had that love in your life has been. Not all families are blessed with such a woman to knit them together, to bring them together as your family, as indeed this congregation was blessed with our sister Norma Lee. She showed forth great love.

I also want you to understand what that love was, because it wasn’t the typical self-serving love that we tend to think of and see in the world. It wasn’t just some emotion or feeling that sprung up from with her, it wasn’t something she came up with or she was responsible for. There is a reason why when I was thinking of the way in which Norma Lee showed love to you that I was reminded of Jesus’ words. It is because she showed Christ’s love. As Christians, we are to be vessels, to be conduits of love – the love that God gives us in the forgiveness of our sins by Christ Jesus’ death upon the Cross and by His resurrection is to flow through us. That is what you saw when you saw Norma Lee’s love. That is where it’s passion, that is where it’s strength came from – it was a gift of God to Norma Lee, indeed, it was Jesus Himself working through Norma Lee, to show care to you. At her Baptism, God not only claimed Norma Lee as His own, not only gave her the forgiveness won by Jesus, but also made her His dwelling place so that His love would shine out and radiate from her to you. And this is why Norma Lee was so passionate about Church, about being baptized, about hearing the Word – because she knew that is how she received God’s love, and she greatly desired that you receive it as well, that you continually be showered by that same love that God showed her in Christ Jesus.

This is in fact the same love that Christ Jesus is showing to Norma Lee this very moment. Hear again the words of our Lord Jesus from our Gospel lesson. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.” The gift of life and salvation that God gave to Norma Lee at her Baptism, the promise He made to be her God has been fulfilled. Just as Norma Lee welcomed you all to her house to show care for you whenever you needed it, God the Father declared her to be His child, and He has called her to His home, to show her love and compassion. Indeed, Christ Jesus has been true to His Word, and He has given His servant Norma Lee rest and care and compassion. Indeed, that same love that Norma Lee showed to each of you she now receives in full in the glorious presence of God. This is why Paul writes to us, “But we do not want you to be unformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. Norma Lee is with God, and when Jesus returns, she will return with Him, along with her Robert and any and all of God’s saints who have gone on before us, for they are with Jesus always. That is what we believe, that is what we look forward – that is why we confess “And I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come” – for we know that God’s blessings continue on even past our time on earth and on into eternity.

Dear friends, I know that you will indeed miss Norma Lee for what days you have left to you, but know this. Christ Jesus continues to give you the same love that He showed you through Norma Lee, and indeed by the power of His forgiveness He stirs up that same love in you. Moreover, our Lord has promised that He who believes and is Baptized shall be saved – so indeed, because of Christ Jesus and what He has done for both you and for Norma Lee, we are able to look forward to our joyous reunion with her and with all of God’s saints. So then we are right to praise God and give thanks to Him for the gift He gave us in His child Norma Lee.

Thanks to God for Norma Lee

Who always with great zeal

Showed God’s love to her family

Their hurts and wounds to heal

Likewise o Lord now use us

To show to all Your love

Until You choose to call us

To Your great home above. Amen.

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