My final sermon assignment in preaching class was to write a funeral sermon. I wrote this as the sermon I wish I had preached at my Great Aunt Sandy's funeral. I am sharing for my family as we continue to think about her from time to time and wonder what we might continue to take away from her death.
“Newness of Life”
I entered the room and immediately noticed Sandy was in too much pain for hugs and too frail for the traditional moment of sitting on her lap and playing Sandy-Clause with her. Her mouth was chapped and she had a bucket of ice she was using to provide moisture to her lips.
I recognized this point in the process from my time as a nurse aide,
Sandy was in the process of dying,
Sandy was near the end of her life.
With tears in my eyes I approached her bed, knelt down, took her hand, whispered in her ear “I love you, Sandy.” She squeezed my hand and woke from her nap as if she had been waiting on me. With tears in her eyes she said, “I love you too kiddo.” I kissed her forehead and she smiled and asked, “Will you wait with me? The preacher is coming and I’m going to be baptized.”
“You don’t have to do this you know?” I said.
“I know” she replied “But I had planned to just before my diagnosis, and now I’m out of time. I want to.”
I kissed her head once again and assured her I would be there all night until she wanted me to go.
We talked about life,
about the fear of dying,
about the short but full life she lived
before the preacher got there.
When he did, my family, all of us gathered around her bed in that ICU and watched something magical happen.
The preacher looked her in the eyes and said, “Sandy, we’ve already had this discussion, but gathered here with your family today I ask you again:
“Do you accept our Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and welcome him into your heart.”
“I do.” she said with a smile.
The preacher took his small bottle of oil and anointed her head saying the familiar words “Sandy, child of God, I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
We all stood around in that tiny ICU room that evening full of tears and laughter and sorrow and joy. After that moment though, Sandy was different. She didn’t complain about her pain, she didn’t shed anymore tears, she didn’t throw herself the pity party I would have after getting the news hours earlier that time was running out and death was imminent.
Instead Sandy told stories,
she laughed, she cracked jokes,
and she shared family stories she wanted to be passed on for generations.
As Sandy stared death in the face she did so with the newness of life she found in her baptism-the newness of life promised in the scripture we read earlier from Romans. As I reflect on the beautiful transformation I witnessed that night in the ICU with Sandy, I reflect on the beautiful transformation of our world in relationship with God. I reflect on the transformation of our lives when we too walk in the newness of life found only in our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.
When we gather here to celebrate the life of Sandy we also gather to celebrate the resurrection of Christ because it is in His resurrection that we have the chance to live as Sandy did.
Forgetting the sorrow,
forgetting the heartbreak,
forgetting the tough days, forgetting the regrets,
and looking forward to the moments of love, acceptance,
and inner peace that comes with knowing that
you, I , we
have been set free from the guilt, the shame, and the brokenness of our sinful nature. BECAUSE IN CHRIST WE ARE A NEW CREATION! We are invited to live as such.
If there is one thing that we can learn from Sandy and the way she carried herself in those final moments of life, it is that the newness of Christ is real. It is powerful, and it can give us great hope that the powers of this world are worthless in comparison to the power of Christ.
Here we had Sandy staring death in the face, in the final hours of life, and she leaned into Christ, took a leap of faith and said No More! She decided moping and being scared was not what she was called to and after her baptism she took to heart this newness of life, leaned into the promises of God and shared the Good News with each of us around the bed.
As we leave this place
As we leave and head to the cemetery to put Sandy’s body in her earthly resting place,
As we say the words, ashes to ashes, dust to dust
As we bid our farewells
As we remember our favorite moments
As we tell our favorite stories
May we remember the newness of life Sandy has shown us
May we make the choice to walk in that newness as she did
Staring our mortal lives in the face and proclaiming that Christ holds power
Christ has overcome our brokenness by granting us reconciliation
Christ has overcome our sorrow by showing us love
Christ has overcome death in his resurrection
Christ has granted us a newness of life and invited us to live into that life not just in the final moments of life, but today, and tomorrow, and the next day.
So as we leave this place and this day where we shed tears, share laughs, and mourn the loss
of our dear friend,
may we do so trusting in the promise Sandy gave us a glimpse of,
that is trusting in a life that proclaims Christ’s power in word and deed.
Sandy wanted all of us to trust in that newness, in that promise, in all of the promises of God.
So let us lean in as she did, laughing, sharing stories, and proclaiming the power of God in our world.
Let us lean in and trust the promise of God to make us clean and set us free from our sins.
Let us lean in and bask in that newness in mind, body, and soul as we journey in this life-never knowing what each day will bring.
And may we challenge each other to accept this newness and live as Sandy inspires us to-lives of service, humility, and love for the sake of Christ in our world.