Funeral Message: Sharon Mass

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Over the past seven years I had the honour and privilege of getting to know Sharon as we ministered together. Sharon served our congregation and larger community in a variety of capacities. Most recently, Sharon was a deacon in our church, helping our congregation build a bridge of love and mercy into the lives of hurting people.

Sharon was a gifted helper and whether it was with the ladies preparing for funeral lunches or making sure there was bread for community soup fundraisers or sitting down with youth who needed a listening ear, Sharon radiated the love she had been given in Christ.

I will always remember her laugh and sense of humour, her rolling eyes when she didn’t always agree with you, and her words of encouragement and support for me as a pastor.

Sharon was the person many of you knew because God the Father had created her and she was fearfully and wonderfully made, blessed with gifts that she shared with so many of you here.

Sharon was the person you experienced because she recognized herself to be a sinner – not in some distant past or because of some great wrong she had done, but simply because she knew that on her own, she could not truly fear, love and trust in God. Sharon knew her need for Jesus her Saviour and she trusted that Jesus had lived and died for her. It’s perhaps why she loved that first hymn we sang today…

Just as I am, thou wilt receive,
wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Sharon believed the promise Christ had made to her in baptism and every time she received the Lord’s Supper; the promise that she was a forgiven child of God’s.

Sharon was the person she became because God the Holy Spirit had come to bury her with Christ through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, she too might live a new life (Romans 6).

Sharon was and still is God’s child because of God’s saving action in her life and she is with her Lord today because she trusted in the Christ who promised her and promises each of us: I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.

Those Bible readings I chose today are ones I believe reflect Sharon’s witness to you.

In Isaiah 25:8 we read – He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.

I’m sure Sharon and many of you have shed tears over the last number of months, but awhile back Sharon said in the midst of facing death, “I am so happy.” Seems like a strange thing for a person facing death to say. But Sharon was able to say this because she faced her greatest enemy and ours with the promise that Christ makes to all of us: that the power of death has been eliminated because Christ has overcome death through his resurrection. Sharon was happy or I might say, joyful, because she rested in Christ’s promise to her and to you.

In Psalm 90:12 we heard- So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Sharon was blessed with seventy years. Now I know that no amount of time is enough for those of us who remain behind. We all would have loved to have Sharon with us for another 10, 20 or 30 more years, but every day we did have was truly a gift.

Sharon knew about numbering her days, especially in the face of death and even though there was much she would have liked to do and a family she would have continued to care for, she wisely used the time she had been given to bless the people she loved and encountered. She wisely used the time she had, to be fed on God’s Word in worship and when she could no longer come, she read God’s Word each day to prepare for the final days of this life and for the eternity that awaited her.

We do not know how many days we will have. Some seek to gain the world in this life and somehow extend their life, only to lose it in the next, but a heart of wisdom knows the shortness of life in this world and the eternity of that life promised through faith in Christ.

In Romans 8:38-39 we heard these words…- For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We cling to so much in this life. We cling to our families, to our accomplishments, our careers, our property, to friends and sports teams, but in the end, even what we remember gives way and we are lost as time swallows us.

Sharon loved her family and friends, her church, her angels and I’m sure many other things, but rather than cling to these, Sharon was held by the love of God in Christ Jesus her Lord.

Now did Sharon have doubts? Absolutely, but despite her struggles, she trusted that God loved her and that nothing would separate her from God’s love in Christ Jesus.

If there is anything to cling onto in this life, it is to trust in God’s love and to know that because of that love all who have believed in Christ their Saviour will one day be together again.

So as we heard Jesus say in John 14:1 – “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

I truly appreciated Sharon’s witness to that peace that passes all understanding; that peace she had in the midst of her troubles, struggles, illness and death; that peace that came because Sharon believed in God and more specifically, believed in Jesus, the one who said to her and to me and to you: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Why did Sharon have that peace that passes all understanding? How did she believe amidst all that she went through? How can you know with assurance that God loves you; that you are forgiven and that you can have eternal life also?

Sheila is going to sing a song in a moment that we often hear at funerals and that song is “Amazing Grace.” It was written by a man who had grown up without any particular religious conviction, but who in the midst of a time of great stress and need had cried out to God and in that moment came to know the peace of God’s amazing grace in Christ.

Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
T’was blind but now I see

Sharon sees clearly now what we who believe in Christ will one day also see clearly.

But today I pray that the witness of Sharon’s life and the Word of God, upon which her life rested, will find you and open your eyes to God’s amazing grace in Christ Jesus who has lived and died and risen for you.

Now may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our risen Lord and Saviour. Amen.