Comfort and Joy…. a sermon

I find comfort in the following passages from a sermon that is specific to suicide, although, everyone who believes can take comfort. In this festive season when children believe in Santa and all the gifts he will bring….I am brought to my knees about the one gift that a tiny baby brought to me. Yes, I believe.infant-jesus-born-01

We celebrate Christ’s birth in a few days. I believe that my son is experiencing constant celebration in the presence of our Lord. Christ was born to give us hope. Christ was born to save us from eternal damnation. Christ was born …and died so that we could have life. God loves us that much. Nothing can separate us from that love. The following is an article that has given me comfort and peace about my son’s death. I did not have this comfort at my son’s memorial because I was too stricken to have overseen it myself and the pastor who conducted the service did not know me well or my son only because the Methodist church changes out ministers every 4 yrs or so…and we had moved away (and from our home church) during the time that transition took place. My son had moved, too. A suicide death was the “white elephant” in the sanctuary that day….it was not addressed nor was it mentioned …therefore, there was little comfort for me from the pulpit that day. Some of these same passages were, however, used by the pastor who had baptized my son years before, at the private family graveside service we had months after the initial memorial.

Scriptures:

In an Associated Content article I wrote in September of 2007, I gave some tips for preparing funeral sermons for people who had committed suicide. Because of the shock and intense emotions that inevitably occur in the aftermath of a suicide, the role of the pastor is particularly difficult and important. A suicide raises some thorny theological issues that many people are not able to resolve. Part of the problem is a lack of understanding with respect to the Bible. Part of the problem involves traditional understandings of suicide and its implications. See my article for some helpful ways of understanding the emotions, the guilt, and the underlying theological confusion.As a pastor, I was called on a few times to conduct funeral services for people who had committed suicide. In this article I would like to give some Bible passages that have been helpful to me, either in the funeral sermon itself or as factors in shaping my overall thinking about the subject of suicide and how a Christian should understand it.

Psalm 139:14-16. The portion of this verse that catches my attention is part of verse 16: “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (New International Version).” In most cases, suicide catches loved ones and friends by surprise. In their grief, it is helpful to know that God is not caught by surprise by the things that happen to us. We may grieve the heart of God by the things we do, but we do not catch God off guard. To preach that carefully and fully is to lay the groundwork for spiritual and emotional healing. It is to say that we have an all-knowing God who is present in all of our circumstances.

Romans 8:28-30. The heart of this familiar passage is summed up in the words, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (8:28, New International Version).” Let’s be honest: Christians commit suicide and the relatives of Christians commit suicide. If, as I believe, there is a God who has some control over the universe and its people and their destiny, then something good can come out of every situation, regardless of how good or bad it may appear to us. People who have lost someone to suicide need the assurance that their tragic situation can be turned to good by a loving God.

John 10:28-30. As I noted in my earlier article, an issue that rises in the context of suicide is whether or not suicide is the unforgivable sin that causes a Christian believer to lose his or her salvation. In John 10:28 are these encouraging words from Jesus, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand (New International Version).” This passage plainly says that the gift of eternal life is an eternal gift. Whenever I refer to this passage, someone invariably replies, “Well, yes, no one can snatch us from the hand of Jesus, but are we not free to jump out of the hand of Jesus?” My response is twofold: (1) The passage says they shall never perish. (2) Why would anyone want to jump out of the hands of Jesus once having gotten safely into the hands of Jesus? To even raise the issue of jumping out is to go beyond what Jesus has in mind.

John 5:24. In connection with the preceding passage is John 5:24: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life (New International Version).” Notice that the verse says “has eternal life” and has crossed over.” It does not say, “Will get eternal life” and “Will cross over.” For the one who has believed in Jesus, those are accomplished facts.

Luke 15:11-32. I referred to this passage in my earlier article. It’s the famous story of the Prodigal Son, a son who took his inheritance while his father was still alive and went off and wasted it on wild living. When he was broke and hungry, he finally made the decision to go back home and offer to be a servant in his father’s house. When the father saw him coming, he rushed out to meet him and restored him to his place as son rather than servant. This story is part of a chapter that contains three stories of lost things: a sheep, a coin, and a son. In all three instances, when the lost is found, there is a celebration. The point of the passage for our discussion about suicide: We can do many “bad” things and still not lose the love of our Father in heaven.

I realize that there are religious traditions that believe you can lose your salvation by committing an unforgiven sin. I believe otherwise and I offer these passages as help in dealing with suicide.

Source:
www.associatedcontent.com/article/354974/sermon_ideas_for_the_funeral_of_a_person.html
New International Version of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan), 1984

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