A Funeral Sermon for Mrs. Pearl Brown.
Isaiah 49:13-16 Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted His people and will have compassion on His afflicted. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.
These words you heard from the prophet Isaiah, were also the very same words I shared with Pearl just three days before she died. We read them together, and prayed together and after a while I left her bedside telling her that I would see her again. And while I did not intend for that to be my last visit with her on this side of eternity, the words were appropriate none the less. I will see her again, and God’s Words of comfort and promise are fitting in our daily struggles, in our days of grieving, in life and in death.
But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me” … “Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” These words certainly resonate with the life of Pearl Brown, don’t they? For a homemaker from Singhampton, hers was not an easy life. Hers was a life with many troubles. She suffered from broken relationships. She suffered the effects of a life broken by illness – long before these last ten years she spent confined to a bed. It could be very easy for us to look at Pearl’s life and wonder if God had forgotten her somewhere along the way, if God had forsaken her to an unfulfilled life. But looks can be deceiving, and God’s promises to us never are! We, like Pearl, walk by faith, not by sight.
So what then are we to make of the hard life this blessed child of God was given to live here on earth? How do we begin to make sense of a day like today and a gathering like this? As St. Paul writes in our Epistle: (2 Cor. 5:1-4) For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling … For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened-not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
This mortal body in which we are all clothed grows old and tattered. It falls out of style, and needs to be constantly mended. One day it will simply give out all together. In the end it is little better than a tent. Nice to stay in for a while, but not meant to last, or to stand up to storms of life. Eventually you will want something sturdier. One day you will need to trade up. That is what Pearl has done.
Pearl Brown, despite all the hardships she faced, lived a blessed life. For all her struggles – or perhaps because of them – she learned to walk by faith and not by sight. You see Pearl knew, maybe better than most, that the body and life in which we all now live has imperfections and must face struggles, bearing the marks of sin and all of its consequences. And this knowledge caused her to groan – but a groaning that didn’t simply bemoan the suffering of the here and the now … it was a groaning that earnestly longed for the consummation of all God’s promises, the putting on of that glorious heavenly life and home. Pearl’s Christian desire and wish was to be clothed with her heavenly dwelling.
For you see, unlike the mortal flesh in which we are clothed, our spiritual clothing is found in the new life we have been given through faith in Jesus Christ. (Gal 3:27) For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Thus the words we so confidently spoken at the beginning of our service … “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”
In life and in death Pearl was joined to her Lord. Her suffering and affliction here on earth was but a share in all that Christ suffered and endured for her upon the cross. Her death is a share in the death of her Lord. For being united with Him in these, she is now also united with Him in the resurrection and everlasting life she longed for. In suffering and affliction, she learned to call upon her Lord and find strength from Him. She took to heart the promise of Jesus and has found her rest at last. Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
How can we have such confidence? (5-8) He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
The Lord has given us a down-payment, a deposit guaranteeing that which is to come. He has given us the Holy Spirit, who calls us to Christ in the sweet promises of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit who keeps us in faith despite all that crumbles around us. The Holy Spirit who dwells in us, helping us to pray in our need, and praying for us when there is nothing left to give. When friends would come to visit Pearl one of her favourite hymns was “What a Friend We have in Jesus” She couldn’t help but join in singing it , no matter what. That was Pearls faith. She knew that she had a friend in Jesus, a friend who carried all her griefs and burdens. A friend she could go to in prayer when faced with trials, temptations, discouragement and sorrows. A friend in whose arms she was shielded and given solace. A friend in whom she could be confident.
We live with full confidence, no matter what our circumstances, no matter what turns our lives take, no matter what hurts or difficulties we face. Why? The struggles are temporary, but the promises of God are forever. We need not fear suffering, or death, or anything that can happen to us in these broken bodies of ours. In spite of all appearances, hardships only bring us closer to our eternal home.
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted His people and had compassion on His afflicted. He did not forget Pearl and He will not forget you. You, me, and Pearl together we are all engraved on the palms of Christ’s nail-pierced hands. And in the hands of that Saviour who suffered, died and rose again we know that just like our beloved Pearl, and despite what may now be, one day this frail old garment of mortality will be cast off that the new robe of righteousness and everlasting life may gloriously clothe us forever more.