The Lighthouse Keeper

Greetings from Pastor Kerry, former pastor of Spring City UMC. This blog contains my sermon outlines and/or manuscripts from my pastorate among the people of Spring City PA, from 2006 to 2011. Pastor Dennis is now the lighthouse keeper. Come and worship on Sundays at 10:00 a.m.!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Opportunity of Death

June 28, 2009
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

The Opportunity of Death
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. – Psalm 116:15
I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. – Ezekiel 18:32
Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” – Mark 5:36

My sermon outline:

• Deaths this week: Ed McMahon (86, d. tues. bone cancer) Farrah Fawcett (62, d. thurs, cancer), Michael Jackson (50, d. thurs, heart attack)

Not going to eulogize any of these, but the co-incidence of today’s readings and these “national events” do set the stage to talk about the Opportunity of Death.

People in America fear death. They don’t understand it, and they don’t really talk about it, and it’s not healthy. Death is an opportunity.

• Reading from 2 Samuel 1 David eulogizes Saul and Jonathan, and let me just say, we have really glossed over the history of Saul and Jonathan and David... we read about the anointing of David and about David & Goliath, but that’s two chapters from the middle of the “book” of 1 Samuel, and our reading today we’ve skipped over the death of Saul and Jonathan, not to mention most of their life. Read 1 Samuel chapters 17 – 31 today.

David’s eulogy doesn’t tell you much about these relationships. As eulogies are wont to do, David takes the opportunity of death to accentuate the good and turn a blind eye to the bad. Now of course you’re not going to hear a eulogy and say “boy that guy sounds like a saint”, you recognize that human decency honors the dead, perhaps even regardless of honorability.

For example: John F. Kennedy’s “ranking” among the US Presidents is inflated by his youth and the manner of his death... In the popular vote he's in the top ten... (about 15th percentile). Presidential historians rank him around the 33rd percentile, or 15 or so out of 43). JFK’s youth and the manner of his death, it’s arguable, positively skew his place in US history... His record is pumped up by the manner of his death.

Similarly, were it not for the moral failure regarding the infamous Watergate events, Nixon would probably not consistently rank among the bottom five. His contributions are forever stained by Watergate.

Death gives survivors an opportunity to paint legend.

David doesn’t bring up the number of times Saul tried to kill him, directly or indirectly... Doesn’t bring up that Saul fell from God’s grace because of his disobedience to God’s commands... David honors Saul, and honors Jonathan, who traditionally woulda been king (cept for that whole Saul’s-fall-from-grace-thing)...

• David didn’t have to honor Saul, but he recognized that even though Saul had fallen from grace, Saul had been God’s anointed one... You may recall, in fact, that D had several chances to kill S, and he didn’t do it.

David took the opportunity of his political opponent’s death to honor the man, and in doing so, showed himself to be a man whom God was with. Gave glory to God.

• As pastor, I do a fair amount of funerals. I always imagine people think it sounds odd when I say I enjoy doing funerals. Unique opportunity in death to connect with an individual or family, and honestly, sometimes the only contact some folks have with a pastor is at a funeral. I want to take that opportunity to present the gospel, to let people know about the possibility of reconciliation, the hope of eternal life, and the forgiveness of sins and salvation offered to us in Jesus Christ who died so that we might live.

• And when I speak of the opportunity of death, I mean that we – you and I alike – can use death as a way to witness to our faith... perhaps not as insensitively as “so-and-so didn’t go to heaven because they didn’t believe in Jesus, do you?” – we want to be welcoming, and not drive people away – (if you speak ill of someone when they die, people will remember... likewise if you speak well of someone when they die, people will remember)
but by saying things like “not even death can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus...”. Maybe the open ended “what do you think happens when we die?”

• I said before that death gives survivors an opportunity to paint legend. The other side of that coin, of course, is that LIFE gives the living the opportunity to paint legend. You’ve heard it said, Live so that the preacher doesn’t have to lie at your funeral. Live so that you give honor and glory to God. Because you’re aware of the possibility of death, live in such a way that you’ll have no regrets, live in such a way that other people will look at your life and say God is with that one.

• We may not understand all there is to understand about life and death, but Jesus said Do not fear, only believe. Let us confess what we believe: as found on p. 883

• Hymn 525 We’ll Understand It Better By And By

- Pastor Kerry

This Sunday: 58 in worship.


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