Family and friends I must say this is the most difficult thing I have ever had to do. When taking the vow of priesthood we are trained to minister the sacraments of Marriage, Baptism, Confirmation, Absolution, the Holy Eucharist, Ministration to the Sick and Ministration at the Time of Death. The ministration at the time of death for me is most celebratory if the person is saved by the grace of God through His Son Jesus Christ (Pause). We are gathered here today to celebrate the life and legacy of Deacon John Smith. The mystery of life and death has always confounded us. No one knows the exact time life will begin or end. None of us know the hour when we will return to our maker, but we can rest assured if Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior the eternal question has been answered.
The Gospel reading. Jesus said, “Let not our heart be troubled: If you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions. If this were not, so I would have told you. I go and prepare a place for you; I will come again and receive you to myself”. So that where I am there you may be also. Deacon John Smith is now living in a mansion that was built by none other than the Master Carpenter, Jesus Christ the Son of God. It will need no renovations, no repairs, and no additional rooms.
“But as it was written, that no eye has seen, not ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him”.
Today as we celebrate John’s life, please know that someday we all will make this journey. It’s not a punishment when a Christian moves on to be with the Lord. Paul knew this when he said,
2 Corinthians 5:1,8 - For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. We share the grief and the pain of this loss to our family even though we know John is secure in the arms of the Almighty God. We will persevere by focusing on the whole life of John and the incredible miracles of his life. John died a free man, John died a sober/drug free man, John was a giver, he loved to please others. Deacon John Smith grew up spiritually right here is this Church. Let me say that when he arrived here some 13 years ago, John had a few rough spots that had to be ironed out. He would say “I am not what I ought to, I am not where I’m going to be, but I thank God I am not what I used to be”. To that I say Amen! John soon discovered his gift as a giver, as a testament to his character. I believe that every person here tonight have been touched or helped in some way by John at a time of need. The first thing I noticed about John was his unusual big hands. God gave him the big hands as an extended hand of Jesus reaching out to help others (doctor). John understood my problems, I had a mechanical by-pass at the age of 10 and was often intimidated when I would buy something that said “some assembly required”. John would always come to the rescue and once he heard I was looking for a screwdriver. He almost fell off the ladder to stop whatever disaster that was about to take place. After whatever task I would ask “how much I owe you John?” and he would say “nothing”. Then I would take out something and say “here, take this” and he would always accept. I loved John.
Last Wednesday (a week ago) Heavy, a friend who was home with John, called me and said “John is asking for you and he placed the phone on speaker. I said “how are you doing buddy”, he said “I am alright”. I asked if he wanted me to come over, he tried to say something and then finally he said “Everything is going to be alright”. I immediately told Heavy that I was on my way. By the time I got there he was out again, eyes closed. I began to minister the Sacrament of “Last Rite”. Later that night Gladys called in a state of panic to inform me that John was taking a turn for the worse. She called the Hospice nurse and they came and never left his side until he went on to be with the Lord, on March 16th – 3 days later.
Fr. Craig brought it to my attention that John passed on March 16th. “3:16”. (John 3:16) “For God so loved the Lord that He gave His only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life”.
John gave us the encouraging word “Everything is going to be alright”. No matter what you’re going through today, John said “Everything is going to be alright”. Even though you might be in the midst of a storm, “Everything is going to be alright”. “We will get to the other side”.
Philippians 4:6-8 - Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
James 1:2-4 - Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given to you. Ask in faith, never doubting. Faith that has not been tested is Faith that cannot be trusted. (When, not if). Now as we all move forward, let us characterize this moment of grief with moments of joy. This joy however does not make human grief unnecessary. The very love we have for each other in Christ brings deep sorrow when we are separated by death. Jesus Himself wept at the grave of His friend, Lazarus, and we too must allow ourselves to grieve our loses of friends and loved ones, because in doing so we celebrate their legacy and honor their lives. May God’s blessing and peace be with you.
In The Name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. Amen.