************ Funeral Sermon on Romans 8:17-19 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This funeral sermon was preached on February 16, 1011
Jane Strikwerda Funeral
I think we all know that Jane's life was a life of pain. She has been a widow since 1973 – for 38 long years. As I met with the family on Saturday we counted over 20 different surgeries that she underwent. Looking up my records I discovered that during the last 13 years I visited Jane over 140 times. When I asked how she was doing she mentioned pain on most of those visits.
I want you to know – you, the family and friends of Jane – that pain does not have the last word with Jane. Instead, glory does. Listen again to the text I have chosen for Jane's funeral:
(Rom 8:18) I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Who is saying this? Paul. Paul who knows what he is talking about. Paul who has personal experience, lots of personal experience, with suffering and pain. Listen to what Paul says about his life as a Christian:
(2 Cor 11:24-29) Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. (25) Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, (26) I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. (27) I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. (28) Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. (29) Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?Do you hear all the suffering and pain? So Paul certainly knows what he is talking about, doesn't he?
You realize, I am sure, there are many different kinds of sufferings. Let's start with all the physical suffering in our world. There is so much of it. Go to a children's hospital and see horribly deformed and mistreated children. Go to the Sudan and Haiti and see people suffering from hunger. Go to a home for abused women and see the damnable things husbands have done to their wives and fathers have done to their daughters. Go to an old age home. It breaks your heart to see some of the old people sitting there, not even aware of their own existence for months and years; it breaks your heart to see that some go months without a single visitor; we are thankful that this was not Jane's experience. Yet, as I mentioned earlier, Jane did have a life full of physical suffering and pain.
There is the emotional suffering of losing loved ones. Jane lost both her father and her husband at an early age.
There is the suffering for sin. Think of what Christ suffered: the tears of Gethsemane, the slapping and spitting, the whipping and crown of thorns, the cross, being forsaken by God. Christ suffered all this because of the sins of the world; Christ suffered all this because of me and you and Jane. Every time I think of what the Son of Glory went through because of me I am ashamed and sad. Jane was acquainted with this suffering; she knew what the Savior went through for her. Every couple of months she remembered this in a special way when we brought her the Lord's Supper.
Lastly, there is the suffering for Christ experienced by Paul and millions of Christians in places like China, India, Iraq, Egypt, and Afghanistan.
Suffering. Suffering. Suffering. Our world is full of suffering and pain. It truly is a vale of tears.
Yet, what does Paul say about all this suffering and pain? It is "not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Rom 8:18). Paul wants us to imagine a scale – not the digital scales we use today but the old fashioned kind with two weighing pans suspended from two arms. The same kind of scales held by Lady Justice.
On the one side of the scale Paul puts the sufferings of this present time. All of his sufferings. All of Jane's sufferings. All of your sufferings. When Paul puts these in the balance, you would think the scale would fall over from all the weight. Yet, what does Paul say to the Corinthians about the troubles, trials, and sufferings of this life? Paul says they are "light and momentary" (2 Cor 4:17). Do you hear what Paul says about pain and suffering? It has no weight. It lasts for no time. Not to diminish the pain. Not to make light of the pain. Not to pretend the pain does not happen.
On the other side of the scale Paul puts glory. "Glory," you may say to yourself. "What is the weight of glory?" Consider this: did you know that in the Old Testament "glory" denotes the weight and majesty of God's presence. Unlike the weight of suffering, the weight of glory is not "light and momentary." Rather, it is great and eternal.
So, what happens when you put suffering on one side of the scale and glory on the other side of the scale? Or, to put it another way, what happens when human suffering is put opposite of God's glory? "I consider," says Paul. Another translation says, "I reckon ..." (KJV). Whatever translation we use the idea is that Paul makes a calculation like a book-keeper balancing an account. He weighs suffering on the one side and glory on the other. He sums up what we pay out in suffering and finds this to be very little; he then sums up what is secured for us in Christ and finds this to be an infinite sum.
So, what happens when you put suffering on one side of the scale and glory on the other side of the scale? No matter how you weigh it, the scales always go down on the glory side and always go up on the suffering side. No matter how you weigh it, future glory always outweighs present suffering. Is it because the suffering is so light and so momentary? No, it is because the glory is so great and eternal. So great, in fact, that next to it pain and suffering seem light and momentary.
Think of what this means. There is no suffering so great that it is greater than glory. There is no evil so bad that it is bigger than good. There is no darkness so dark that it chases away the light. Today there is pain and grief because Jane is gone; but here, too, the glory outweighs and outshines the suffering.
"I consider," says Paul, "that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." We have identified the pain and the suffering but what is the glory? What is Paul talking about?
First of all, he is talking of the glory that is Jane's right now. To get at this let me ask, "Where is Jane right now?" The secular humanist says Jane is nowhere. "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust." That's it, that's all, that's the end! Jane is no more. In contrast to this, did you notice what Jesus says in our call to worship?
(Jn 11:25-26) "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; (26) and whoever lives and believes in me will never die."According to Jesus, believers who die are not really dead; they are still alive.
Jane Strikwerda is no longer with her loved ones. Where is she then? She is with Jesus just like the thief on the cross. Remember what Jesus promised to the thief on the cross? "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise" (Lk 23:43). Remember, too, what Stephen cried out at the moment of death? He cried out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts 7:59).
Jane, like the thief on the cross and like Stephen, is with Jesus and she is experiencing the weight of glory. Jane is in the presence of Jesus. What do you think that is like? I can only answer by looking at John's experience when he was in the presence of the Lord. John, if you remember, was in the Spirit. He heard a loud voice like a trumpet. He turned to see the voice and saw someone "like a son of man." What he saw was absolutely glorious: robe down to His feet, golden sash around His chest, head and hair white like wool, eyes like blazing fire, feet like bronze glowing in a furnace, voice like the sound of rushing waters, in His right hand He held seven stars, out of His mouth came a sharp double-edged sword, His face was like the sun shining in all its glory. Remember John's reaction? "When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead" (Rev 1:17). This is the weight of glory. This is Jane's experience right now.
But there is more. John also saw a throne. At the center of the throne is God and the Lamb. Surrounding the throne are a series of circles, each circle bigger than the last. In the first circle before the throne are seven blazing lamps or spirits, then an emerald rainbow, then four living creatures, then twenty-four elders, then the crystal sea, then thousands of angels, then every other creature in heaven and on earth and on the sea. And all of them are singing the praises of God:
(Rev 5:13) "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!"This, too, is the weight of glory. This is Jane's experience right now.
But there is still more. Someday Jane's body will be raised from the grave – a perfect body like Christ's perfect body. Someday there will be a new heaven and a new earth. Someday Jane will live a new and better life in a new and better body on a new and better earth. What is this life like?
(Rev 21:3-4) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. (4) He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."This, too, is the weight of glory. This will be Jane's experience in the future.
The weight of glory. I want you to notice it is centered on Jesus. It is all about Jesus and not about Jane. Its focus is the worship of Jesus the glorious Lamb. Its result is to be like Jesus. Its goal is to be with Jesus both now and forevermore.
I've said more than once that Jane – who experienced so much pain and suffering on this earth – is now experiencing the weight of glory. This is not something she earned. This is not something she purchased. This is not something that is hers because of all her prayers and sighs and tears. Nothing she felt or did gives her this.
Notice what Paul says in verse 17? He talks of being "heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ" (Rom 8:17). That says it all. An heir is not more deserving, smarter, or better looking than any other member of the human race. An heir is a child. In the case of Jane, an adopted child. Adopted by grace through faith.
If you are a Christian, then you are an heir of God and a co-heir with Christ. If you are a Christian, at the moment of death you go from suffering to glory.
However, if you are not a Christian, you go from suffering to even more suffering. You go from the suffering of this earth to the agony and pain and torment of everlasting hell fire. This is a horrible place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Every funeral is a good time to examine your own life and to consider your own death. Someday you too will die, even as Jane died. So let me ask you: will you go from suffering to glory or will you go from suffering to more suffering? If you want to experience the weight of glory, you have to trust and believe and have faith in Jesus.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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