Funeral Sermon: Psalm 23
Funeral of Haley BondPsalm 23
Faith Ev. Lutheran Church Waterloo, IA
Anyone who knew Haley could hardly think of her without remembering the song that seemed to be on her lips day and night. It was her beautiful confession of faith. At any given moment of the day, she might be heard singing these words:
I am Jesus little lamb, ever glad at heart I am For my Shepherd gently guides me Knows my needs and well provides me, Loves me every day the same, Even calls me my name
You see, from the time of her baptism, Jesus was Haley’s Good Shepherd. He knew Haley as His little lamb, and she knew Him. The water and the Word forever bonded her to her Shepherd. From that moment on, they have never been separated, because the Good Shepherd cares for His sheep. As Haley was so fond of singing,
Day by day, at home away, Jesus is my staff and stay When I hunger, Jesus feeds me Into pleasant pasture leads me When I thirst, He bids me go Where the quiet waters flow
Lord Jesus was her Shepherd, and during her time here on earth, Haley wanted for nothing. She was born into a loving Christian family, and was raised in the one true faith. When she rested her head in the green pastures of her home, she enjoyed the peace that the Good Shepherd provided for her. She did not live in fear or need. Indeed she lacked nothing here on earth, because the Good Shepherd cares for His sheep.
And yet, as we look before us, we see a startling and terrible reality. We see a truth that we do not like to look at. We see Jesus little lamb lying lifeless before us. We see God’s beautiful creation destroyed by a simple accident that took place in the blink of an eye. The tragedy of such an unexpected death seems almost too much to bear. We ask, “Why such a waste of life? Why do things like this happen? How can such a bad thing happen to such a good person?”
The answer to these questions is simple: what has happened to Haley is not unique. It is the fate that awaits all people. No one here gets out alive. When our first parents, Adam and Eve, rebelliously tasted the fruit, all of the earth and everything in it was plunged into a condition of sin. Rebellion against God’s Word is sin, and the wages of sin is death. Since the Garden of Eden, all people have lived with this curse looming as a dark shadow over their existence. Haley was conceived in sin; I was conceived in sin; you were conceived in sin. We are sinners at birth, and sinners at death, and sinners at all points in between. Rebellion against God is the legacy passed on by our first parents, and it is regrettably a legacy we have been all to willing to embrace.
The Good Shepherd cares for His sheep, and thus being separated from His flock was more than He could bear. When we willfully wandered from His tender care, we deserved the danger, death and eternal peril that were surely to be ours. God’s wrath over sin was so great that there had to be blood atonement. His wrath demanded eternal and lasting death. Somebody had to pay for all this! But God loved His flock so much that He couldn’t let it be Haley, and He loves you so much He couldn’t let it be you. And because the Good Shepherd cares for His sheep, He laid down His life—for Haley and for you.
The Good Shepherd became like a lamb whose soul purpose was to be sacrificed. He was without blemish, meaning He was without any faults or sin. He went willingly to the cross, silently like a lamb being led to the slaughter. There, He absorbed for us God’s ultimate wrath, and obtained for us God’s ultimate mercy. He purchased us with His blood, and paid the wages we could not pay. In doing these things, He brought us back into the fold. Those who believe on Him are no longer lost, but are found. Our bodies will still bear the curse of death, but our souls will not. This is our hope. This is now Haley’s affirmation.
Sometimes even an explanation of sin and death does not answer all our questions. Still we are tempted to wonder, “Why is that coffin so small? Why did she have to die young? Why couldn’t God have left her hear just a little bit longer?” The answer is this: I too am a sheep, and I do not know. But the Good Shepherd does. The Good Shepherd cares for His sheep, and He knows what is best for them. It was His love that created her, His love that redeemed her, His love that sustained her in this life, and His love that will abide with her throughout eternity. It was His will to lead her through the valley of the shadow of death, and into the pasture that will be forever green. It is His will that she dwell in the house of the Lord forever and ever, and there be showered with an endless abundance of goodness, mercy and love. The Good Shepherd cares for His sheep, and He has guided His little lamb Haley safely home.
Will and Marie, I won’t pretend to know what you are feeling right now. I can only guess. But you are not alone in your loss. God understands your loss perfectly in way that no one else can. When He sent Jesus to be the Lamb of God that removed the sins of the world, He lost His Son too. At every death, His is the first tear to fall. God wants you to know His peace, and His promise of comfort in the certainty of the life that is to come. The shadow of death is heavy upon you now, and your grief is great. It is okay to grieve. It is normal to hurt. It is appropriate to mourn. But you need never fear. God sent His Son through the valley of the shadow of death for us. As you stand in the valley now, look for the footsteps ahead of you. They are the footsteps of Christ. The Good Shepherd cares for His sheep, and you need never fear evil again. Remember what Haley herself told us all.
Who so happy as I am, even now the Shepherd’s lamb, And when my short life is ended By His angel host attended He shall fold me to His breast There within His arms to rest
The hope that Haley confessed in this life has been fulfilled now in her death as she looks upon her Good Shepherd face to face. One day you will join her at the feast the Father has prepared or us in Heaven. Yes, you can be sure that just as the Father gathers his broken sheep together for His Holy Communion here on earth, He will gather those who believe on Him to a feast that will have no end. You will see your beloved Haley once again, for the Good Shepherd will bring you home safely, as He has done for Haley, and all the saints from the beginning of time.
The Good Shepherd cares for His sheep. He knows His sheep, and they know Him. Haley Bond now rests in the arms of her Good Shepherd. Amen.