Be still – A funeral sermon for Jason Lopez, Jr.
Psalm 46:1-3, 10, 11 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. … 10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted in the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 11 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
The question that all of us are asking today is “Why?”. Why was Jason Jr. born so early? Why did he appear healthy until he wasn’t? Why did God give you a baby, allow you to love him, only to take him away so quickly?
Jason and Heather, you’ve been asking “Why?” since Sunday.
We can ask the question. It is a fair question to ask the Lord. But, don’t expect an answer.
If you are a parent, you know how often your children ask you “why” questions. Many times, because they are children who can’t begin to comprehend complex issues, you simply say, “Because I said so.” Your children need to trust your wisdom and knowledge.
You didn’t like hearing Mom and Dad say that to you when you were a child, and your children don’t like hearing it from you. We, also, don’t like hearing it from our heavenly Father. But, we are God’s children, and sometimes everything is too complex for us to understand. As God’s children, we need to trust the wisdom and knowledge of God.
What we have in mind and what God has in mind, are often two very different things. God teaches, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8,9).
The One who declares to us that He loves us with an everlasting love does not want us to be lost in a sea of sadness and depression. He asks us, especially through the darkest and most turbulent times, to let Him be in control of our lives. God gives us His personal promise, “Be still and know that I am God.”
God is God. He is the One who formed the universe with a word. He knows what He’s doing. We may not, but He does. When the tears won’t stop flowing – grieve, but grieve with a resurrection faith (1 Thessalonians 4:13). When your insides are churning, and food has no appeal to you – go to your God, who is your refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm46:1). When you feel like your heart has been ripped out and you don’t know if you’ll ever be able to love again, trust in the Lord who is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness (Psalm 103:8).
Your heavenly Father knows what it’s like to lose a Son. He gave us His Son to be born into this world as a human baby. And what did we do with that baby when He grew up? We refused to listen to Him. We mocked Him as a king. We nailed Him to a cross like a criminal. We killed the very Son of God.
God gave us His Son for this very purpose. Jesus came to suffer and die to pay for our sins – and Jason Jr.’s sins. God covered the land with darkness for three hours and shook the nation with an earthquake as He demonstrated His Fatherly grief at the death of His only Son.
But, God’s Son did not stay dead. On Easter morning, Jesus rose from the dead. He walked out of the grave alive. His resurrection allows us to grieve with hope. Because His resurrection gives resurrection to all who have been given faith in Him. Through faith in Jesus, the crucified and resurrected Son of God, you will rise from the dead. Through faith in Jesus, Jason Jr. is alive right now with His Savior.
Earlier, we read how Elizabeth’s baby, John the Baptist, leaped in the womb when he heard the voice of Mary, who was pregnant with the baby Jesus. The Bible teaches that Jesus is the Word of God in human flesh and blood. He is the same Word that God used to call the universe into existence in the very beginning.
Experts say that when a woman is pregnant, the dad should get close to her belly and talk to his baby. The baby can hear and recognize his Daddy’s voice.
If Jason Jr. could recognize his Daddy’s voice in the womb, then he could certainly hear and recognize his heavenly Daddy’s voice. He heard that voice of his Heavenly Father in church and in the hospital.
By his own admission, Jason admitted that he and Heather had fallen away from God and His church for a long time. However it happened, the Holy Spirit moved them to return to God’s house at Epiphany several months ago. There, Jason and Heather, their other children and their baby, together heard God speaking His Word to them in the worship service, in the Scripture lessons, and in the sermon. The children heard their parents respond to God’s voice with their voices in the prayers and hymns.
God promises that His Word is powerful and effective; it is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12). It creates and strengthens faith. It does not return to God empty, but will accomplish what He desires (Isaiah 55:11). And, if God desires for an infant in the womb to hear His voice and have saving faith created in his heart through that voice, then it happens.
In the NICU of the hospital, I read the twenty-third Psalm to Jason Jr. I prayed: “Lord Jesus, in your Word you assure us that our children are dear to you. Haver mercy upon Jason Jr. Spare the life that you have given, and grant healing and recovery according to your will. Comfort the parents who watch over their little one with the assurance that their child is also your child, purchased with your blood. You have promised never to forsake your own. Therefore, we commend this child into your loving hands, know that there he is safe today, tomorrow, and forever. Amen.”
I read the words of this hymn: “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 ev’ry day the same, even calls me by my name. Day by day, at home, away, Jesus is my staff and stay. When I hunger, Jesus feeds me, into pleasant pastures leads me; When I thirst he bids me go where the quiet waters flow.” (CW 432:1,2)
At our Lutheran church where Jason was baptized and confirmed, we have a stained-glass window above the altar. It is a picture of Jesus as our Good Shepherd. He has a dozen sheep around His feet. He is holding two lambs in His arms. Recognizing the voice of his Heavenly Father, Jason Jr. was made a lamb in Jesus’ hands. Jesus promises that nothing can snatch him out of those nail-pierced hands (John 10:29). And now, nothing ever will.
We may not be able to answer the question of “Why?”. When that question arises, we need to be still and let God be God.
As we let God be God, we hear Him answer our other questions in His holy Word.
“What?” Jason Jr. is eternally a child of God, enjoying the banquet feast of God. He is forever a lamb in God’s flock enjoying the green pastures and quiet waters of paradise (Psalm 23).
“How?” Without God’s Word, there can be no faith. Through hearing the voice of His Heavenly Father, the Holy Spirit can create faith – even in an infant.
“When?” Jesus, the Good Shepherd of the sheep, laid down His life for His precious lambs and sheep on Good Friday. Then, He powerfully took that life back up again on Easter Sunday. Because of Jesus, when Jason Jr. took his last breath here, he awoke to take his first breath of eternal life with his Savior.
“Where?” You were looking forward to being with Jason Jr. for decades here in Racine. But now, through the wisdom and timing of our compassionate and gracious God, you will have to wait. But you will be able to spend an eternity with him in heaven.
Jason Jr. heard the voice of his heavenly Father in church and in the hospital. He is hearing that same voice now around the throne of God. Hear again God’s answer to all of your questions: “Be still, and know that I am God.” Amen.
Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, few things on earth can compare to the sorrow parents feel at the death of a child. The emotional scars, the hurt, and the sense of emptiness will linger for a lifetime. In our pain, we turn to the only place where we can find true comfort – your holy Word. In the Old Testament, we learn about your believer, Job, who lost ten children in a single day. Yet, in his grief, Job lifted his eyes heavenward and prayed, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
Lord, in your merciful love, you gave this child to his parents. In your infinite wisdom, you have taken this child from his earthly home to his eternal home. Although we do not always understand your ways, help us humbly follow you as you lead us through life. Help us put our trust in your unfailing love. Give us the faith to believe that though your ways are not our ways, your ways are always right and correct. Comfort the parents who have suffered this grievous loss, and all who mourn with them, with the assurance that through the hearing of your divine Word, Jason Jr. was delivered from sin and is forever safe with you in glory. Lead us all to look forward eagerly to the day when we will be reunited with those who have gone before us and will see you face-to-face in heaven. Hear us, help us, and bless us for the sake of Jesus, who welcomes children to Him. Amen.
Old Testament: Psalm 46:1-3, 10, 11 Be still and know that I am God
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. … 10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted in the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 11 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm: Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 Grieve as those who have hope
13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Gospel: Luke 1:39-45 The baby leaped in Elizabeth’s womb
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”