Funeral sermon

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1)

When we read this passage at funerals, it’s meant to be a source of comfort … a word of consolation to those who mourn.

Don’t worry for your loved one who has departed this life. You may grieve the loss of their presence with you here, but take heart at least in knowing that wherever you make of these dwelling places Jesus has promised … your loved one has been released from the suffering of this world.

I think there is some comfort in that thought, even in the midst of loss.

But there’s so much more to this Gospel this passage is taken from – the Fourth Gospel, the last of the Gospels to be written and the one that is most concerned with the subject of love: God’s love for us, and for all creation, and our love for each other.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” 

The section these words are taken from is called the Farewell Discourse. It goes on for several chapters, and it’s full of deep sadness.  Jesus has come to the end of his life. He knows he’s going to die.  He’s stood against the authorities for too long, and now he finds himself caught in a plot driven by their fear of the power of his message.

The end is very near, but there’s so much still that he wants to tell these friends who have come this far with him.   First of all, he doesn’t want them to worry about him: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

But he wants to give them more than reassurance – he wants them to remember how he has taught them to live.  This is where he gives them what he calls his new commandment:

“Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

So love will be the distinguishing mark of this movement of faith.  And love is with us here today.

I never met Faith – your wife, mother, friend … and I know there are other relationships represented here, too, because our lives are webs of relationships.

I know from reading about her that she loved life … animals … friends … her husband and children.

And beyond that, I know that the faith of this woman named Faith was important to her in a way that made you choose this ritual to say goodbye to her today.

And through this, her faith and her love live on to touch this community, becoming part of our story here as we join in mourning with you.

Love is the thing that connects us, that shows us the face of God when we can’t see that ourselves.

Love is the thing that connects us, and gives our lives meaning,

The faith that is expressed in the words of this service holds that every life is a sign of God’s love.

We believe that our love for each other is a participation in God’s love for us. I believe that Faith is held in that love now.

Life is such a mix of joy and sorrow mingled together — that is the mystery of it, and in some strange way that is also the beauty.

To know and love someone as wife, mother, friend opens us to the beauty – and also makes us vulnerable to loss.
But love will carry us through. And love does not die.

There’s an Irish priest named John O’Donohue, who is also a poet. He has written a blessing that talks about the way the dead remain present in beauty and love all around us, and I want to quote from it.

O’Donohue says:

Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts
Where no storm or night or pain can reach you. …
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves. …
Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows …
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.
May you continue to inspire us:
To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.


*  “On the Death of the Beloved,” from John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us, p. 170.