Home > Uncategorized > Sermon for the Funeral of Marci Hoffman

Sermon for the Funeral of Marci Hoffman

December 10, 2013

Note:  The audio can be heard by clicking on the triangle in the embedded player below.

Ron, Dean, David, and Dan.  Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Ron, the Scriptures you chose for today are pure comfort from our Lord.eagles wings

+ Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

+ they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles;

+ Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

+ Behold, I am with you always even unto the end of the age.

All of these readings have a common thread of the comforting presence of the Lord God in our midst.  They are but a few of the passages that brought Marci such great comfort during her battle with cancer and they are passages that bring us comfort today in the wake of such a jarringly painful week, a week where it seemed like the path through that dark valley had too many ups and downs.  First the terrible news that Marci had collapsed from a stroke.  But then a ray of hope in that she had recovered enough to keep telling my joke about the Roman that walked into a bar.  And more hope with a plan to come home to Cookeville for rehab and almost immediately the realization that she had gone home to be with the Lord.  Walking even wandering through that valley of shadows but never alone, all of you lifted up in prayer all over the country, all of you and Marci comforted by the presence of God walking with you leading you forward.  All of these readings have a common threat of the comforting presence of the Lord God in our midst, with us in grief, waiting with us, nothing able to take us away from Him, His abiding with us even to the end of the age.

These readings are comfort to us because they are the Word of our God who is not far away in heaven but truly present with us in the midst of life’s struggles and difficulties, in our weakness and in these moments when we face what would be impossible to face without Him.  But they are not just the comforting words of people collected through the ages.  They are the comforting words of our God, a God who knows our every human weakness and even knows the pain of death itself because He experienced all of it first hand in human flesh.

Marci was for many years a travel agent, just one of those jobs whose experiences we in the 21st century have collectively determined don’t meet the cut in the mad race to the lowest possible price.  Travel agents would often have first-hand knowledge of the destinations they would send potential clients to.  They had been there and slept on the beds and walked on the beaches.  They might well have known the managers who could help sort out any emergencies or handle special requests.  This is not entirely unlike our Lord Jesus Christ, who came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Virgin Mary that He might be born as a human man with flesh and blood susceptible to every human frailty just as we are, to know us first hand as we might be known.  But it works from the opposite direction too.  He came down from heaven so that we might have first-hand knowledge of God Himself, not in all His cosmic fury and wrath over sin and the rebellion of His creation against His will, but that we might know the imponderable depths of His great love for us.  If we want to know anything about God, we need only look to His Son, Jesus.  And while Marci may have had first-hand knowledge of many travel spots and companies, in the selection of these passages for today we have a report of her first-hand knowledge of God’s love He showed to Marci throughout her life.

Days of mourning are never easy but they are often harder this time of year.  However, in some ways the season of Advent and the lead up to the celebration of Christmas can be of particular comfort for us.  But if they are to be of any comfort Christmas cannot be about any vague notions of holiday cheer.  No, Christmas must clearly be about the eternal God, born into this world in human flesh to save us from sin and the power of death and to give us everlasting life.  You see, we were not meant to suffer weakness, cancer, or strokes.  We were not meant to suffer such grief as the pain of death and the death of our beloved wife, mother, and sister.  They are wrong when they say that death is part of the circle of life.  Adam and Eve were not created in the Garden for death but for life.  If Christmas is going to be any comfort for us then in our mourning, we must see it as the moment in the plan of God that He physically entered into our word to show His love toward us, toward us who had suffered the pain and terror of death for ages, and put an end to death itself.  Jesus is the living, breathing love of God, the incarnate comfort of God, all the fullness of God dwelling bodily with us in this valley of the shadow of death, and not merely holding our hand and crying with us but leading us out of it by dying to it.  Christians know that Jesus was born to die on the cross and put an end to the curse of death itself but He did not stay in the grave.  On the third day, He rose and led the way out of the grave into everlasting life for Marci and for all the saints of God who have fallen asleep believing in Him.  And so “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”  And so if Christmas is to be a source of comfort and not just a reminder of our loss, it cannot be just the “best time of the year,” but a time “Of the Father’s love begotten.”  The eternal Word of God become flesh and dwelling among us, for us; Emmanuel, God with us, come to comfort us.

To all the comforting words of Scripture we have heard from the Lord today, I would add one more. Marci’s confirmation verse, Isaiah 12:2, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”

By all human accounting, Marci lived a life worthy of our admiration.  She was married to Ron for 52 and half years. She had three sons and a loving family.  She was a faithful and active church member and active in her community and had many friends who loved her.  And yet Marci would tell you that none of that counted toward her salvation.  As she learned through the truth of the Scriptures, What God had accomplished for her in Christ’s cross and resurrection was her salvation.  That’s why she could be strong suffering the weakness of a stroke, God was her strength.  The love for all these beautiful and wonderful people in her life came as a result of knowing God’s love for her in Christ.  I make this point because the same promises God made to Marci He makes to all of us.  God is our salvation.  Let us trust in Him and not be afraid, for the Lord God is our strength and our song and He has become our salvation.  Through Christ Jesus born of Mary for us, God has given us a first-hand look at His great love for us and nothing can separate us from that love, not even the power of death.  And until that day when like Marci we fall asleep in Christ or He will come again with a trumpet blast and great glory, His promise remains with us to comfort us, “Behold, I am with you, even unto the end of the age.”  May all these words comfort you.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds though faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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