I just arrived back in town from doing a funeral in Portland, OR for our friends whose 15 year old son committed suicide on April 13th, 2016.
Over 300 people poured into the Milwaukie High School Theater to mourn and comfort one another at the loss of one of their own. It was certainly not a typical situation. I found out about 30 minutes before we started the full extent of my responsibilities and the order of service (which required a bit of adjustments but more of a challenge to adapt my thoughts to a very diverse and eclectic crowd). School mates, teachers, friends, and family filled up the theater. The stage dropped off to an orchestra pit that was bare. Their was barely five feet from the red curtain that sectioned off the back stage area to the front edge. Mic stands, instruments, chairs a podium blocked both stairways at either end and filled the stage area.
The service went 2 & 1/2 hours. After a 15 minute video, the band, and the kids, I had a chance to honor Christians life and share the gospel of Christ. I suspect that many of these people may have been hearing the gospel for the very first time. The band the kids helped pull together played and sung: “All you Need is Love” (Beatles) and mom and dad both spoke. Mom was articulate, focused and scripted; Dad “shot from the hip” and shared his heart and frustration with the whole situation and scenario. Family members followed and then it was opened up for the audience to share their stories; we must have had 30 people, mostly students and friends come and share their impressions and stories of Christian. The larger adult group were very patience and encouraging to these groups of students who wanted their voice heard to honor their friend.
After making a scheduling adjustment, a group of three men came up and closed with “Let it Be” (Beatles) and the whole audience stood and sang together as a final tribute to this family and to Christian’s life. We closed by reciting the Lord’s Prayer together and I closed the service in prayer.
What was very encouraging to me was one adult who caught me after and thanked me for my words and the sense of hope and encouragement he felt. “I was really struggling how to process this whole situation and I am not just saying thank you as a formality. I really found hope in the midst of this whole thing.”
One of the great privileges of being a Christian is that we can speak with confidence about how we have found grace in difficult places. Even if we can think of nothing else we can speak of the reality of the gospel as God extended His grace to us in a completely hopeless situation. His grace also reaches into the tough places of life and brings hope and comfort. God loves us; God understands exactly what it means to see His Son bullied, mocked, ridiculed and mistreated by others. Christ did not die in vain. His resurrection gives everyone a chance to find hope, encouragement, and life from the gospel.
Having performed a funeral on Saturday morning for a dear saint at the end of her life (87) and then a second one the very next day for a young man at the beginning of his life – it helps me realize that the bridge between us is His grace. The hope that we have in facing death is His grace; the comfort for life is His grace. Life is not easy but grace is sufficient.