Here is a funeral service that originally appeared on YoungMinisters.com. Remember, my goal is to create resources for folks new to ministry. If you don’t want to read this, you don’t have to!
Funeral Service Based on Psalm 23
by Brandon Smith
Welcome and Opening Prayer
Family and friends, I want to welcome you here today to this special service in memory and in celebration of the life of ___________________. We gather here, no doubt with many mixed feelings…feelings of sadness and sorrow over the loss of a family member and a friend. But also, we gather here today with feelings of joy, knowing that Jessie is, today, with her God in paradise.
As I was thinking about Jessie this week, as funny as it sounds, I was reminded of that old Frank Capra movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” If you recall in that film, George Bailey wants to see the world, but he is stuck in his small town. He can’t get away—because of the family business, because of his family, and for other reasons. He longs to be away. He gets very depressed and thinks of taking his own life, when his guardian angel, Clarence, is sent by God to save him. George tells Clarence that people would be better off if he had never been born. Clarence realizes that if George could see what the world would be like if he hadn’t been born, he could keep George from killing himself. And so George gets the rare gift to see what the world would have been like if he had never been born.
He realizes that his brother would not have survived a drowning accident, because he wasn’t there to save him. He realizes that his wife, Mary would have never married. He realizes his kids would never have been born. He realizes that the town would be run by a mean old man, because George wasn’t there to stop him.
And furthermore, he realizes that he has touched the lives of hundreds of individuals in his little town…and if he wouldn’t have been born, those people wouldn’t have been touched.
I think of that movie when I think of ____________, because she has touched the lives of so many. As a teacher for 40 years, can you think of the number of lives _____________has touched? Even the other day, I had the privilege of seeing some photos of some of her students…students she had obviously impacted. And her family. And her friends.
She has truly touched all of us…as evidenced by your attendance here today.
As a minister, I am often reminded that God is aware of our emotions. He meets us in the middle of them. Throughout the Bible, we experience God’s various emotions. Even in the person of Jesus Christ, at the death of his very close friend, he weeps.
No doubt we gather today with conflicting feelings. But know that God is with us…that He is here…that He is mindful of each and every one of us.
Shall we pray?
Lord of Heaven and Creator of all things, we thank you for the gift of life. Not only for the gift of life here on earth, but also the promise of eternal life that comes only through Jesus, Your Son. You are the Lord and we thank You for Your watched care over each and every one of us.
We pray for our time together this afternoon during this service. We pray that it would be honoring to you and honoring to ______________. We ask for Your comfort, for Your peace, and for Your presence with us.
Thank you, Lord, for Your promise never to leave us or forsake us.
In Jesus’ name,
Comments from Family and Friends
Song: Going Home
As I mentioned, my time as _____________’s minister has been fairly short, yet I feel as though I know her in a very special way. ____________was one of the first members of our church, _____________________, to reach out and embrace myself and my family when we moved to ______________. I hope to share with you this morning, as some of you have already shared, some very special snapshots of who ______________was, and is to me—as well as share with you a little bit about her Jesus, whom she loved so much.
______________did love Jesus. One of my first weekend’s here in town, ____________took my family and I out to lunch after church at one of her favorite restaurants—“The Summer Kitchen.” I had made plans already for lunch that day with a friend of mine, a young medical student here in town, when _______________invited us out to eat with her. I mentioned my previous plans and she told me to bring him along and she would buy his lunch too. Of course, a young, poor medical student jumped at the chance to go with us. (He knew I would probably make him pay for his own!)
_______________was so excited that we were starting our new ministry at the church…and she was excited about _________________, our med student friend. I told her how nice it was of her to buy all of our lunch. She looked me square in the eyes and said, “Brandon…I will do whatever it takes to see young folks come to our church.”
________________also loved the Word of God. When she was at the hospital, and she was beginning to get to weak to hold her Bible up herself, she asked if I would come every once and a while and read the Bible to her. I jumped at the chance and really cherish those moments with her. She felt so guilty when I would talk with her, though, because she felt as though she were letting the Lord down, because she was too weak to pick up her Bible and read it…and she loved spending that time with Him.
I mentioned earlier that we gather here with a great mix of emotions. Jessie knew that would be the case.
One of her favorite passages of Scripture that she wanted me to mention specifically is found in John 16. In this passage, Jesus knows that his time to die is coming soon. He is preparing his followers for his death. He says these words:
Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:22)
Jesus mentions that for a little while, there will be grief. And that is OK. But grief cannot, and should not, last forever. He reminds you that joy will come.
In I Thessalonians 4:13, we hear these words:
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep (who pass away), or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.
We grieve today, but we grieve remembering that _________ loved Jesus. That she had a relationship with him. And because of that, she had hope. Therefore, we do not grieve like those who have no hope…we grieve knowing that in Jesus, there is great hope!
____________ also loved Psalm 23…as do most of us. This most famous passage of Scripture has given hope and comfort to countless numbers of people who are facing grief, trials, pain, and hardship. No doubt, __________, in her final days here on this earth looked to this Psalm for comfort…and we do the same today.
Let’s read it:
1 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, [a]
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
King David, the writer of this Psalm, we often think of as a mighty warrior…a mighty king. And he was those things. He killed the giant Goliath. He had a band of mighty warriors that followed him around and protected him. David killed lions and bears with his own hands. And considering all these things, the words of the 23rd Psalm sound like the words of a man who was lost.
And David had lost many things that led to the writing of this Psalm. He had lost his kingdom; his family; his home; and his peace. And so he is looking for comfort. As are we today…at the loss of our friend.
Who does King David, the mighty warrior turn to? God. His shepherd.
He says The LORD is my shepherd.
David, before he became sheep, was a shepherd. He was a good shepherd. Just a minute ago I mentioned that David had killed a lion and a bear with his bare hands. He did that to save a lamb from being taken by those animals. David was indeed a good shepherd.
What is amazing is that this good shepherd, David, even had a shepherd for himself; the LORD.
He says The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
Sheep are entirely dependant upon the shepherd for everything; for food, shelter, and protection. And because David relies on the LORD to be his shepherd, he has everything that he needs. The food, the shelter, the protection, and yes, the comfort.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
The LORD, our shepherd, knows where the green pastures and the quiet waters are at. It is his job to take us there. And you know what? It is our job to follow him. We will only reach the green pastures and the quiet waters if we obediently follow the shepherd to those places. If we won’t follow him there, we will find ourselves in an environment other than green pastures and quiet waters.
David tells us that his shepherd, the LORD, makes (him) lie down in green pastures.
His shepherd gives him the rest that he needs. We all need a safe place to sleep. It was the shepherd’s job to protect the sheep through the night. Oftentimes, the shepherd would lead his flock into a crease in rocks, so that they were protected on all sides. Then the shepherd would lay himself down in front and across the opening of the crease. That way, the shepherd could protect the sheep from any predators who wanted to get in and could keep any stray sheep from wandering out. He literally laid himself down to protect the sheep. And the sheep could lie down and rest.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
David, as he was writing these words, feared his own death. And death, says David, casts a long shadow. Everyone is helpless in its presence. We can struggle with our other enemies; pain, suffering, disease injury. You can medicate or treat. But when death comes, no amount of money or treatment can beat it. And we feel powerless, as many of us do today, in its presence.
But I want us to notice a few things about it.
First, it’s a shadow. We walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Why is it only a shadow?
Because Jesus, our shepherd, has conquered death once for all. Thus, all that remains of death, is a shadow.
And just like the shadow of a snake cannot bite you, or the shadow of a sword cannot cut you…the shadow of death does not bring fear to those who follow the shepherd.
And who better to lead us through the shadow than Jesus—who himself conquered it?
Notice too that we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. We are just passing through it. We won’t be lost in it forever.
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.
The rod and the staff were the tools of a shepherd…and they brought great comfort to the sheep.
The shepherd, with his rod, would tap each sheep on the head and count them at the end of each day. The shepherd wanted to make sure each sheep was accounted for. If one was missing, he would go and find it.
The staff was a long stick with a hook on the end. If a sheep would wander away and get himself in trouble, the shepherd would lift the sheep out with the hook.
David, following his shepherd God, found comfort in knowing that God would account for him and lift him out of dangerous situations.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
In this final scene of the Psalm, we see that David knows he will dwell with the LORD, his shepherd, forever.
In David’s day, kings would often throw great banquets. And at these banquets, it was customary for the guest of honor to have a huge spread of food laid out before him. He had a special chair at the table. And the king would anoint the guest of honor’s head with a special oil. He would set a cup before him and that cup would never go empty.
Do you remember how just a few verses ago, David was walking through the valley of the shadow of death? Now he is the guest of honor at a great banquet.
And David finishes by saying Surely goodness and love with follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Paul Harvey once said the words, “All this, and heaven too!” That is what David is thinking. He is the guest of honor at the Lord’s table, his cup overflows, and the food is abundant.
And not only that, goodness and love will follow him forever and he will get to dwell in the house of the LORD forever. All this, and heaven too!
No wonder David penned these famous words…and there is no wonder that ___________ found comfort in them in the final day of her life…and there is no wonder that find comfort in them today.
____________, like David, has a great shepherd who protects, and provides, and cares for her. That shepherd made her lie down in green pastures and drink deeply of the quiet waters. That shepherd led her through the valley of the shadow (and it was just a shadow!) of death. She found great comfort in his rod and his staff…and now, she has a place in the very presence of God, where her cup will never run out, where goodness and mercy will follow her, and where she will dwell in the house of the LORD forever!
What a great shepherd!
___________ found great comfort in the Good Shepherd Jesus…and I pray that we do as well today. The words that were true for King David were true for Jessie…and they can be true for us today as well.
Our Father in Heaven,
We thank You and praise You for being our Good Shepherd. We thank You that You protect us, lead us, provide for us, and comfort us. As Your sheep, may we cling close to You in these days.
We thank You and celebrate today the life of Jessie…she loved You so much. Her faith has challenged and inspired us. May Your rod and Your staff comfort us today and in the coming days. May we be reminded of Your presence and Your love.
We commit _____________’s spirit to You now, Father. We turn her over to you, you who have created her and designed her with love. We know that today, for ________________, is the beginning of a new life. And we say thank You for that. May Your grace, mercy and peace, be generously poured out upon us today. As we leave this place, may the assurance of Your presence go with us.
We ask this in the name of Jesus…AMEN.
Closing Song: (Amazing Grace)
[Submitted by Brandon Smith, editor of YoungMinisters.com]