Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Martha Bronner Funeral Sermon

Martha Bronner Funeral
[Psalm 23]
July 23, 2016 Hollywood Memorial Cemetery
Hear the Word of God:
            The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
            He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
            He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
            Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
            Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
            Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
            I’m sure most of us have heard this Psalm of David before – some of us may even have it memorized – and it is often read at funerals.
            But do we understand what David was talking about?
            David was a shepherd before he was king of Israel.  Shepherds took care of sheep.  They had sheepfolds in which to house the sheep which kept them safe from predators and thieves – there was only one way into the safety of the sheepfold.  And the shepherd was responsible for the lives of the sheep – to lead them and feed them and save them even to the point of giving his own life in battling predators and thieves.
            David begins this Psalm – this song – addressing the LORD – that is, the One Holy God of Israel – the God Who is just and loving – the God Who rejoices in glorifying Himself – the God Who cannot allow any sin or imperfection to remain in His sight.
            And David tells us that this God is his God, that is, David, who was a murderer and an adulterer had somehow been made right with God, and so God always fulfilled His daily needs – he would not want for what God knew he needed for the day.
            This God gave Him protection and peace, salvation and righteousness, because it showed how great God is, and despite continuing to have enemies and be in a position to be harmed or killed, David did not fear, because the rod of discipline and the staff of guidance comforted him – growing in the knowledge of and obedience to this God satisfied him in this life no matter what else happened.
            And David knew that, in the end, the goodness and mercy of God would be what would bring him into the eternal Kingdom of God.
            I first met Martha Bronner in 1996 as she worked the “good dishware and plant table” at our flea market at Second Reformed Church in Irvington.  Although I can count on two hands the number of times Martha joined us for Sunday worship, she was always willing and able to help us with our flea markets – helping to set up and sell and donating some of her own plants to sell.
            I found Martha to be an honest and hardworking person, who prided herself on working well; I can see her being a prized employee in the NJDMV and as a bookkeeper.
            Martha was proud to tell me of her work in the Prudential and with AARP and at the Papermill Playhouse where I saw her and visited with her during the show that her sister, Dorothy, went to Sunday afternoons.
            Martha was very proud of her children and grandchildren.  And Martha made it clear to me that there were no more brilliant and caring people on the earth than her grandchildren.
            After her sister, Dorothy’s, death, Martha and I talked and exchanged notes on a periodic basis.  She was affirming and encouraging about my ministry and continued to offer whatever help she could be in providing plants, etc., for our sales, even though we stopped the full-blown flea markets.  And she spoke continually of her love for her family.
            She was a strong, caring, and able person, and I thank God for the privileged of knowing her.
            I thank God that I had the privilege to talking with her several times after her stroke, and for the chance to reflect with you for these few minutes as we mourn her death and consider who she was and continues to be for each of us.
            When Martha visited us in worship and on those visits in the hospital, I preached and I talked with her about the Lord God Who was David’s Shepherd as he wrote in Psalm 23, and it is my hope and prayer that each of us will consider Who God is and whether or not we can say He is “my shepherd.”
            How do we become right with God, David’s Shepherd?  How can we say that He is our Shepherd?  How can we recite Psalm 23 and know and believe that it is true for each of us?
            Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:14-18, ESV).
            In the Gospel of John, Jesus repeatedly affirms that He is God in the flesh.  And here, He uses the imagery of being the Shepherd that David knew and was made right with – Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
            Jesus explained that He was sent by God the Father to incarnate as a human to be the Shepherd of the sheep that the Father gave Him.  Jesus is the Shepherd of all those who repent and believe savingly in Him.
            Jesus came with the mission to lay down His life to secure the salvation of all those who would ever believe.  Anyone Who believes that Jesus is God the Savior and repents of their sin will be saved by Him.  He will make them right with God and bring them into His sheepfold – into the Kingdom of God now and eternally.
            Anyone who wants to be right with God and receive all that is spoken of in the 23rd Psalm must believe in Jesus – God in the flesh – Who lived and died and rose to make all those who repent and believe right with God.
            That’s what I believe.  That is what I told Martha.  And that is what I tell you:  Jesus is the Only Way to be right with God; He is the Only Way to God and to eternal life now and forever.  Please don’t wait.  As we see the reality of life and death today, call out to Jesus, repent of your sins, and be made right with God.
            Let us pray:

            Almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that Good Shepard of the sheep, our One 

Hope and Only Savior, we thank You for the life of Martha Bronner. We thank You for her love of 

family and friends.  We thank You for all that was good and commendable in her.  And we ask that 

You would comfort all those who are mourning, and send the Holy Spirit to open hearts and minds to 

the Hope You have provided.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

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