Here’s the message I gave today at the funeral of my friend:
We gather here today to celebrate the life of our friend, Chris Piper. There will be tears today as there have been over the last few weeks as we each feel the pain because Chris has been ripped from our lives. His death was a shock to those of us who knew and loved him. The sadness is normal, for this world is a painful world and God doesn’t want us to pretend otherwise. For we know if shut down the pain right now, we also shut down the memories of our brother.
And those memories will help us. Because along with the tears, there will also be laughter as we remember the joy Chris brought to so many during his life. I remember the bear hugs that he gave me. I remember the smile on his face and the funny little rhymes he would make up on the fly when we were talking.
The tension of these emotions are OK – grief for the loss of Chris and smiles as we celebrate the years that God gave us with him. There is tension in this world – we all feel a very real pain and yet at the same time, God offers a very real hope.
Psalm 23 was one of Chris’ favorite passages in the bible – we’ll read the entire psalm at the crematorium. But notice with me the tension the writer, King David, feels as he writes this psalm – he’s going through dark times as he says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” – that’s pretty low. And yet David knows that the shepherd is with him even during those times. So much so that he can say at the end of the psalm, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” There was hope even in the midst of the dark days.
How does David move from the darkness to the light? He knew that the Lord was his shepherd. He looked forward to the coming redeemer. Jesus calls himself the “Good Shepherd” in the 10th chapter of the gospel of John. He says that now only will he be the shepherd who walks with the sheep, he says, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” And a short time later, Jesus did lay down his life – he laid it down on the cross.
We can take comfort because God does understand pain. But we should also be people with hope – for the resurrection, which Christians celebrated this weekend, points us to the fact that God is working to make all things new. God is working to wipe away every tear – to make all things right. David didn’t understand it all when he wrote the 23rd Psalm and neither can we.
But I do know that God knows our pain. And I know that Chris would want you to take comfort in the Good Shepherd – the shepherd who’s goodness and love will follow us all – all the days of our lives.
Donations in Chris’s memory can be made to The Sarcoidosis Charity who supported Chris throughout his illness.
Balloons which were released at the end of the day.