A Message of hope and assurance delivered at the service to celebrate the life of Mary Lara.
2 Timothy 4 (New International Version, ©2011)
1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Christians are a crazy bunch to figure out. We are hardwired in our nature to survive; yet we long for the day when we see Jesus. Our instincts tell us to fight for life, but when the time comes to embrace the glory of God, we fight no more.
We Christians are tough to figure out. We are told to live life to the fullest extent; yet, we often find life empty until we learn to give things and time and money away. We are told to live with joy in our hearts and at the same time know there will be some suffering in this life.
We serve a risen Savior who says my yoke is easy and my burden is light, but who has called us to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow him.
We Christians are a tough bunch to figure out.
We gather this morning to celebrate the life of Mary Lara. We celebrate it after she has left us.
We Christians are a tough bunch to figure out.
It was a life lived in response to the grace of God--grace that we know through Christ Jesus. We are all called to respond in different ways. We work out—that is we live out—our salvation based upon the very unique individual that God made in his image.
We do this by living to portray to others the image of Jesus Christ. We don’t always hit the mark but we continue the journey.
Paul described his journey as a race. He said he had fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith.
Mary fought the good fight, kept the faith, and finished her race among us as well.
But she is far from finished.
We know of Mary’s battle with cancer. We know that she did fight the good fight and keep the faith even when saddled with this terrible affliction. When many would ask, why me, Mary simply kept the faith.
But Mary’s heart was not for us to remember her crossing this finish line in her final days. She wants us to remember her running the race. She wants us to remember living life to the full.
Whether she was working at the north end of town or the south end, she was living life to the full. She was running her race. She was living life as the unique individual we all knew in slightly different ways. And though we all have different memories, we all knew Mary to be a woman of faith.
Many of us got to enjoy a good day with Mary only a few weeks ago. The community center was decorated, there was enough food to serve about half the town, and Mary got to have a special time and usually a picture with the many people in her life. The excuse for this gathering was her 55th birthday.
She would want us to remember her in the fullness of her life. She would want us to remember her in full stride in her race.
She would want us to remember the light she shone before people so that we might see her good deeds and give glory to God.
I think Mary would smile if we referred to her as the salt of the earth.
But she has finished her race, and it is time for what comes next.
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Today is a day of celebration, not just because Mary’s pain is gone but because we know what is next.
The God of love, the God of all creation, the God who made us the first fruits of his creation, the God who made us holy when we were so unholy, will bestow upon us a crown of righteousness.
Our God is a God of life.
Our life comes from him.
We are born again to become a new creation through him.
And we live in a perfected relationship with him for all eternity.
Our God is a giving God, and he has given new life to Mary.
And God’s people say Hallelujah and Amen and Praise be to God.
I know there are tears to be shed. Jesus wept when he lost his friend Lazarus and he knew that he would bring him back to life.
To morn is natural, but to rejoice is supernatural! To rejoice on this day is to go beyond our human nature and experience a little bit of God’s divine nature.
And today we rejoice because we know a God who said he loves us, who through Christ Jesus proved he loved us, and who through the sending of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, assures us who remain that love never fails.
Mary ran the good race.
Mary fought the good fight.
Mary kept the faith.
And now for her is a crown of righteousness.
Let us rejoice for the child of God we knew as Mary Lara.
We Christians are a tough bunch to figure out. We come to the point at the end of Mary’s life in this world—a point where the world has no hope and can only mourn--and we hold a celebration.
This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!