Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Father's Funeral Address

I didn't know whether I was going to post this. However, I already shared it with a gymn full of people at Emily's funeral and the media has reported pieces of it, so it is somewhat public already. If you have seen some media reports (which have been quite compassionate and accurate, thankfully), this text may provide some more context.

Emily loved Jesus – and now her faith has turned to sight, the dream is over, the endless day has begun.

This is not just a greeting card sentiment that has its roots in human tradition. It is rooted in historical fact – the fact of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the living reality of the Gospel.

Gospel simply means “Good News.” The Good news is that God sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world. We need a Saviour because we are sinners, and God is holy and hates sin. When Jesus died on the cross, he took our punishment in our place. If we trust Him, we can be forgiven and be right with God forever. Jesus rose from the dead to seal this promise and show us that we, too, will rise from the dead to be with Him forever. If we love Him, if we love this good news, it is because God first loved us.

Emily believed this Gospel. She confessed Christ as Her Lord and trusted Him as her Saviour. She was baptized on February 18, 2007. The verse on her baptism certificate is from Romans 6:4 and it says, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

We saw too little of that new life – we expected to see her continue to grow as a Christian young woman – but we know that this promise of life is not limited to what we can now see.

We asked my brother Doug to read Psalm 42 because we know that some people who do not know God are asking, “Where was your God when your daughter was killed?” We certainly don’t know the reason why, but we know that God is still God – He is still Good and He is with us. His love sustains us constantly. Where else could we go?

You might be wondering why we would choose songs that talk about death and blood at a time like this. It is because the hope of eternal life hinges on the death of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. For one thing, Emily loved these songs that we are singing today. She listened to them and she played them on the piano and sang them in church. We will miss hearing her piano playing, the violin and her beautiful singing voice very much.

Yet it is not first the music that grabbed her heart, but the words – the Christ exalting, Gospel proclaiming words.

Emily read Scripture, read books and sometimes even listened to sermons on her free time in order to better understand God’s Story and its application to her life. She did not do this because she had some sense of duty to do what was right, but because there is joy in knowing Christ – great and eternal joy. One quote our family loves is from John Piper, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

Emily didn’t spend all her time reading the Bible and doing “church stuff” – she had very diverse interests. But, the foundation of a love for Christ was beginning to define Emily more and more. I saw this as I reviewed Josh and Emily’s daily Bible study with them on Monday afternoons. I was amazed at Emily’s depth of understanding and application of God’s Word. I know Josh’s confidence in God is carrying him through right now as well.

One of the evidences of God’s grace in Emily’s life was her willingness to serve. We loved seeing her growing sensitivity to others.

I loved to tease Emily, and she gave back as well. I have a habit of singing around the house and Emily was always quick to say, “Dad, you’re off key” or “you’ve got the wrong rhythm” – usually with a smile on her face.

When it came to my typing speed or photo-editing abilities – well, we just won’t go there.

I treasure memories of talking with Emily, particularly as we drove in the car to Edmonton or Brightwood Youth Ranch this summer. Our shared love for our Savior is the best kind of father-daughter bond.

Fathers and mothers: You might think that your teens need to be teens and not bother with faith matters until they are older. Please realize that faith in Jesus brings a fuller, richer life at any age – joy, peace, satisfaction, deeper richer relationships with people. Most of all faith in Christ brings the joy and contentment of peace with God. No one who is being drawn by the Holy Spirit to a deeper relationship with God regrets lost time in front of the TV or Xbox. Young people can find treasure in Christ right now.

We grow in our knowledge of God in God’s Word, the Bible. Juanita and I have noticed a change in Josh and Emily since they began Bible quizzing. As they memorized Scripture – particularly Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians last year, their hunger to know God more and live godly lives increased. As with all of us Christian pilgrims, there were ups and downs in Emily’s application of the Bible, but I am very thankful to God that His Word was living and active in her life.

When Emily’s death was confirmed on Saturday night, I was shocked and bewildered. All I could pray was, “O Lord, Help! Help! Help!” As I was on my knees, a thought came to me: “If all my talk about the Gospel and God’s goodness is not true now, then it was never true.”

That was a great comfort, for I know this great good news is true. I stand with my wife and family in a long line of Christians who have suffered loss yet look ahead to a “city not made with hands” and the fulfillment of God’s promise of eternal life to those who trust Christ.

We will see Emily again. I said to my daughter Petra last night that this clumsy, self-conscious dad is looking forward to dancing with Emily in Heaven as we celebrate God’s glory together.

But the first face I will see in Heaven will be the face of Jesus. He is the source of my life. He is the one who died willingly and rose triumphantly so that I might have peace with God. He’s bringing the people I love most to Heaven too as they learn from Him, repent of their sins and trust Him as Saviour. Without Him, there would be no hope, only despair, no peace, only fear, no joy, only sorrow unending.

With Christ, there is hope that does not disappoint, peace that passes understanding, and joy and carries us through the dark and restless nights until we see our Champion, our Saviour face to face.

We would like to share a slideshow with you to help you see some of the life that our precious daughter enjoyed. With it, we are playing a song that has recently become very precious to us.
This summer, we bought a new CD called, “Come Weary Saints.” One of the songs on that album quickly became a favorite – particularly for Juanita. It’s called, It is Not Death to Die.

About a month ago, she said, “I don’t know why, but I just love this song.” Now we know why. God was preparing her, and us, for this time.

Please watch and listen with us. The words to the song are printed in your memorial folder.


rebecca said...

Thank you for posting this and sharing the whole thing with us.
Thank you for using your suffering for "the furtherance of the gospel."

I continue to pray for you and your family.

D said...

wow ! Thank you for this
Praying for you all ....

Kim said...

Thank you so much Terry, for sharing this, especially about how Emily was growing so visibly in the things of God. It was such a wonderful blessing to read. We are continuing to pray here.

Tiffanie said...

I have been following this blog since news reached us here in Windsor of your daughter's untimely death. I don't know how to word this elloquently, but I'm so impressed with the way the Saviour is using you and growing your faith through the most difficult of circumstances. I praise God that your faith is still bold and your confidence in God isn't shaken. Praying that the Lord will continue His work through this situation and carry you through.

kerux said...

Thanks so much for posting this, Terry.

Praise the Lord.

Trish said...

I was given your blog site by someone you know here in Edmonton. She is a dear friend to me as is her husband.
I am grateful to have been given this website.
She has spoken in the past about how you are wonderful to listen to.
I definitely agree and see it as a blessing to be able to read and witness your strength in this YOUR time of need.
May God continue to bless you and yours

Chisso said...

Thank you for your posting.
I am very encouraged by your post.
I am constantly reminded by this truth in a sermon( I think it is by John Piper).

"God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied(delighted) in Him, even in the midst of our loss."

Thank you, Pastor. For demonstrating that.

May His name be glorified in you, through all this.

Dan S. said...

I was quietly hoping you would post this. Thanks Terry.

Your confidence in God in the midst of this - from a human perspective - horrific situation has been a great encouragement to this pilgrim.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing these words and the service outlines Terry. I was unable to be there for Emily's funeral but heard about it from Robin, family & the media - your comments have helped fill in the blanks. It is obvious there was much thought and rich meaning put into each aspect. Emily's life is a wonderful testimony that we have shared to encourage our own children in their journey of faith. We continue to pray for each one of you.


Sam said...


I heard about your daughter and I can't believe it. But also, to hear your processing this terrible tragedy through our glorious Savior's work, is simply a humble reminder to me of how God can our refuge during such times.

I didn't even realize it was you until a friend pointed out to me that you had visited our church earlier this year and we had met. My heart breaks for you and your family, my brother. Me He give you His perfect peace during such a tremendously trying time. We will keep you in prayer.

Please let me know if there is any way me or our church could serve you or your family.

Anna said...

We continue to pray for you. Thank you for sharing the way you do. We use your testimony to give the gospel here in Claremont, NH USA


PS our girls were on TPS w/Emily

Mike Messerli said...

I just stumbled on your site. I read the pieces about your daughter. Very inspiring. Thanks for sharing such a hard thing. God is so good to help us through the things he knows will test us and our faith. Again, thank you for sharing your heart with so many you will never meet.