Yesterday we held the funeral service in Saint John’s for Breck Bednar. Breck and his family are a part of our church community, and yesterday would have been his 15th birthday. He tragically lost his life violently on 17th February. There were 600 people in church for the service and a number of people have asked for copies of the sermon, so I have decided to post it here in the hope that people will find it helpful.
Sometimes things in life just don’t make any sense. Today this church is full. Yet none of us want to be here. Today should have been a day of celebration for Breck, and for his family and friends. And yet here we are gathered to remember his life, struggling to come to terms with the reality that he is no longer with us. We shouldn’t be here. And Breck should be spending today with his family and with his friends. It doesn’t make sense to us. And there’s nothing that we can say or do today that will make any sense of Breck’s death. Nothing that can take away the feelings of shock and devastation and bewilderment. This is not how life is supposed to be. And nothing I can say, nothing any of us can say, can take away the pain and the suffering in our hearts. This is not how it is meant to be.
One question that sometimes comes to people at a time like this is: Why did God let this happen? The answer to that can only be – he didn’t. It wasn’t God that caused Breck’s death. In time we hope and pray that we will see justice for Breck, but we cannot hold the blame at God’s door.
Another comment I’ve heard is that perhaps God wanted Breck to be with him in heaven and so took him. Again, the answer to that is: he didn’t. Of course he didn’t – we know that God has welcomed Breck into heaven, but he didn’t want to do that now and in this dreadful way. What God wanted for Breck was what he wants for all of us – a long and fulfilling life before we are welcomed through the door of death that awaits us all, into the eternal life in his presence that Jesus promises us. But not now, at this point in Breck’s life. This is not how God wanted it – it is not how it is meant to be.
God does not want Breck’ s parents, grandparents, brother and sisters, family and friends, to have to suffer in this way. And we are left with so many questions. Questions about life and death. Questions about why and how did this happen? Questions about justice. Questions about how we go on, about how we can find the strength to face the future.
This is not how it is meant to be. And yet one thing we can be sure of is this. God is with us today, as he is with us every day of our lives, and he understands our grief and our pain. He knows what it means to lose a son to a cruel and senseless death – his own Son died on a cross. And he reaches out to us to offer what comfort he can.
The writer of Psalm 139 knew the reality of God’s presence in all of life – both in the good and in the evil: If I climb up to heaven, you are there; if I make the grave my bed, you are there also. God is here with us, just as he is also with Breck now. The Psalmist goes on to say: If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me and the light around me turn to night,’ even darkness is no darkness with you … The light of God shines into the darkness that we feel today – even though perhaps we find it hard to see that light right at this moment. And God knows that, but he also wants to make a difference. And we know that he can make a difference because although God lost his own Son to a cruel death on a cross today that cross is empty, as is the tomb in which his body was laid – for God’s promise to us is that out of darkness he brings the light of the resurrection.
Today it hurts like hell. This is not how it is meant to be. But God holds out for us, Breck’s family and friends, the promise of resurrection, the promise of eternal life with Breck and with all those we have known and loved in this life. The promise of a time when there will be no more mourning, nor crying, for all tears have been wiped away.