NO GREATER HONOR
Over the years I have had the privilege of preaching all over the world in countless venues. I have preached in churches, at conferences, and at youth rallies. I have preached in jails, in nursing homes, and even on street corners! But this past Friday, I was given the greatest honor in my years of ministry when I preached my Grandpop’s funeral.
A week and a half ago I learned that my Grandpop had been admitted to the hospital. On Sunday, we were heading back from North / Central Pennsylvania and arrived at my parents’ house where we learned later that evening that Grandpop had taken a turn for the worse. I was able to go to the hospital early Monday morning, and while there, the doctors informed our family that Grandpop had passed away.
Monday was a long day. My parents, aunts, and uncles began making the necessary final arrangements for Grandpop. After meeting with the funeral director that afternoon, they asked if I would conduct the funeral service to be held on Friday. I was honored by the request and grateful for the opportunity to preach my Grandfather’s funeral.
I met with my family on Monday night to discuss the details of the service. This was a sweet time to reflect on my Grandfather’s life. We crafted a service that we felt would glorify God as we honored the life and legacy of Anthony Valiante. During our time that evening, we talked about what made Grandpop special. First, he had a deep love and devotion to his family. He loved to be a dad, grandfather and great-grandfather. He also had a love for God. My Grandpop came to faith in Christ in the late ‘70s, and over the years developed a deep love for God’s Word. He read his Bible through 22+ times, and even made his own hand-written copy of the Scriptures.
Grandpop was also an amazing story-teller with a fun-loving personality. After I got home from a long day Monday night, I was pretty tired and went straight to bed. Even though I was still exhausted, I found myself awake early Tuesday morning. At 5AM I began thinking about the countless stories we rehearsed the night before from Grandpop’s life. Thinking about these stories I could not help but laugh. The more I thought the more I laughed. I found myself laughing uncontrollably for 15 minutes. I am certain Sarah thought I had lost it, but I could not stop laughing as I thought about those stories. Grandpop brought so much joy into our lives. Even in spite of the all of the hardships Grandpop faced through life, he maintained a joyful spirit.
Over the next few days I began working on the service for my Grandfather. This was a wonderful time to remember a man that I love and respect. Then, on Friday, I conducted my Grandpop’s home-going service. I did my best to honor his life, while making sure to preach the simple message of the Gospel. In the service we turned our attention to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. In this text we have the simplest explanation of what lies at the heart of the Gospel. You can sum up the Gospel with these simple words: “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, He was buried, and He rose again according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3-4). Each component of this message is vitally important. First, we find “Christ,” the Chosen One, the Savior and Son of God—God in flesh. Christ “died for our sins.” Jesus laid down His life as the payment for our sins. Jesus died in our place. He was “buried,” but as evidence that He overcame sin and death, He “rose again on the third day.” It is simple faith in this message that brings life. I am grateful for the impact this message made on Grandpop, and I am grateful for the impact this same message has made in my life. Death has a completely different meaning for those who have placed their faith in Christ. Because Jesus is alive, my Grandpop is alive today. Because Jesus is alive, I will live forever with Him. And as an added bonus, I will get to see my Grandpop (and all those who have placed their faith in Christ) again as well!