Memorial Service – Annie Ruth Ward
Worthington Funeral Home
14 November 2016
Good afternoon. My name is Justin DuBose and I have the privilege of being the pastor to some of the Ward family at Missionary Alliance Church in Whiteville. It is my honor, today, on behalf of the family to be here with you as we celebrate the life of Mrs. Annie Ruth Ward. Would you bow with me in prayer, please?
"Our Father in heaven, as we gather this afternoon to remember one who is now rejoicing in Your presence forevermore, we would ask that Your name be honored as holy. We ask that Your kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread and, please, forgive us our sins, as we also have forgiven those who have sinned against us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Minister to us now, Father, as we are gathered here today before You in celebration of a life that You fashioned in Your own image just as You have done for each of us here. We ask this in the name of your Son, our advocate and redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen."
We are all gathered here today for the same purpose, to celebrate life; specifically the life of Mrs. Annie Ruth Ward. And, since we are here to celebrate her life, I would like to share with you for a few moments about that subject from the Scriptures.
Let me read to you first from John 11:25-26. Jesus here was speaking to a woman about what real, true life was, and he uttered these timeless words. He said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
The Bible speaks frequently about life. James 4 says very pointedly, “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” Our lives, the Bible tells us, are like mists of water that are here for a little while and then vanish. Psalm 90 even quantifies that word “life” for us. It reads, “The length of our days is seventy years – or eighty, if we have the strength; for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” At the ripe age of eighty-eight, Annie Ruth had some strength!
Even with the few Scriptures we have read already, the Bible is very clear about two things: life is short, but, through our Lord Jesus Christ, we may have eternal life and blessed rejoicing in His presence – both in this life as well as the eternal life to come. What a comfort it is to know that Mrs. Annie Ruth is now experiencing that eternal life of no more sorrow and no more pain that is so gloriously spoken of in Revelation 20!
But what about us who remain? What about those of us here today who carry on in this world until the Lord calls us home to join her in His presence? How may we experience that true life on Earth that Jesus was addressing? Is it even possible, or is it reserved only for life beyond the grave? I would suggest to you this afternoon that just as a physical Jesus was speaking to a physical woman about her life, so He would say the same to you: this day, because of the resurrected Lord, you too may experience true life – just as Mrs. Annie Ruth did. Your life, today, can be an experience of life the way our Creator intended it to be both now and for eternity – a walk that involves loved and being loved, known and being known by an eternal God.
On one of the many occasions when the Pharisees were questioning Jesus, He responded to them in John 5:24 and said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” Don’t overlook the fact that Jesus uses that verb in the past tense. You HAVE eternal life; you HAVE crossed over from death to life. Jesus is telling us something of immeasurable importance here: it has already happened! True life, REAL life, as the Lord intended it to be is available now and not just after we die. What amazing truth that the Lord would have you receive this afternoon! Real life – true life – life as it was intended to be experienced is available for this life, today, and the life to come. How does this life that Jesus speaks of contrast to life that so many lead apart from him?
As strange as this may sound, I’d like to demonstrate this contrast of true life as compared to just living using an illustration from the famous children’s book, “The Velveteen Rabbit”. This famous children’s book, published almost 100 years ago now, chronicles the story of a little stuffed rabbit and his desire to become real through the love of his owner. As I read a section of this book, you can imagine the difference in a life lived without Christ, which is void of any real life, as compared to an authentic, dynamic personal walk with our Lord.
“The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it. “What is REAL?” asked the velveteen rabbit one day, when they were laying side by side near the nursery fender, before nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?” “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” “Does it hurt?” asked the rabbit. “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are real, you don’t mind being hurt.” “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?” “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter, at all, because once you are real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Is that not a magnificent illustration of the difference in experiencing REAL life and just living? Real life is something that happens to you, as the Skin Horse told the rabbit, and the Scripture tells us that this “something” is the overwhelming presence of Christ Jesus our Lord. Real life is not even understood apart from the love of Christ present in our lives. And, what is most spectacular to me in all of this, is that Jesus tells us that this real, true life is available to us on this side of eternity. Today, Jesus tells us, if we simply confess with our mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and surrender our life to Him, then we can finally, truly, and personally experience real, true life. And, like the Skin Horse intimated to the velveteen rabbit, once you are real you can never be unreal again, nor would you ever want to.
You see, this is the difference in life with Christ and life without. A life with Jesus is not just for the world that Mrs. Annie Ruth now lives in and will continue to live in for all eternity, it is very much for every day of this “mist” that the Lord gives you. The difference is in being one amongst a crowd of faces and one who truly knows and understands love and can rest in such love. He speaks to you today, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
Pray with me, please.
“Lord, we thank you for the gift of life. We know, because we are created in your image, that each moment of each life is immeasurably valuable to You. We thank you that you formed Mrs. Annie Ruth, and fashioned her, and blessed her with life and allowed us to share in that life.
As we have committed her spirit to you, we know from Scripture that you are a righteous God, and that you will do what is right. And now, in this moment, I pray that we would each commit our own spirit to you as we also have your gift of life within us. You, oh Lord, are the Prince of Peace, and you promise to comfort those who seek you in their hour of need. So, Lord, in this hour of need, and in the many hours to come, I ask that you give us the boldness to approach your throne of grace and rely on your comfort to carry us through these times of sorrow and adjustment. We need you every hour, oh Lord, but in this hour remind us of our need for You and the comfort that comes from a relationship with You. May we, today, experience the fullness of life for which you created us and, one day, enjoy your blessed presence forevermore.
We rest our hearts, now, in fresh confidence upon the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to life eternal through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.”
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