The Funeral Service of Shunn Hamilton
by Tommy Thornhill
Around noontime, Thursday, March 16, 2006 a man's life was taken from him in a moment of time. As he and a couple of his friends were on their way to lunch, their vehicle came over a hill and collided with another vehicle that was in the roadway. Shunn Hamilton was thrown out of the vehicle and the truck rolled on top of him. His life on this earth was suddenly finished. We might say the sun of his life set at noonday since he was only 41 years of age. A little less than three years ago I had helped him obey the gospel by baptizing him into Christ for the remission of his sins. A couple a months later I was asked to perform his wedding. Now, I was being asked to preach his funeral, which I did on Sunday afternoon, March 19, in Bruce, MS. Since death is something that comes to all of us sooner or later, welcome or not, I thought the remarks delivered at that time might prove useful for all of us to contemplate. Perhaps it will prove to be a wake up call to all who read this article, that the time to prepare for their funeral is before death comes, not afterward.
Remarks at the funeral for Hugh Shunn Hamilton 3/19/06, Bruce, Mississippi
"To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace" (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).
There are many times in life for us. Such times often draw people together. Sometimes, various circumstances in life may allow us to avoid or at least delay being present at some of these events. But, not this one today. When one close to us dies we will be at the funeral no matter what. All feel a need to be present here today no matter what else is happening in the world around us. The time "to mourn" is like that.
The grim reaper has come and gone. Today we see the havoc he has caused to a family. Broken relationships, crushed hearts, shattered plans, bitter loneliness is the result of his visit. Death has come to one we have come to love. But this is the way of the flesh. The woman of Tekoa reminded David in her audience with him, "For we will surely die and become like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again" (II Samuel14:14). Job 14:1-2 tells us "Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away; he flees like a shadow and does not continue."
We may wish we were not here today. We all surely wish Shunn was still alive. We don't like such occasions as this, but we are here anyway. We have assembled to pay our last respects to one we have come to know in this life. We desire to extend some words of comfort and consolation to the family and friends (II Corinthians1:3-5).
Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 tells us that such an occasion as this is a time for reflection and learning. We have come because this is the end of all men on this earth (Ecclesiastes 7:2; 9:5). Some knowledge is exclusive to only a few people, but not this knowledge. Obviously, it is God's design that all accountable people be aware of the fact that death comes to all of us. This is a certain fact (Hebrews 9:27). We are born to die. Since this is so, the fact of death should have a sobering effect on us. In reality, a death is not the enemy of life, but its friend. It is this knowledge that our lives are limited that makes the one we have so precious. Without sickness and death men would be more inclined to become more reckless and wicked. Listen to David in Psalms 119:67-71. "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word. You are good, and do good; teach me Your statutes. The proud have forged a lie against me, but I will keep Your precepts with my whole heart. Their heart is as fat as grease, but I delight in Your law. It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes." Our presence today is a reminder that one day we will face the same fate as Shunn.
At this point a poem was read, "The Lord Knows Why." Then the obituary was read and a prayer said.
My purpose today is not to determine the destiny of Shunn. That was determined by the choices he made while he was alive. The ---- (dash) between his birth and death was the time allotted to him to make preparation for the life beyond the grave. We are here today to let our tears be blended with those of Shunn's family he left behind. This is not a time of frivolity or merriment, rather a time to show sympathy, love, and compassion seeking to extend as much comfort as possible to his loved ones and friends. It is surely not wrong to weep on such occasions. Jesus wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus, John 11. Christians wept for the departed sister, Tabitha in Acts 9. Christians are to "rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep" (Romans12:15).
Take time to reflect on the days he lived among us. Cherish the good memories and the treasured moments you had with him. Draw comfort for the love he expressed, the words of endearment and encouragement he spoke while alive. As you grieve his passing, let your pain and sorrow give way to those memories.
Certainly death is an unwelcome intrusion into our lives. It never fits our plans. It takes no consideration of time or circumstances. It always comes too soon (Ecclesiastes 9:11-12). It is frustrating, yet inevitable. Like a clock it will strike at an early or late hour, but sooner or later it will strike. This occasion reminds us that this is the way it is. The flesh will return to the dust from whence it came, the spirit will return unto God (Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes12:7).
Death is a step that leads into the world beyond. It is a certain step that cannot be avoided. It is an uncertain step since very few know when it will happen. It is the final step of this life. It is a one way road from which there is no return. It brings to an end all earthly distinctions (sex, age, wealth, etc.), the end of all earthly relationships and all earthly appointments. It is a most solemn step since it brings us into an existence that will last forever.
In the time remaining let me talk to those of you still alive. Are you prepared to die and meet God? It is a truism, you are not prepared to live properly until you prepare to die. Out of curiosity we sometimes ask on such occasions as this, why did this person have to die at this time? Or, how did he die? But this is not the most important question to ask. The question should be "How did he live before dying?" The most important day in your life is not the day you were born, but the day you figure out WHY you were born to start with. You were born to glorify God (I.Corinthians10:31).
You are born with a black slate. What you become in life is up to you. It is your choice. You will have to face God one day, ready or not. So, while you have time you must prepare. A little less than 3 years ago Shunn began his preparation by obeying the gospel, being baptized into Christ for the remission of his sins. Once he did that he had the responsibility to continue what he started. Only God knows for sure how well he did that. He is now in the hands or a fair, righteous, and just God. Nothing I can say will change that. But, how about you who are still alive? Some of you haven't even done as much as Shunn. You haven't even started. You have never become a Christian. Others of you have started, but you have quit along the way. You need to remember that one day you will be in the same position as Shunn is today. You are treading on very dangerous ground when you continue to delay your obedience to the Lord. You have been warned. You had better prepare to meet your God. Now is the time.
Let's get serious. If you are not a Christian you are separated from God because of your sins (Isaiah 59:1-2). Unless those sins are removed, you will die unprepared to meet God and condemned to the devil's hell. We saw Hebrews 9:27 earlier, but let's notice Hebres 9:28: "So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation." Jesus holds the key to what lies beyond the grave (John11:25-26). Whether you will be with God and Christ in heaven, or with Satan in hell is your choice. Only you can determine which it will be. You must make the choice while you are alive. There will be no more opportunities after death comes. Jesus is the only way (John14:6). I am certain that if Shunn were here he would tell you. "Don't wait any longer. Get ready now!"
At the graveside
When we come to the end of life our finish is not determined by who we are, our position, status, sex, etc. We make our plans but God disposes. When we die we leave behind all we have, but we take with us what we are. Our worth is not measured by the physical makeup of our bodies. That is being placed into the ground to return to dust. But there is something that lives on. Our soul (Ecclesiastes 12:7, 12-14). We have never been able to pull back the impenetrable shroud to see what is on the other side, but revelation teaches us that our soul will live on throughout eternity. No! The grave is not the end. If I didn't believe that I wouldn't be standing here today and neither would you. Let's take to heart what Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15:55-58: ""O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?" The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." Let the hope of victory in Christ become the anchor of our soul as we await the summons of the grim reaper (Hebrews 6:19).