The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.
I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord: he that believes in my, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosever lives and believes in me, shall never die.
Hymn: Jesus Priceless Treasure
Let us pray: O God, whose beloved Son did take little children into his arms and bless them: Give us grace, we beseech you, to entrust this child Anastacia Ruth Sumpter to your never-failing care and love, and bring us all to your heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Psalm: 116:5-19: Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; Yes, our God is merciful. The LORD preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me. Return to your rest, O my soul, for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. For You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, And my feet from falling. I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. I believed, therefore I spoke, “I am greatly afflicted.” I said in my haste, “All men are liars.” What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits toward me? I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD now in the presence of all His people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints. O LORD, truly I am Your servant; I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant; You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD now in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the LORD’s house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!
1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 51-58: But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death…. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “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.
This is the Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
Somehow it seems rather fitting that the first funeral I perform should be one for my own daughter. There’s nothing quite like death that concentrates the mind and makes priorities obvious and clear. As we commit Anastacia to the earth in sure confidence of God’s care over her and her resurrection at the Last Day, I want to consider three things.
First, our family has prayed that God would prepare us to serve his people both here and those that we will serve in the future. There is no doubt that this is part of that preparation for us. Related to this has been our prayer over the last six months since we knew that Anastacia had died, that we would learn the lessons that God would have us to learn through this time. I have no doubt that there are many such lessons, but one of them has certainly been related to the calling of ministry. And this is not really limited to pastors either. The calling of all Christians is to bear crosses, to lose their lives in order to find them, to lay their lives down for their neighbors, families, friends, and even their enemies. The call of Christian ministry is a call to die. We came here to South Carolina to die, and we have. And in God’s great kindness he has also raised us back up to serve again. We are all called to consider our lives as living sacrifices; we are to think of our lives as a slow motion death for everyone around us in gratitude and thankfulness to God.
Second, I, like many of you, have prayed and continue to pray for Holy Trinity Church, that God would be pleased to establish it for many generations, and that God would equip the saints here for ministry. I believe that Ana’s death is part of this process of establishing Holy Trinity here in Greer and equipping the saints here to minister for many generations. As the apostle says, except a seed be planted in the ground and die it cannot bear fruit. We fully intend for Ana’s grave here to be a memorial to and for the saints of Holy Trinity. It is our prayer that Ana’s death and grave, as little as they are, would nevertheless be a reminder to you of our love for you and our hope that God will continue to do great things through you in the church. A pastor leaving is always a sort of death for a church, and it can be an opportunity for doubts and insecurity. But we hope that you will trust in the God of resurrection with us, and that you will look forward in faith to the more glorious future that God has ahead you. May Ana remind you of that from time to time.
Finally, I want to point out that we named our daughter Anastacia Ruth. Anastacia means “resurrection,” and we thought this was fitting for several reasons. First, she and Tovia were born on Resurrection Sunday, March 23rd, Easter – of all days. Second, all the appearances are that the placenta they shared just wasn’t sufficient for the two of them. One of them had to die in order that the other might have life. This is also related to why we gave her the name Ruth. Ruth means “friend,” and she was a friend to Tovia for a number of weeks and truly a great friend in her death. Third, we certainly do believe that we will meet Anastacia again at the resurrection. Her name is meant to convey our sure faith in Christ who will raise her up with all those who have died in the Lord.
We give great thanks for the privilege it was to have had some brief care of Ana, and for her short life. We realize that all of the children God gives us are foster children. They are ours to care for on behalf of their Father in heaven and their Mother, the Christian Church here on earth. May God teach us wisdom as we mourn. May God teach us to hate sin and death more and more. And may God grant us grace to live knowing that because of the resurrection, our labor is not in vain. But Christ will come and establish the work of our hands.
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen!
The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.
Let us pray: (singing) Our Father who art in heaven…
Grant us, O God, with all who have died in the hope of the resurrection, to have our consummation and bliss in your eternal and everlasting glory, and, with Anastacia and all your saints, to receive the crown of life which you promise to all who share in the victory of your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Hymn: For All the Saints
In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to Almighty God our sister, Anastacia Ruth, and we commit her body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The Lord bless her and keep her, the Lord make his face to shine upon her and be gracious unto her, the Lord lift up his countenance upon her and give her peace. Amen.
Almighty God, Father of mercies and giver of comfort; deal graciously, we pray you, with all those who mourn, that, casting every care on you, they may know the consolation of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Hymn: Nunc Dimittis: Master let your servant depart in peace…
May Almighty God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, bless you and keep you, now and for evermore. Amen.