Remembering Martha McClure
 
Memorial For Martha McClure
Held in LaFayette Georgia
24 December 2014 at 11:00 a.m. (EST)

Today we gather to both celebrate the life, and mourn the passing, of Martha McClure, the daughter of James Barry Burney and Wilma Lee Westbrooks Burney, beloved wife of 52 years of Donnie McClure, and mother of Tracy Jaworski, Curry McClure, and Derek McClure.

A couple of days ago, Tracy asked me to do this today and she said, "I want you to be momma's voice at this time". When she asked, I said, "Yes, I can do that!" You see, I always knew Martha's heart because she and I have spoken more times than I can count over many, many years. We spoke extensively over the years about matters of family... and faith.

Later, as I began to prepare for this day, I realized something. I thought to myself, "Wait a minute. Who am I to be Martha's voice?"

You see, as I thought about what I have known of Martha's heart and all the things that Martha had shared with me for so many years, I realized that Martha's voice was always filled with the Holy Spirit... far more than mine! How could I be Martha's voice at this time when her voice was so full of grace and so richly filled with the words of God... again far in excess of mine!

No, I realized that I can't be Martha's voice, for during her whole life we have all heard her voice far more eloquently than I could ever hope to speak. Hers was ...

  • A voice of complete faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
  • A voice of total devotion to her husband and family
  • A voice of love and kindness for everyone
  • A voice of forgiveness and encouragement

And even now, her voice continues to speak... yes...

  • Even now I can hear her words of tender love.
  • Even now I can hear her prayers for her children -- Tracy, Curry, and Derek.
  • Even now I can hear her exhortations for us to love God with all of our hearts.
  • Even now I can hear her call on the Holy Spirit to move vibrantly in each of our lives.
  • Even now I can hear her speak of unshakeable faith in God the Father, in Jesus the Son, and in the Holy Spirit.

Yes, even today Martha's voice rings in my ears... and it is a voice of tender love... speaking as simply and as gently as the Apostle John, saying:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
(1 John 1:9)

And we have this command from Him: the one who loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:21)

Does this surprise anyone here? No because it is the sentiment of the Lord himself. He said:

I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. 
(John 13:34)

Were His disciples perfect? Were they among the "religious folk" of their day? No. In fact, they abandoned Jesus soon after He spoke these words.

In fact, Peter flat-out denied Jesus when he was questioned... THREE TIMES IN FACT... even CURSING and SWEARING during his denials. Did Jesus disown him for that, or did Jesus love him and forgive him?

On the cross Jesus said, "Father forgive them, they know not what they do."

  • Have you ever felt like you didn't know what you were doing?
  • Have you ever felt like you betrayed Jesus? 
     
                          (Because we all have at one time or another!)
     
  • Aren't you glad that Almighty God has NOT disowned you !?!?
  • Aren't you glad that Jesus LOVES and FORGIVES you !?!?

Martha was. Martha knew without a doubt--she was firmly persuaded--that nothing could separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:37-39). And now she is filled with joy, for this day she is with her Savior in paradise! You see:

  • Martha LOVED Jesus! 
     
       ... in fact ...
     
  • Martha loved life!
  • Martha loved Donnie!
  • Martha loved Tracy... and Curry... and Derek!
  • Martha loved everybody in this room!
     
  • Martha loved... ... quite plain and simply, Martha loved.

Martha demonstrated the love of God in her life. She personified Ephesians 3 which says:

I pray that you being rooted and firmly established in love may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God's love, and to know the Messiah's love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)

This is no surprise. You see, Martha was trained up, from her birth, in the knowledge of God. And the proverb is true, for when she was old, she did not depart from it! (Proverbs 22:6)

In fact, her faith grew throughout her life. From her training in the word of God as a child, she welcomed a personal relationship with the Lord that expanded and embraced all who would call Jesus their Lord and Savior. She always spoke of forgiveness for sin. She always spoke of God's love for everyone. She always spoke of her joy at all the wonders of God's creation, and she spoke of how exciting it was for her to see all the ways man has worshipped and exalted the name of the Lord.

Martha recognized the whole body of Christ, all believers in the Lord... regardless of where they chose to worship God... regardless of weaknesses and failings (while never failing to acknowledge her own weaknesses). Martha always REJOICED that the sacrifice of Jesus was sufficient to cover a multitude of sins. In fact, she understood 1 Peter 4:8 which states (in the Holman translation):

Above all, keep your love for one another at full strength, since love covers a multitude of sins.

Martha always loved "at FULL STRENGTH"!!! And in doing so, she showed us by her example the love of God. You see, God always loves us "at FULL STRENGTH" so as to cover the multitude of our sins. That is what real love is, and that is why the Apostle John says that we cannot love God whom we have not seen while not loving our brother whom we have seen (1 John 4:20). So, in the words of John... and of Martha... LOVE AT FULL STRENGTH!!!

Martha's deeply committed relationship with Jesus was so obvious to me throughout my young adulthood, and throughout my life. I remember many discussions with Martha where she spoke of how much bigger God is than we can imagine. We shared many incidents in our lives where we saw God working in ways that seemed "outside the box" so to speak. In fact, one of the most intense moments of joy and praise occurred with a member of Martha's own family, and I personally witnessed that moment and had the joy of sharing it with Martha.

Most everyone here knows about Tracy's son Corey. Well, about a year after Corey had died, Tracy was still having great difficulty with it. She came up to Nashville and spent part of a weekend with me. At that time I was married to a woman who was raised Catholic and was very devout in her faith. So on Sunday morning I had invited Tracy to go to a Catholic mass before returning to Chattanooga, and she agreed.

Well, when we got to church it started off with the normal, traditional rituals of that particular denomination, and then the priest stood up to give his sermon. I'll never forget that moment, because the first words out of his mouth were:

Sometimes there are things that we don't understand and just don't make sense to us... like... 
well like the loss of a child...

Suddenly I smiled really big. Sure enough, the entire message from that priest that day was for Tracy. That day, God spoke to Tracy in a way that none of us ever could have. Tracy then understood why she had come to Nashville that weekend... because God had something He wanted to say to her.

Later, when I told Martha on the phone about God showing up at a Catholic Church with a message for Tracy, Martha said to me: "Well, Praise the Lord!" I remember this like it was yesterday. Martha praised the Lord for acting in Tracy's life. You see, Martha had been praying for her daughter for a year... for God to do something... something that would truly comfort Tracy.

Martha's prayer was answered... and in a way that none of us could have ever predicted.

You see, Martha knew God is not confined to any box man may try to put him in. God will show up wherever He wants to !!!

Martha loved that about God! In all the testimonies Martha and I shared with each other, she LOVED the way God would surprise us in life!

Martha simply loved God... in the same way a little girl loves her daddy.

  • And Martha's face always reflected the Glory of the Lord,
  • And her heart always loved with the Love of the Lord,
  • And her voice always spoke the Word of the Lord.

So what does Martha's voice say to us today?

Martha's voice today says exactly what she said during her life... not just in her words... but also in her actions:

Love God and love one another.

  • To Donnie, she says: I love you... I have always loved you.
  • To Tracy, Curry, and Derek, she says: I love you... so love each other just as I have loved each of you.
  • To rest of us, she says: Love and forgive each other, just as God has loved and forgiven all of you.

Love the way God loves... with an everlasting love... (1 Corinthians 13)

  • a love that bears with each other in each of our own, unique weaknesses and failings
  • a love that does not keep a record of wrongs
  • a love that is patient and kind, never boastful, never conceited, never selfish
  • a love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things
  • a love that forgives
  • a love that removes our failings from us as far as the east is from the west
  • a love that NEVER fails.

Today, Martha's voice echoes the words of Paul and testifies to us from the presence of the Lord, and she says:

... in this life, I only knew in part, but now I know, even as I am fully known. For my dear family, these three remain: faith, hope, and love. And Paul was right: the greatest of these is love! 
(1 Corinthians 13:12-13)

That's what Martha says to us today.

That is what Martha has said to us every day of her life.

And now Martha has joined that great hall of witnesses who are mentioned in Hebrews 11 and her voice now joins with theirs, saying:

Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings.

And then it specifically says:

And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

Consider that for a moment... Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

Hebrews 11 then goes on to list many who lived by faith, and who still speak to us even though they are dead. The passage says:

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on the earth.

They are our "cloud of witnesses" (Hebrews 12:1), and now Martha has taken her place among them, and still speaking to us, her voice encourages us the same way it always did:

LOVE GOD AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER, ALWAYS FORGIVING EACH OTHER

So listen... listen carefully to Martha's voice among that great chorus of history. She is speaking to each of you and she encourages us as she stands alongside the One who gives us peace in these times.

Now while we celebrate her life, we also feel sadness for we have lost something truly wonderful. We are not sad for Martha. No. We are happy for her, but we are sad for ourselves, and in this time what we need is to mourn OUR loss while celebrating Martha's gain.

Even now, Martha's voice says: Turn to him who is the Prince of Peace. You see... just like Abel, Martha STILL SPEAKS. She reminds us of God's faithfulness and His promise of forgiveness and eternal love.

I have asked Martha's son Curry to help me with a hymn from long ago that speaks of the faithfulness of God. As Curry leads us in the first and third verses of this song, think about the words and absorb the fullness of the meaning for Martha and for our lives.

Led by Curry McClure -- Great Is Thy Faithfulness

(V1) Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
       There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
       Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
       As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

(Chorus) Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
             Morning by morning new mercies I see;
             All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
             Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

(V3) Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
       Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
       Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
       Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

(Chorus) Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
             Morning by morning new mercies I see;
             All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
             Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Think about those words. Yes, "strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow" ... "a peace that endureth" ... Yes, that is the promise of our future, and it was Martha's hope... now finally realized.

You know, the day of passing will come for each of us, as will the fulfillment of God's promise to raise to life all who have gone before. This we can know: that Martha, and each of us, will live again when Jesus Christ returns. This is our Hope, the same as was Martha's. As the Apostle Paul states in Romans 5,

We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Martha persevered to the end knowing that hope does not disappoint us. Our hope for living again one day is assured by the promise of God. And now... Martha's joy is complete, forever loved in the very Presence of the Lord. The words of one of her favorite songs truly expresses what that Presence provides the one who is so devoted to the Lord.

CD Worship Song: Shout to the Lord

My Jesus, my Savior, Lord there is none like you
All of my days, I want to praise, the wonders of your mighty love
You're my comfort, you're my shelter--tower of refuge and strength
Let every breath, all that I am, never cease to worship you
Shout to the Lord all the Earth, let us sing
Power and majesty, praise to the King
Mountains bow down and the sea will roar at the sound of your name
I sing for joy at the work of your hands, forever I'll love you, forever I'll stand
Nothing compares to the promise I have in you
Nothing compares to the promise I have in you

Nothing compares to the promise we have in Christ. Always remember that God keeps his promises. He promises us peace today and resurrection to a new life tomorrow. Of this we can be sure. The promises of God--all of the promises of God--reach not only Martha, but also you and me.

The Apostle Paul again writes to the Corinthians:

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: The first man Adam became a living being; the last adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.

For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death is your sting? [1 Corinthians 15: 20-22, 42-49, 52-55]

There is no sting in death for Martha. Yet we feel the loss. I know that many people here have a wide variety of stories they could tell about their relationship with Martha. Stories of faith, sadness, and laughter -- in fact many stories most probably would make us laugh until we cried. Perhaps that is one of Martha's greatest gifts to all of us... laughter.

Over the coming days and weeks, take the time to share these stories and remember how wonderful Martha made us feel. Tell each other of her influence in your lives. Remember fondly the wonderful 50th anniversary party for Martha and Donnie..........

Take the time to comfort one another with fond memories... but also remember the author of her joy, for she would tell you the reason for the hope that was in her.

Let's have everyone stand and hold hands. There is a very simple song that speaks to the truth of this moment, both for Martha and for all of us. Let's sing it together as Martha smiles in the warmth of the very presence of her Lord Jesus Christ for in this moment she has the proof that this song is true... as one day we all will know.

We all know this song, so let's sing it together. It is "Jesus Loves Me".

SONG: Jesus Loves Me

Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to him belong
They are weak but he is strong
Yes Jesus loves me
Yes Jesus loves me
Yes Jesus loves me
The Bible tells me so

Martha would be the first to tell you that she loved all of you. She would also tell you that Jesus loves you even more.

(1 Corinthians 1:10) Let there be no divisions among you... no judgment... no resentment...

Jesus Himself said before you make any offering to God, go and be reconciled to your brother first (Matthew 5:24), therefore, 
BE RECONCILED ONE TO ANOTHER
 and leave the rest to God.

It is God's job to sort out the rest. Our job is to reflect God's love, just like Martha did. So I say it again:

BE RECONCILED ONE TO ANOTHER and leave the rest to God.

Martha showed us what Paul said was true:

Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love

Martha also showed us by her life that the greatest of these is love.

Let us pray.

O God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light: Grant that your child, Martha McClure, being raised with Him, may know the strength of His presence, and rejoice in His eternal glory; who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, forever and ever.

Impart to Martha that measure of grace which brings her into Your glory. Give to Martha the satisfaction of peace and joy which comes only from Your presence. We ask you as Father and Redeemer to draw Martha to Your lap as a loving father and hold her forever in joy and peace. Bestow pardon and favor on her that she may rest eternally in the light of Your glorious kingdom.

Father, we also ask that You hear the sadness of this family. Lord, turn our mourning into dancing and joy... and grant us peace. Lord, we ask that the Prince of Peace shower upon us that perfect peace which transcends all understanding. Lord, for Martha's family, we ask for a movement of Your Spirit and a renewed hope and faith for the time when we all are called to your presence.

We recognize that the life of man is but a breath, but the gift of God is eternal life. Holy Father, allow us to glimpse the eternal joy that awaits us when we join Martha in Your presence. We ask Father, that You comfort and bless each of us by Your Holy Spirit. We further ask dear Father, that You bring to mind all of the joy that Martha brought to so many lives. We ask that that joy combined with Your peace sustain us in this time of sorrow.

We ask these blessings of Your hand in the precious name of Your Son, Jesus Christ our Only Lord. Amen.

 

Graveside Prayer and Comments

We do not grieve as those who have no hope. (1 Thess 4:13)

Instead, we lift up our eyes unto the hills, and ask: Where does our help come from? Our help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth. (Psalm 121:1)

Though we now walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil, for the Lord is with us. (Psalm 23:4)

And we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ who gave himself for us. (Titus 13,14)

Therefore, in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal live, we commend to Almighty God our dear sister Martha McClure as we now commit her body to its resting place. May the Lord bless Martha and keep her. May the Lord make His face to shine upon Martha and be gracious to her. May the Lord lift His countenance upon Martha, and give her peace. (Numbers 6:22-27)

Let us pray.

Almighty God, Whose mercies are unending, in the midst of life, we are here in death. We now commend Martha into Your loving hands. We thank You for the joy that she has brought to so many lives. We ask that You now comfort Martha. We remind ourselves of Your promise of the resurrection power which You exercised in your son, Jesus the Christ, our only Lord and Savior. We ask Your favor to rest upon Martha and those of us who survive her. Lord, please look upon the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus, Who became a curse so that others may live. We approach You and we beseech You for Your loving favor on Martha, on her family, and upon all of us. We ask for an outpouring of Your Holy Spirit on this family and that Your Peace, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus as we eagerly await the day when we shall all be raised in Glory to meet You, and those we love, in the air.

Lord God, remember Your promise of eternal life and extend Your mercy and favor to Martha and to each of us, we pray. In the name of Your Son, and our only Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, we humbly say, "Amen."