Like a Tree Planted
Funeral Sermon for Mary Kumley – RIP – Service on July 7, 2014
Psalm 1:1–3 (NKJV)
1 Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.
Mary was a planter, a gardener, a tender, and a harvester. She was literally with her gardens, her flowers, her vegetables, her fruit trees. And she was metaphorically in the way she planted, tended and harvested in the relationships she had in this life, in the opportunities she knew her Lord put in front of her.
Gardens, planting, growing, harvesting. These are pictures used throughout the scriptures to teach us about life – about birth, about growth, about bearing fruit, about death – and about resurrection. From the first Garden for our first parents, Adam and Eve – God has taught us that the good life is in and among His creation full of gifts, blessings, opportunities, relationships and potential. Give yourself away, die to yourself, plant seeds of faith – these are the kinds of things we learn in gardens. Faith, hope, patience, faithful waiting, careful nurturing, observing, caring for – and looking to God for the harvest – this is what Mary learned, spoke about in her life and, occasionally with her words.
Mary knew what it was to plant and to be planted. She, with her faith in Jesus, was planted by the streams of living water where her life flourished with faithful service to her Lord. But it wasn’t a life of lots of “Jesus” words. It was a life of “this is just what you do,” a common-sense, simple life kind of way of looking at things. But whenever I spoke with Mary, it was not the common-sense of a simpleton who hadn't thought about these things. She seemed to know and live knowing that life was far more than just the sum of all the activities. She knew her Lord and she knew He was at work in all these little things –with eternal goals in mind.
Mary’s life was a fruitful life – her biography and her heirs, both children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, but also her friends and those of us who worshiped with her at our church these last several years, are a testimony to that. A gardener knows how to balance faith and works. Faith is believing that God will do what He has promised – works are our response to do what He has told us to do because of His promises. A gardener plants a seed knowing that she can do nothing to transform that seed into a tree – but then she waters and cares for it – believing that it will become that tree in God’s good time. For our futures, Mary teaches us – preaches to us – to be people filled with faith and good works. Faith in what God has promised – and good works in accordance with those promises – with patience for the Great Harvester to bring forth fruit at the appointed time.
Mary’s life was like a faithful tree, planted by the streams of water. I was with Mary in the final weeks of John’s life as his body weakened, and then in his passing. I saw a woman who testified to the goodness and kindness of God, comforted by His promises, partaking of living waters to stand firm in the midst of sorrow and grief. I spoke with her several times about life without John, how that was different, how she missed him, but how she was confident about moving on with life, with what she was now called to do, and how one day she would be reunited with him. Even as her health began to fail, when I would speak with her at church, she would acknowledge her weakening body, but with a winsome spark in her eye that all was well with her soul.
That winsome spark would have no meaning, no purpose, no truth to it, however, if this is all there is. A few years of life and then – what? There is another verse in the Scriptures with regard to gardening (actually, there are hundreds) –
1 Peter 1:24–25 (NKJV)
24 because “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, 25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.
What is that Word – what is that Gospel – what is Mary’s hope – and what can be anyone’s hope regardless of when or in what situation we find ourselves before death’s door? It is that Jesus Christ died – died for the sins of His imperfect people – and so our imperfect lives, like an imperfect seed, which on its own would never make it – are made perfect so that they can make it. Make it where? Jesus did not just die – he was buried and then he rose again, ascending to heaven where He promised to prepare a place for those who believe in Him.
And so one last gardening event happened in Mary’s life. We buried her body – and we did so in the name of Jesus. We sowed her seed; we planted her body – with the firm hope that her soul is already before the throne of her God and the face of Jesus her Lord – she is perfect and in a perfect place. And one day, her body will be raised, just as Jesus’ body was – and, united with Him and all the saints, she will enjoy the victorious life of the new heavens and earth fully revealed. There will be gardens to tend – but they will be far more glorious gardens, far more beautiful, far more glorious, far more fruitful – than we can begin to imagine. Mary was buried, planted, in that hope – and she would have you all – all her family, all her loved ones, all her friends – join her in the same hope – the same faith – the same promises – so that your stories would never end in death and judgment – but death and resurrection.
Mary sowed those seeds – the seeds of gospel hope. The is her final and lasting legacy. She would have you find comfort, solace, and faith in the same Savior she walked with and now lives in His very presence. Amen.