I shared the following words at the memorial service for Angela Michelle Wilson, at Oak Forest Baptist Church, in Jackson, Mississippi, on February 6, 2016.
Today is a celebration. Do you remember how easily Angela celebrated? Her smile? How easily she could love people?
Do you know why? Angela would want you to know why she smiled so often! At the family’s request, I want to share with all of you why she smiled so much… why she loved so easily.
As I tell you why, I want you to notice two stories happening at the same time: God’s story of his son Jesus, and God’s story of his daughter Angela.
PART 1 – CREATION
These stories start in the beginning. As in, the very beginning. The beginning of the Bible describes how our world came into existence. It says, “In the beginning, Godcreated the heavens and the earth.” Some of the things we all love – sunsets, a summer rain, loving animals, majestic mountains, the sound of waves on the beach – God made them all.
God’s son also was there creating with his Father. John 1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” It will say there in John 1 also that this Word “became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
And in 1986, God made us an Angela. Please allow me to weave the words of the poet king, David, in Psalm 139:13-16 with God’s story of Angela: “LORD, you formed Angela’s inward parts; you knitted her together in Kathy's womb. I praise you, for she was fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Angela’s frame was not hidden from you, when she was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw Angela’s unformed substance; in your book were written the 10,931 days that you created for Angela, every one of them, before even one of them had taken place.”
When God begins any story, he begins things in the way those things ought to go. When God made the world, it was perfect and innocent and beautiful. When God’s son Jesus entered the story, it caught the world by storm that very first Christmas (so much so, that our timeline is still split into B.C. and A.D. based on the year of his birth). When God’s daughter Angela entered the story, it changed everything in the Wilson house! It would have been wonderful to enjoy those stories in just those beautiful beginnings, but the stories did not end there.
PART 2 – FALL
Very quickly after mankind enters the story, things begin to shift away from the glory of the Creator to the wishes of the Creation. Ever since the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, we humans have become experts at loving ourselves more than loving our God. And God has always been the expert at correcting our mistakes, at punishing our disobedience, and at keeping his end of the bargain (even when we do not).
God’s story of his son, Jesus, is full of episodes of the sin of man, as juxtaposed to the perfect life of Jesus. Jesus was so hated for his stance on the truth of God, for his stance against the lies of men, that he was arrested and tortured and shamed and killed and locked away in a borrowed tomb. Romans 1 explains that we have no excuse for our sin, that we know about god, but we do not honor him as God, nor thank him. We develop futile thinking, and our hearts go dark.
God’s story of his daughter, Angela, is no different. After a person’s life is over, we tend to remember only the things that make us smile. But I remember what Angela could be like when she got mad. Do you remember? I remember seeing her selfishness or her laziness on occasion. She never claimed to be perfect. In fact, we call her a Christian. That term does not mean that she was perfect; it means she was forgiven! She gave so much of her life to her church, and church is not a country club for saints but a hospital for sinners!
But Angela would want you to know how her life of selfishness was changed. She would want you to know why she helped with Vacation Bible School, why she helped others figure out how to turn to Christ, why she gave an entire summer to missions in Lake Tahoe, why she taught the Bible in Sunday School. God’s story of his daughter Angela was dramatically changed by God’s story of his son Jesus.
PART 3 – REDEMPTION
You see, God can fix anything. He can fix your selfish heart. He can change the most broken human. You can walk outside this church, throw a rock in any direction, and find cesspools of sin within any of those throws. But God can change entire blocks, entire neighborhoods, and entire nations. There is nothing that man has broken that God cannot make brand new. Nothing.
God’s story of his son shows this. Even as Adam and Eve received from God the punishment they deserved for ruining God’s good world in Genesis 3, God promised the evil tempter Satan that battle would be coming through Eve’s descendant. In Luke 3, true to his word, God sends his son Jesus. Do you know John 3:16? It is a somewhat famous verse that explains that God so loved you and me and Angela that he sent his only son Jesus to earth to give us a way to escape death, a way to the forever life. This person, Jesus, says in John 14 that he is the way and the truth and the life, that nobody can come to God unless they go through Jesus. He also says in that same chapter some words of comfort to the men and women who spent their lives with him. You see, Jesus knew he was headed to a torturous death on a Roman cross, and he wanted those others to know that he was not abandoning them forever. He said in John 14:1-3, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
God’s story of his son Jesus came crashing into God’s story of his daughter Angela when she was 10 years old, on the day that Angela asked God to forgive her of her sins. We remember her baptism, which was the day she told the world that she now belonged to Jesus. And we remember that as a teenager, she gave even more of her life to following Jesus, to doing whatever he told her to do, to going wherever he told her to go. She took to heart that Jesus would be her way, her truth, and her life.
And it is because she believed that Jesus died for her sins, that Jesus gladly forgave her for every wrong. He started right then getting her room ready in God’s house in heaven. Just like God promised Angela that she could be with him, God promises that you could have that home with him if you want it.
PART 4 – RESTORATION
This world will never fulfill any of the promises that advertisers offer. No drug, no drink, no dollar, no person, or thing that makes you temporarily happy can compare to the joy you will find in God. And you cannot get to God except through Jesus. Your sin is standing in the way. John 3:18 says, “Whoever believes in him (Jesus) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only son of God.” You are doomed to the punishment you deserve for every wrong you have ever done. It is perfectly fair of God to do that. But it is not what God wants for you. God’s story of his daughter Angela was wrecked by God’s story of his son Jesus. John 3:17 says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” God rescued his daughter Angela, through the sacrifice of his son Jesus. Do you see how much God loves you and me? John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Think about what this means. In Jesus’ last moments as described in Luke 22, he is extremely distraught at the thought of his upcoming arrest and torture and murder. He cannot sleep; he is praying with intensity; he is sweating drops of blood. He cries out to his Dad, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” If Jesus had been my son, I may never have asked him to die. Why would God allow his son Jesus to die? Because he loves you enough to provide a necessary sacrifice for your sins. Why would God allow his daughter Angela to die? Perhaps because God loves you enough to get you into a church on a Saturday morning, in order to listen closely to God’s story of his daughter Angela, in order to listen closely to God’s story of his son Jesus.
But the story of God losing his son Jesus has a happy ending. Because after God’s son Jesus is killed on that first Good Friday, God’s son Jesus is raised back to life on that first glorious Easter Sunday!! And I have wonderful news! We have a happy ending to the story of God’s daughter Angela, too! Angela will be raised back to life too! It’s true. First Thessalonians 4 explains it all to us, that “since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep…. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” Paul wrote these words to the church so we would not grieve in the same way others grieve. People who do not have Christ cannot understand why in God’s good name we can celebrate at a funeral! But it is because we have hope! Jesus is our only hope, and he is the only hope we need.
Only God can work all things together for good, like he says in Romans 8:28. But God only works bad for good in the crazy Christian people who love God, who are called to God’s purposes. I mean, only God can use his daughter Angela to love and influence dozens upon dozens of children in all of the schools she taught in. Only God can use his daughter to love and influence her Kissimmee Tribe sisters from Mississippi College, even long after she graduated. Only God can use his daughter Angela’s illness to connect 889 people through her Facebook page so that so many of us could keep up with her progress, and could pray for her and her family. Some of us bought a t-shirt that stated that “God’s got this… every piece of it.” I agree! God’s got his daughter Angela in his glorious presence. God’s got your life in his hands, too. God’s son Jesus gave his life for yours. Will you let go of your life? Will you let God guide you into a brand new life with him?
This ends the remarks I shared at Angela's funeral. But it is the great desire of her family that you know of the great God whom they know.
So I invite you to seek God. Find out more, if you want to know more. Pray to God, if you want to get some things off your chest with him. Read through some of the Bible, especially the climax of the book contained in the stories of God's son Jesus (you might try the book of John first?), if you want to read about these things for yourself. If I can help you in any way, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his face upon you and give you peace." (Numbers 6:24-26)