Today we remember our sister, Marian Laurent. Here is the eulogy that was written for her: Yesterday, we went to pay our respects to Marian at the Latimer Funeral Home. Our children, who partner with us quite often in the ministry, came with us to say good bye, and to help us meet with you, the family, in your grief. As we stood there at the casket, my 11-year-old turned to me and said, “I’ll miss her smile.” In the near three years we’ve been at First Christian here in Murfreesboro, nearly every Sunday, Wednesday and Sunday Evening, we were greeted by this smile. When Marian was walking and we’d pass her on the road, we’d see her smile, when we’d see her in public, in the shops, or at church functions, her smile was ever present. And it was a smile that would light up a room.
From what I could tell, apart from her family, Church was central to her life. It was a gathering place of family, friends, and loved ones. My wife made the observation that she was always inviting her children and grandchildren to church with her, and would always tell Michaelene “Pray for me, I’m working on Tyler, I’m working on Connie, I’m working on so and so.” Every year that we’ve been here, Marian would sponsor a carload of kids to go to church camp, so Nicole and Kaylee would go with them. Church camp was also important to Marian. Marian also felt strongly about Church Camps. Whenever she could go to Cherry Hill Church Camp, Marian was the dorm mom who ran the tightest ship, and she loved all the girls in her dorm whole-heartedly, and loved every minute of it. Someone shared with me recently that she wanted to go with us to camp next year, if she could make it. Because of Marian’s generosity, we’ve seen, in just these three years, kids who’ve come to faith in Jesus Christ who might not have otherwise had the chance to go.
Marian smiled because she had a lot to be grateful for. She gave because she had a lot to be grateful for. She was free and forgiven in Jesus Christ, and though her life has been far from easy, she looked with great pride over her children and grandchildren and often acted as the glue that held people together. Marian wasn’t good at sitting back and not being involved. She got down and dirty, even at times taking the grand and great grandchildren for a time to give respite to their parents. She enjoyed you all immensely. And, though her earlier adulthood was hard, she never acted the part of the victim. The Love of her Life, Howard, and she made the best life they could, and she spent it serving and loving her children, grandchildren and countless others along the way.
Marian was the type to never let someone sit alone in church, if she could help it. She often invited others to come, and, if they did, made sure they sat with her on what I’ve come to affectionately call the Laurent Pew. Even when some felt they were undeserving, Marian sat right next to them. What is more, in the rare times she was under the weather, whenever I asked if there was anything I could do for her, she would say “You don’t have to bother about me.” This is a sentiment I’ve heard echoed time and again as I’ve talked with family members and friends over the last few weeks as Marian was in the Hospital and, at last, slipped into the arms of Jesus Christ. As I was pouring over the Scriptures, I thought to consider what verses made me think of Marian more. I found the answer in Matthew Chapter 5.
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Marian wasn’t ever, as far as I could tell, rich in material possessions. Yet she was free with what she had, especially with her love and her smile. Even after the passing of Howard, she continued to live for her family, blood, church, and otherwise. What does it mean to be poor in spirit? I think Marian knew. What this means is that we have nothing unless we have Jesus. The Greatest Commandment Jesus said existed was to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.” To be poor in Spirit means that you know that you are nothing unless you have God and love your neighbor. Marian’s life was a life lived in sacrifice. She gave freely, loved freely, let go freely, and lived a life that sought to be worthy of the next.
4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Marian hasn’t always had an easy life. She wasn’t born in to comfort, and even suffered abuse within her lifetime. Marian also had regrets, the biggest of which revolved around her family not getting along. She mourned. She mourned for mistakes she had made, or what she could have done more of, or less of, and yet she cast her cares to the Lord. What does this mean to mourn? It means, of course mourning over loss, but it also means mourning over sin, and those things which break the heart of God. Though the story will be told later today, I had a new member of the church, whom Marian had invited to come, share how she and Marian met on one of Marian’s 3-mile walks. They met at the city park, and this dear lady asked sister Marian how she could pray for her. Marian opened up, and shared her mourning. She prayed for her family to come together and to get along. And, in the Hospital toward the end, Marian saw people speaking with one another. She was able to see, before she went home, her prayer begin to come to fruition. She received the promise comfort before going home to her eternal comfort.
5“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Marian was definitive of meekness. People often mistake such a thing for weakness, but there is a difference between meekness and weakness. Weak people allow people to walk all over them. Weak people cannot defend themselves. Meek people are strong enough to know when it’s not worth the fight. Jesus Himself showed such a quality as He was arrested, beaten, falsely accused, and led to His death. Marian showed such quality. She kept her mouth shut when she knew the fight was not worth it. She kept the peace in the family, even when people weren’t speaking to one another, and she loved people in spite themselves. This is godly, Christ-like meekness. This defined Marian’s Character.
6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Marian always sought to do what was right, and sought to bring others, especially her family, to do what is right. It wasn’t important to get people to church (don’t get me wrong, she wanted you all here!), it was to share in the hope, and in the eternal promises Jesus gives. She hoped, each week, to fill not merely her pew, but several with family and friends. She wanted you to go where she is now! She had a hope beyond this life, and now is fully realizing this hope in the presence of Jesus Christ!
7“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Marian was merciful. Even when people didn’t talk to her, she still loved them. She still kept up on how people were doing, and she even asked people to sit with her, even if it wasn’t a popular idea. Marian offered her smile freely. She offered the seat next to her at church freely, and she offered her love, even to the unloved and unlovable freely.
8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Marian didn’t lead a perfect life, but she sought to love perfectly. This is what it means to be pure in heart. Jesus said of such love “you must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” What He was speaking on was seeking to be perfect in Love. Marian’s heart was all about love, and is now perfected in the presence and eternal love of The Father.
9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Marian sought peace. She wanted peace in her family. She wanted peace among those she loved, and some of her last commands to those she knew she was leaving behind was to get along and love each other. Marian was a peace maker! She wanted you all to live together, peacefully, loving each other, even if liking one another wasn’t possible. She was most content in the middle of her family when everyone was together and getting along. In her efforts to make peace, she proved her quality as a daughter of God.
Why do I say all of this? Why do I compare Marian to what Jesus taught? Because whether or not she consciously sought to live this way, this is how she lived! This is the hope she had, not within this life, but for the life to come, and she wanted everyone she met, and even those she didn’t, to go in to that life with her. What is that life? It begins with recognizing that we can’t save ourselves. All of us are messed up! None of us have had a perfect life, and every one of us is guilty of rebellion against our Designer. We’ve all broken His law. And if we are guilty, we must answer to that law. This is what is known as sin: rebellion against our design and our designer. What does the Bible say the punishment for sin is? Death! To break the law of God must be atoned for in death. And none of us are good enough to save ourselves from the perfect law of our designer. But this same God did not leave us without Hope. He sent His Son to live life as one of us, obedient to the Father in ways that we could not be, tempted and tested in every way, and yet He did not sin. And when He tried to draw us back to the truth, we killed Him for it. It was our sin that placed Jesus on the cross, but His love kept Him there: He gave His life freely to pay the penalty for our sin. And though He was buried, He rose again three days later. Not merely so that we can have hope for a resurrection in the time to come, but to have that life now. Marian lived that resurrection life. Her Joy and love are proof of that. She Knew Jesus is returning someday, and hoped to bring everyone she loved, and even some counted as enemies in to that love and life. She now is in that life forever more. She is in the presence of the Father, as we speak, and she, as she invited many of you constantly to sit with her in church each week, would want to invite you to meet Jesus so you can sit in His presence with her for eternity.
Her sudden departure from this life is proof that we can’t take any moment for granted. I hope you’ll accept this invitation. Yet even if you don’t. My prayer is that you will respect her wishes and love one another as she loved you, and get along as she desired you to. Life is too short, and the time of our departure from it is always uncertain, many times unfair, and always hurts for those who are left behind. Love each other now, and honor her life in that love. Love Jesus, and live in that love for eternity.
As we prepare to say our final goodbyes, I wish to leave you with a word of Comfort from the Gospel of John 11:17-27:
Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two milesc off, 19and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.d Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”