The following is complete text of Church of the Living Christ Pastor Adam Williams message of comfort at the Clouse Children’s Funeral and the children’s portion of the service, offered by Pastor Donald Snyder:
I offer these words to a community that is grieving, may the Lord use them according to His plan. This was the message that was delievered during the funeral, I know that there were many who wish they could have been there. Some sections of this message have been edited for the privacy of the family.)
After the fire, I knew this day would be coming, so I began to think through what words I must share to bring comfort and healing to these parents, the family, and this community. I want to speak both words of comfort (on one side) and truth (on the other) in a time like this, and I wrestling with what to share, and how to share it.
Comfort is needed for Ted and Janelle and for the family, without question, but comfort if it is not based in truth, isn’t really comfort at all, but only empty words which are trying to make this an easier day, but this is far from easy. Today, I ask all to pray that the family and this community would find that right balance of truth and comfort.
One aspect of truth today that impacts this funeral and all of us here, but especially this family in this tragedy, is that the world we live in is broken, it is full of brokenness. The brokenness of this world impacts us daily in many different ways, but especially us because last Tuesday night the brokenness touched this family, and in the days to come it touched the community.
Let me come out and say from the get go – It is ok not to have all the answers about this. I do not have all the answers, nor will I pretend to have all the answers.
But even if we don’t have all the answers, there are some important questions to ask in a time like this, but there are also some very dangerous questions as well.
The most dangerous question that we can ask in a time like this is “why”.
I want to caution us from asking why, because why backs us into the corner. A corner which is dangerous, a corner which very easily have unanswered questions which will result in confusion and anger.
Instead of “why”, let us ask “how”.
“How is God using this?”
“How do we as a community respond to this?”
“How do I respond to this?”
Because sure enough it will change everyone’s life here (especially for you Ted and Janelle), and normal, won’t be normal any more, there will be a new normal.
It is important as we move forward from this day and as we wrestle with the results of last Tuesday, that we do not react to the brokenness in ways that create more brokenness.
We are very good at that. I grew up in Perry County, and except for school, have lived in Perry County my whole life, I have been a pastor for 11 years and I know that an event such as this will create numerous responses and feelings within everyone of us, especially a close nit community such as ours, we are a farming community, we rely and trust in one another, if one hurts, we all hurt.
So a tendency for many of us, will be to ask why, and to begin to blame God for this event, and not that the world is broken. The blame lies in that the world is broken.
We must not blame God , this turns to anger and if left unresolved always turns to bitterness, which results in resentment, which results in a, no way to express it any other way – a sad and depressed life.
But let’s remember that God hates the brokenness of this world much more than we do and that is why He sent His only son to die for this broken world.
I told you that I wanted to find that balance between truth and comfort here today, the best way that I can explain to you why I can find comfort today is based upon the truth of Scripture.
I know Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, at the age of 16, I was convicted of my own brokenness, the sin that was within me. I knew that I was broken and in need of a savior. Jesus Christ was revealed through the Word of God, as God’s Son and the only person who could offer me hope to my brokenness and sin. Through Christ’s death on the cross and a personal relationship with Him. I stand upon a strong foundation, and to be very honest with you, this foundation has allowed me to have God’s perspective through this tragedy, and to minister to the family and the community in this time of need.
So “How is God working in this situation?”
We cannot help but see these 7 caskets, and realize the great loss that is suffered by this family, I appreciate Pastor Don and the Hope, the confident hope of where these children are.
But we feel death here today, we feel the brokenness of this world, death is the ultimate result of brokenness. But maybe there is somebody here today who would respond to the Gospel, the truth that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, was buried and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures, and according to the John 14:6 “He is the way the truth and the life, no man or woman comes to the father except through Him” And Ephesians 2:8 “For by Grace we are saved, through faith, and this is not by our own works, so that no man can boast.”
I have talked to so many in the community that are struggling with this, struggling to find Hope. I have hope, because I know that God is using this to bring people into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and a deeper relationship with Him. Are you one of those today, if so, please talk to me, to Pastor Don or to Pastor Doran.
We do have hope here this morning, because we know that Romans 8:28 tells us that “All things work together for good, for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” We as believers must hold onto the truth that God is good, and despite how bad the situation is, even the death of 7 kids. God is in control, His timing is perfect and He is working his good in and through this situation.
That is why Horatio Spafford could pen the words to the Hymn we sang earlier in the service “It is well with my soul”. This hymn was written after several traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his only son in 1871 at the age of four, shortly followed by the Great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially.
Than in 1873, he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on a large ship, but sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after colliding with a sailing ship. All four of Spafford’s daughters died on that ship. His wife Anna, the lone survivor from his family sent him the famous telegraph “saved alone” Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he penned these words as his ship passed near to where his daughters have died.
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet though trials should come
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate
And hath shed his own blood for my soul
It is well, with my soul
It is well, with my soul
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
I pray for the peace of God upon this family, upon Ted, Janelle, and Leah. I pray for God’s peace for the immediate family and close friends. And I also pray for a grieving community for God’s peace for them. But I know that this peace can only be found through Jesus Christ.
There are close to 700 people present at this service, and each of us have been impacted by this tragedy in our community, however there are several individuals here who need an extra word of encouragement.
Personal remarks to people:
Ted and Janelle: I edited this section and prefer to have this remain private for those who were present, I will share what is important for the community in regards to healing.
I also speak on behalf of Ted and Janelle when I share that words cannot express how much gratitude they have for their family, and for this community and everything which has been done for them.
Leah: removed for privacy
Grandparents, uncles, aunts, family and close friends: Removed for privacy
Firefighters/EMS especially those who were there that night: you guys are heroes, you are outstanding. I cannot speak enough of the professionalism, and self sacrifice that I have seen demonstrated in your actions. We as a community need to honor you and probably more importantly pray for you. You guys saw the brokenness of this world like no other on the night of the fire. My prayers will be with you.
The Community: Wow, what outpouring from the community both local, in Central PA, and national. I am amazed at the monetary donations which have been raised to this point. I have been in awe at those who were willing to offer their labor, donated supplies and clothes and prayers to this family. I know that this community is praying for this family, but I encourage you to pray for them long term, not just for now. This family will need continued support and prayer for the years to come. I am proud to be from Perry County, for many reasons, but for this one today. That when we were hurt by this tragedy, we did not pull away but we came along this broken family and helped them. We rallied around them and through our grief gave to this family who was in need. I find pride in a lot of things within Perry County, in the beauty of Perry County, I find pride in the fact that we mostly know each other by our first name, I find pride in that the Monday after thanksgiving is a holiday around here, but this week I have a new point of pride and that is in the graciousness and love that we share with one another, and that when one hurts we all hurt and we do something about it. I learned so much about the people of this county this week, thank you for showing me what it means to love your neighbor.
Remember this – we all wish we could go back to Tuesday night, and hope we can wake up Wednesday – just another day of the week, none of this happened. But it didn’t, and I encourage each of you to ask this week and to seek the answer from the Word of God of “How am I to respond to this?”
Children’s Sermon from Clouse Children’s Funeral, March 15, 2011
Chidlren’s Sermon from Clouse Children’s Funeral. Pastor Don Snyder, Pastor of Doublin Gap Church of God. Message of comfort: Using the container with the fragrance, invite the children to have a ‘drop’ placed on their hand. After everyone has received the fragrance, place the bottle in the box.
Can you see the container that held the fragrance? No. But can you still smell the fragrance that it contained? Yes. (Make the connection with the bodies of their friends that we can no longer see.) But we can still ‘see’ them by remembering their ‘smell’. That is the memories we have of them, the good times we had together. (Connect soul/spirit and body as different).
But where have they gone? If we can’t see Christina, Izzy, Brady, Hanna, Heidi, Brownie (Miranda), and Samantha, how do we know where they are? God’s word tells us where they are. It tells us about the love that Jesus has for them and how He has taken them home to be with Him.
Let’s start with seeing how much Jesus loves them…and you. In Luke 18:15-17, Jesus scolds His disciples. Why? Because they were keeping babies and children from Him. They thought that Jesus was too busy to be ‘bothered’ with them. But Jesus told them they were wrong. He called the children to Him and said that the Kingdom belongs to such as these. Meaning, that heaven is there for children and those who come to Jesus as children. Heaven is for those like the Clouse children, who loved Jesus as much as they could in their limited understanding.
And again in Matthew 18, Jesus takes a child and shows the disciples who is the ‘greatest’ in God’s kingdom. He told those grownups, they needed to become like this child in order to be considered great in His kingdom. And He continued with these words which I hope can give you some peace… “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” And I am certain that those same angels watching over Christina, Izzy, Brady, Hanna, Heidi, Miranda, and Sam were sent by God to bring them ‘home’ on Tuesday night this past week.
For some reason, one I will never know, God called our friends home to be with Him. We want them back here with us, but that cannot happen. But know this…they are in heaven with Jesus! They are in a place of peace, happiness, love! They are where, one day when God calls us, we will see them again, and be with them! And Jesus tells us how we can be sure that happens!
I want to leave you with these words that Jesus spoke to His disciples when He knew it was His time to ‘go away’, to die. He told them that they should not let their hearts be troubled, to not worry, to not be upset. He told them to trust Him, trust His words. In His Father’s house are many mansions! And He was going to prepare a place for them! And this was true! And if He went to prepare that place, He would come back to get them and take them to be with Him (just as He took these children to be with Him). Jesus told them that they even knew the way there! But Thomas, good ole Thomas, said that they did not know where He was going so they did not know the way either. And Jesus spoke these words to him, to the rest of the disciples, and even to us today. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him.”
I know that one day I will see my friends, these children, again. But how can I be sure? Because I know Jesus! He is my Lord and Savior and I know His word to be true! It is plain to me that He took these Clouse children home to be with Him in the mansions that He prepared for them! I know it because God’s word says it! I do not know why He called them home at so young an age, but this I know, they are home! And now you know the way as well! Trust in God, trust in Jesus, and He will show you the truth of this! Then on that day when God calls you home, and hopefully that is many, many years in the future, you will be ready!
But for now, we remember our friends. Even though we cannot see their physical bodies, we can always see them in our memories and know that they are with Jesus!
DONATIONS FOR THE CLOUSE FAMILY FUND
The Church of the Living Christ families extend our heartfelt sympathies to the Clouse Family as they mourn the loss of their seven children. Words cannot express the sorrow we have for their loss. In the event you would like to help in a tangible way by making a donation to the Clouse Family Fund to help defer costs, please make checks payable to the Clouse Family Fund, care of Church of the Living Christ. Mail to:
Church of the Living Christ
PO Box 180
Loysville PA 17047
May the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles be the source of your comfort and hope during this time (2 Cor 1:3-4)