20 Sample: When You Don’t Know the Person

The only time I met Zach, he was on a ventilator and unresponsive. I helped the family, though, and they asked me to do the funeral. I read Psalm 139 as the Scripture because it talks about God knowing us, which seemed important because I didn’t know him.

In a service for someone I don’t know, I never pretend that I do. Families can see through that. I do listen for stories about the person, and talk about what I’ve learned of the person. And I draw connections between the text and what I’ve learned about the person. 


Ellie, thanks for inviting me to be here with you all.

I have to be honest. I never knew Zach. But I have to be honest. I wish I had.

I hear that he was a friend to anyone. I hear that he loved to tell stories, that he had a story for everything and for everyone. I hear that he loved his family. His kids, one of our other chaplains said that he talked about them all the time. And music. And dancing.

And I’m guessing that he liked to make people feel comfortable. Which is why these kinds of times are so hard because they are completely uncomfortable. We’re crying for a man who would hate causing anyone to cry. And we’re remembering the ways we were changed by a man who wasn’t sure he was making a difference to anyone.

While some of you were here yesterday, I was over in Fort Wayne with a group of people talking about Psalm 139, that song I read earlier. I read it to them and I said, “What do you like most about it?” Which is a strange thing to ask, right? What we like about something from the Bible?

One of my friends said, “One of our deepest needs is to be known. And that song says that God knows us inside out.” We want to be known. But we’re afraid of being known. Why? Because we think we know ourselves pretty well. And most of us feel pretty insecure about that. Because we are afraid that if people know us, really, deep down, they will be disappointed.

Maybe it’s just me, of course. And I’m okay with that. But maybe you know someone like that. Zach may have been a little like that. And that’s why some of you are a little surprised to be here today because Zach hadn’t let on about how sick he was. He knew, probably, but he didn’t send out that memo saying, “I’m not going to make it.”

I’m sorry.

We don’t know when David wrote this song. But we know that David’s life wasn’t a perfect life. He’d killed people and had people killed. He’d made some mistakes with his family. He’d spent part of his life on the run. He even pretended that he was insane once, just to save his life. And then one day he stops. And he writes this song.

And I won’t read it all again, but I want to try to capture it.

God? You know everything there is to know about me. What I think, where I go, what I do, what I say. That could be creepy.

But God, You know me and you don’t abandon me. You know me and you are still there waiting patiently for me. Even if I do everything I can to run away from you, because I’m afraid I’ve disappointed both of us, when I wake up, you are sitting in the chair, waiting patiently, as if you have all the time in the universe.

Not because you hate me. Not because you want to trap me. Not because you are waiting to scold me. Because you love me. And want to help me see what you see when you look at me.


You know me because you made me. The way that you made me is amazing. The love for music, the need for other people. The things I can do and the things I need other people to bring out of me.

And then the song pauses while the songwriter thinks. What is he going to do with this awareness of God? Because it could push us to run away, to fight back. “Get out of my head.”

Instead, David opens himself up to God: “I give you permission to do what you are already doing. I’ll go along. Search my thoughts. Test my motives. If I’m screwing up, point it out and so we can fix it, you and I. And lead me in your path.”

A thousand years after David wrote this, Jesus put on a body. He walked around on earth. He understood from the inside what it was like to be human, to struggle. He understood the accusations of not measuring up. He love the people no one else loved, the people who didn’t always love themselves. People like me. And maybe you. And then he proved that he loved us by dying for us. And then coming back to life. And saying, “That’s how much I care.”

The one who made you loves you. And is following you. Not to trap you. But to love you. Because he died for you. And me and Zach. And lives for us. And sits in the chair waiting for us to wake up so he can help us.

And that’s our hope at this moment.


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