A Reading from Psalm 23
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
The Word of the Lord.
The Holy Gospel According to John the 10th Chapter
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Kyle's Memorial Sermon
Grace and Peace to your from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
The day we have all dreaded has come upon us. Ten months ago we begin to receive orders to deploy to Iraq and become a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. When that occurred each of us in our own way begin to prepare for this day. Personally and as a unit we begin the long journey that has brought us to this place where we have to lay to rest one of our own, our brother Kyle Miller. We all feared we would be forced to face death, and now it is here. For those of you who were closest to Kyle, the S6 section, his battery, those of you who were with him when he died, his closest friends, and especially his family back home we want to express our commitment to you. Know that for a season we will remember you in prayer as you adapt to this great loss. Kyle’s home and my home are just a short distance apart and I for one am going to miss having someone over here who knew where I belonged, over there.
One of the most popular scriptures in the world is Psalm 23. The words of this psalm have made their way into our lives in such a common and comfortable way this Psalm is like and old friend. Especially, at the time of death. In this Psalm we find great comfort. This psalm in fact lingers upon our minds and hearts when others are long since forgotten.
It Speaks of The Reality of Death
I think one of the reasons is that this psalm speaks the truth boldly. Right in the middle of this Psalm there is a phrase that has a ring of truth to it that makes each one of us in our heart of hearts say, “Yes, this is true, I know this is true.” In the center of this psalm it says, “I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” We know the truth of this. From the beginning of our life until our last breath we are in the shadow of death. From the moment we chose to wear the uniform of the United States Army we have chosen to “walk in the valley of the shadow of death,” for the sake of others. We can deny it, pretend it isn’t there but in the end it wins the day. Kyle knew this and chose, for the sake of others to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” even though he knew it may cost him his life.
We so often choose this Psalm as one of our favorites because it talks honestly about death. It speaks about the reality we all face, it speaks of the shadow that is cast over us, it speaks of the hurt inflicted upon us, it speaks of the valley of death with blatant, open candor.
It Speaks of The Reality of Life
The Psalm speaks about another reality. The Psalmist speaks of a final a reality for us. A reality that overcomes death, overcomes hurt and overcomes the pain we all feel today. The Psalmist writes, “In the presence of my enemies God prepares a Table for me.” And what a table! This table is dressed with the finest linen of grace. It is adorned with the mercy of a forgiving God. And upon it lies the meal of everlasting life. It is a table like no other. Let me tell you of the gifts set before us.
The first gift set before us is this. The psalm says, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Not may be, not could be, not sometimes is, but the Lord IS my shepherd. Not just if you go to right church, follow the right set of rules, or believe in just the right way. It says, “The Lord is my shepherd.” This Shepherd will guard you and keep you. This Shepherd will hold you in the palm of his hand, and never let you go. This shepherd cares about his sheep (us) so much that he will do anything to save them. And if there is any chance at all even in spite of ourselves for us to be saved, he will save us. We have a shepherd that on days like this guards us, comforts us, and if we let him saves us.
Here is another gift. The writer of the psalm tells us... “I shall not want.” There will be a day, if we believe in Christ when all our needs are fulfilled. Not because we have the right religion system, but because we have the right relationship. A shepherd does not supply the needs of his sheep because the sheep are so darn smart and have gotten their act together. Sheep are not notoriously bright. The shepherd supplies the needs of the sheep because they are his. And they are His because He chooses them. And he has chosen them because he loves them. It is his choice. And those whom he makes his own “shall not want” even in the face of death.
Yet another gift! The writer of the psalm tells us “He makes you lie down in green pastures.” Shakespeare wrote, “Death has murdered sleep.” The sense of peace that we enjoy flees in the face of death. Since Kyle’s death I have visited with soldiers who in one way or another have told me, “It’s hard to lie down. It’s hard to be awake. It’s hard to be alone, it’s hard to be with people.” Rest seems allusive. But know this. Rest is the very thing that God promises. Jesus says, “Cast all your cares upon me and I will give you rest.” You will learn to rest again. You will again lie down in the green pastures of contentment.
We will even say that once again we will walk “beside still waters and feel our souls restored.” Sometimes we hurt so bad that we don’t know if we will ever recover. If you love much, you will hurt much. But as you know the pain does not last, but the love does. In the face of death eventually the pain is replaced with loving memories. Our souls recover. The raging waters still. The storm ceases and life resumes.
All of these gifts are ours even when we stand in the presence of our enemies. Our shepherd, the Good Shepherd, Jesus the Christ” grants these gifts to us, and gives us these promises. It is into this promise we place ourselves, and our dear friend Kyle Miller.
Let me conclude with this story. On the last day of his life, Kyle Miller spent a long grueling uncomfortable night traveling to Anaconda. This night was spent by a full day of installing electronic warfare devices on vehicles in one hundred and twenty degree heat. At the end of the day he had an opportunity to complain to Navy LT. Coker. Instead, he smiled and said, “We’re saving lives, sir. We’re saving lives.”
I for one will remember Kyle’s final day my whole life long. My tribute to him, my memorial to him will be this, I will breathe deeper, love more, and work harder to be a better Chaplain, Soldier, Pastor, Father, Husband and friend. In the final analysis the greatest tribute we can raise is “to live a well lived life.” Kyle thank you for who you were in our lives and who you have become in our memories.