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Matthew 17.1-9 – Lectionary Year A, Transfiguration – February 17, 2023

Just Talking

Just Talking is a YouTube conversation about the gospel passage from the week’s lectionary readings. Herb Montgomery is speaker/director of Renewed Heart Ministries and Todd Leonard is senior pastor at Glendale City Church.


1. Renewed Heart Ministries: https://renewedheartministries.com

2. Finding Jesus Podcast: https://renewedheartministries.com/po…

3. Social Jesus on Patheos, “Rewriting the Sermon on the Mount:” https://www.patheos.com/blogs/socialj…

4. Glendale City Church. https://glendalecitychurch.org

5. Todd Leonard: https://toddjleonard.com


Matthew 5.21-37, Lectionary Year A, Epiphany 6

For Ryan

Funeral Homily on July 3, 2022 by Todd J. Leonard

I don’t know what day it is. It’s all a blur. All I know is that there was time before Thursday and time after Thursday. The time when Ryan was alive and the time of trying to figure out why he’s not alive and how we’re going to live on without him.

None of us can believe this happened. We’ve all been saying, “I was just texting with him…,” “I just talked on the phone with him the other day…,” “We were together last week…,” “The last time I saw him he was so happy…,” “We were planning to….” This is so surreal. The world’s not right.

We really don’t know in great detail why Ryan arrived at the place that he felt he needed to do this. We’ve been trying to figure it out the best we can, but we’ll never really know exactly what was going on his mind and heart in the hours leading up to this. What we can deduce is that he was carrying so much despair inside from being so overwhelmed by multiple stressors and he clearly didn’t want anyone to know about it.
• Our family knew that his back pain had returned. He had undergone multiple and expensive surgeries to heal him from severe, chronic pain in his spine and the procedures had been largely successful. But what must have been incredibly frustrating for him, was that it returned with a vengeance in just the past few weeks.
• We know he was having stress with his day trading. By definition, this work is stressful, but there was some evidence that the stress was worse than usual, that he may have not been on a good run as of late.
• And Ryan battled lifelong mental illness. His depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder were constant fights for him, whether he was taking his medication or not. His mind made his day-to-day life much more difficult than it is for those who don’t have these conditions.
Why we’re here today is because Ryan was exhausted by these conditions and more that he never shared with us. He had given up. He was tired of fighting. Tired of the struggle. And he came to a point where his mind saw no way out and he felt he was all alone. While he had a way out and he was surrounded by love, the deep dark pit he was in told him otherwise.

The scripture passage that was open on his bed on Thursday speaks to how Ryan was feeling. Though he hadn’t committed the deplorable acts that King David, who wrote this Psalm, did, it appears he felt guilty and under condemnation for things he had done and that he was begging God to forgive him and give him salvation:

Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt…. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
–Psalm 51.1-2, 8-12, NLT

For so long, Ryan had been trying to get things right—right in his head, right in his body, right in his career, right in his relationships—and yet he kept struggling. And he sought healing from the only place left that he thought that he could find it—by taking his life.

I need to say some things today, especially to the family. And I know that I’m low in the pecking order in the Blount clan. But right now, in this space, we’re on my turf and I’m in charge. So you have to listen to me.

  1. Ryan didn’t “commit suicide.” He died of suicide because his mind betrayed him when he needed it the most and told him there was no way out. Ryan died of an illness. Not character weakness. Not lack of faith. Not selfishness. He died of a broken heart and mind.
  2. This final act does not invalidate everything else Ryan did and it doesn’t reduce who he was. We are all mixtures of darkness and light and Ryan was no different. His talent, intellect, generosity, sense of humor and work ethic are all still true pieces of who he was. His light still shines even though he died in a moment of darkness. Don’t let this final act detract in any way from all the light that shined forth from him.
  3. No one close to Ryan is at fault for his death. We’ve already been saying this to each other over the past 72 hours and we’ll need to keep saying it to each other, because it is natural to ask this question of yourself as part of the grieving process: “Was there something more I could have done?” “Did I say or do something recently that triggered this?” “Was it something wrong I did earlier in life that set him up for this?”
  • NO. This is not your fault. It had much more to do with what we’ve already talked about. I don’t know of a family that has done more to show love than what you each have done for Ryan. You love your son and brother desperately and generously. He had your love. His death is not your fault.
  1. If you recognize that you share some of the struggles that Ryan did, please don’t be ashamed to admit that you might have some form of mental illness. Getting therapy and treatment may be the difference that keeps you from coming to the place that Ryan did. There should be no shame or stigma with depression, anxiety, bi-polar or obsessive-compulsive disorder. My own story includes the fact that I have been able to avoid returning to dark pits of depression thanks to the therapists I’ve seen and the medication I’m taking.
  2. There have been horrible myths perpetuated in the Christian community about those who die from suicide, including that those who die this way will be eternally lost. Let me reply with a specific theological word to those who teach and preach this: BULLSHIT. Those who believe this lie have not paid attention to the experience of our brother Jesus in his final days on earth.
  • As he and his disciples walked through the Garden of Gethsemane, in the gospel of Mark it says that Jesus, “became deeply troubled and distressed. He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me’” (Mark 14.33-34, NLT). In other words, Jesus said, “I am so overwhelmed that I want to die!” And, unlike Ryan, who had family and friends all around him who would love and support him if he called out for help, Jesus had all his friends desert him and betray him.
  • In fact, by the time he was hanging on a cross the next day, Jesus felt he had lost connection with his Heavenly Father as well. He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15.34, NLT). Jesus saw all his friends leave him and his mind had come to the place where he believed his Father had betrayed him as well. Jesus knew exactly what Ryan was going through on Thursday. He had been through it himself.
  1. Therefore, if Jesus has suffered what Ryan has and rose up from the dead and returned to heaven with the Father, than Ryan too will rise up from the dead and ascend to be with Jesus and the Father in heaven.
  • If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
  • “For your sake we face death all day long;
  • we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
  • No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Romans 8.31-39, NIV
  • Ryan is not under condemnation and nothing can separate him from the love of God. Therefore, we can rest knowing that Ryan is at peace in the healing arms of God and that, because of God’s love for us, we too will be with God one day and be reunited with Ryan for all eternity. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Amen.