Jennifer Sebena was a member of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, and a police officer in the local force. On Christmas Eve, she was brutally shot to death while on duty. Her church and city were stunned when her husband Benjamin, an Iraq veteran and active Elmbrook member, was arrested and accused of killing her. Veteran preacher Stuart Briscoe, a friend of Jennifer's family and minister-at-large of Elmbrook, preached her funeral sermon, which went viral in the days following her service.
Unfortunately, the story of a life cut short is a common headline. Recent murders in Colorado, Oregon, New York, and Connecticut have shocked the U.S. public. Most pastors will have to deal with tragic deaths—murder, suicide, accident—at some point in their ministry.
But in the aftermath of traumatic violence, what can a preacher say? Leadership's editorial team sat down with Briscoe to hear why he preached what he preached to a shocked church and their community. You can find the full transcript of Stuart's sermon at PreachingToday.com.
Leadership: This funeral was about as delicate as any we can think of. After a brutal murder, you have two families, including the victim's and that of her accused husband. You have 1000 uniformed police officers honoring a fallen comrade. You have the media there, and the whole community is watching you. How did you prepare?
Well, I first heard about the tragedy without thinking that I would be involved at all. It's twelve years since I was the senior pastor here at Elmbrook, and I have a roving commission now. A day or two passed after the killing before I knew that I would be speaking. So I had time to process the event.
I was thinking What do you say in a situation like that? And I fell back on this—we need to set the event in the context of worship. This is difficult for some people to grasp. But at this, or any funeral, I need to remind people that though the body returns to the dust, ...