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James Chen Funeral

December 3, 2017

Cypress Lawn, Tiffany Chapel, 1:00 PM

Call to Worship

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. (Psalm 90:1; Romans 14:7-9)

Today we have come to celebrate the life and memory of James Chen who was born on May 5, 1933 and returned to the Lord on November 13, 2017 having lived for over 84 years. Pauline Chen and her family are grateful for your presence here this afternoon and hope that this time together becomes a blessing to you; as the family knows your presence is a warm blessing to them.

Let us pray.

We thank you, God, that nothing in all creation—nothing in life and nothing in death—can separate us from your love. Fill us with your Spirit in this time of suffering and loss, and remind us that Christ is Lord of both the dead and the living. May we trust him to rescue us from all destructive powers and show us the way to a new and everlasting life. Amen.

Sturdy and Steady

The lives of post World War II Chinese sojourners take on similar paths. They traveled the Pacific on military ships, detained on Angel Island, took on any kind of work to survive and support their families. They became frugal and saved up enough to buy a home and were the original laborers who invented working “24/7.” James Chen was one of the literally countless Chinese American men and women who sacrificed relentlessly to provide for their families in order for their children to have more opportunities in life than they did. As we gather here today, we know that James Chen succeeded accomplishing these goals in this life.

Besides the creation stories we find in Genesis, there’s another description of God as Creator and Provider in Psalm 104. The people praise God for all the many ways he created a world for us to live. God clothed the world with honor and wrapped it in light as with a garment. God stretched out the sky like a tent and set beams for rooms. Not surprisingly parents take on these divine responsibilities to provide a loving home for their families and warm clothing for their children to remain healthy. James and his brother and father worked hard for all of their lives and only after they have succeeded in their life goals did they rest to enjoy cruises, play mah jong and watch sports. Again like God our Creator and Provider after creating the world in 6 days, took the seventh day for Sabbath rest, James Chen at age 62 retired to enjoy rest.

The times that I have known James is that he is often a silent, strong and sturdy man. He didn’t have many words to say but he was strong to lift heavy boxes at his and his father’s stores. He was close to the ground so that if anything were to hit him, he was steady and sturdy. In Psalm 104, God planted the cedar trees of Lebanon and watered them abundantly so that the birds can build their nests. There were also fir trees where the stork has its home. James was like these trees, rooted deeply in the ground because God provided abundant water. Like trees, James was strong and sturdy, able to stand upright when the winds of life challenges came his way. And like trees with branches and leaves, James provided his children and grandchildren places to build their own homes to receive God’s mercy and love.

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There are many reasons that we can make to perceive James Chen as an example of a self-sufficient, all resourceful, “I did it my way” man. We can say that he was a “model minority.” But this is not the case. James also realized that he was a child of God, the Creator and Provider who made him in the beginning and it was God who blessed him with life’s work, protected him over the years of life and blessed him with a loving wife, children and grandchildren to whom he always gave big smiles and hugs. On April 17, 2011, James was baptized and professed that Jesus Christ was his Lord and Savior who gave his life on the Cross so that James would have his own rebirth. Again, like sturdy cedars of Lebanon, James became a strong example for his own children and grandchildren to follow so that they may also know the Lord.

Toward the end of James’ life, he faced many difficulties. His body was tired and finished. This reminded me of a story of a doctor and his patient with cancer facing a death knell. That night the patient had a dream that he was walking and came upon a tree. It was big, deeply rooted, reaching high to the sky. It had many branches and one leaf. The leaf was green. The doctor asked, “How do you feel about the tree?”

“Its beautiful,” the patient responded.

“And the leaf?”

“Even more beautiful,” the patient responded.

“But the tree has only one leaf.”

“It’s enough,” the patient said

“Why is it enough?”

The patient said, “Because it means that leaves are possible.”

For the Chen family and for many of us here today, it feels like we were just here. Only a couple of months ago, we celebrated the life of James’ brother George. That too was a beautiful celebration of a life well lived. As brothers who worked together at their grocery store, they were like trees that have now become a forest, creating a canopy with their branches and leaves so that new growth can happen on the lush and verdant forest floor. This older generation of sojourners will continue to provide shade and abundant rain for this younger generation and for the next generation that is taking their proper place in this world. Each one of you here are leaves, green leaves that symbolize that there is more abundant life to come.

Assuming a greater responsible role in the Chen family will continue to happen. It’s God’s overall plan that there’s a season for everything under heaven. But do not be forsaken or dismayed because God has already given you the teachings to live and to live abundantly in the Lord. All the ways that James Chen has lived his life are the ways that God taught him and is now teaching you.

The Psalmist says,

            The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly,

the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.

In them the birds build their nests;

the stork has its home in the fir trees. (104:16-17)

May all of you continue to grow up strong, sturdy perhaps not as silent as James Chen, but like trees with many leaves of the Lord creating a healthy forest and providing a safe home for the many generations of Chens to come in God’s sight.

Let us pray.

Jesus said, “Verily truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above” (John: 3:3)

Let there be rebirth, here in this end time, O God. Life has been good and long. We are saddened, but we are not lost. We are still alive, and life is left to us. We can be born from above as well as from below. Even those who think we are too old can be born again. We count on you to help us, to accompany us, to hear through our grief to its depth in thanksgiving.

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Thank you, O God for the life of James Chen who was with us for many years. We thank you for his dedication and love for his family, for his sacrificial life’s work to provide, for his love and joy of life, and for his faith and belief in the Lord. And even in his suffering, we know how much he trusted and relied on you.

And now let the peace that passes understanding be his. We know he is with you in heaven. In the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.


After our time here, we’ll proceed to Golden Hill Memorial Park for interment located at 2099 Hillside Blvd in Colma. Following that, you are invited to a memorial meal at 4:00 at Grand Palace at 359 Grand Ave. South San Francisco.

If you wish to make a gift in memory of James Chen, the family has requested that you can make donations to the First Chinese Baptist Church, 1 Waverly Place, San Francisco, 94108 and/or to Contemplatives of St. Joseph, 377 Willow Ave., South San Francisco, 94080.

When you exit, you will be given two small envelopes. The white envelope contains a piece of candy to symbolize sweetness in a bittersweet situation. The red envelope contains a coin for you to buy something on your way home to suggest that you will continue to prosper and to have a healthy life.


Remember, beloved brothers and sisters, God has promised to bless us and keep us in this life and in our new life with the Lord.

The same God whose face now shines on our friend, James Chen, has promised through the Lord, to forgive us and shelter us throughout eternity.

I charge you to find your comfort and peace in these gracious promises of a loving God.

The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Amen.

Committal Service

Jesus said:

I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. (John 11:25-26)

Do not be afraid: I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead and see, I am alive forever and ever. (Rev. 1:17-18)

And from John, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16)

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, we commend to God’s merciful care our brother, James Chen and we commit his body to this resting place: earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

“Blessed are the dead who…die in the Lord…They will rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.” (Revelations 14:13)

Let us pray.

God our Maker, you made our brother, James Chen in your own image; you set his feet on a sojourner adventure; you watched over him along the way. As you lovingly received and welcomed him to the ranks of the redeemed, we pray that you would continue to guide our sojourner steps so that, at the appointed time, we might join James Chen in the communion of saints—forgiven, transformed, and fit for our new life with the Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen.


The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. Amen. Go in peace.

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