What is a Funeral?

I don't count funerals anymore than I count haircuts, and I've had my share of both of them. For me, they are a natural part of my life and work. Each funeral counts of course, it matters deeply to family and friends what you say or share at the service. In fact, the things said at a funeral may well be the last memories of someone and family and friends will carry those memories to their own grave.

I'm not sure that we are having more funerals today, although it feels like it. I just had 6 in three weeks and another one coming up in two days and another one in July. I'm slowing down this weekend so that I can process all the atmosphere that funerals bring, both joy and sadness. These emotions find their way into my heart as I pastor the loved ones who remain alive and grieve. My main joy is to help them return to a thriving life again. This doesn't always happen. Some never do recover from the loss of their loved one. But most do. My part is to help them regain their spirit, their purpose, their goals for living.

Most funerals are not traditional anymore. In a church setting they might be. But from my office, they have come to be a mix of memories, hopes, fears, words of remembrance, words of hope, and to a lesser extent than I am used to, words of Scripture. That last part I find challenging. I'm pretty sure I will always have words of Scripture to share. It's not that people are against sharing a word from God, they just are not familiar with it as much today. Which also means, they are not used to traditional funerals either. Today we call them Memorial services, conducted in a funeral home, or church, or some other facility or the last nursing residence lived in. These are often beautiful and tribute filled services.

The only thing missing is a sure and certain word from the Lord. When we die, we can offer little surety or certainty to the gathered congregation. Our death is proof of that. It is the life well lived in the grace of a loving God that inspires us to look for God's word at a funeral or memorial service. Most funeral services still include some Scripture, the 23rd Psalm for sure, the Lord's Prayer and others. Yet, the meaning of those Scriptures is growing less important. You can leave many services today and not even know why a Scripture was included. This allows hopelessness to creep into our memorial services, uninvited and unawares.

No, our hope is built on an enduring and everlasting friendship with God. A Forever Friendship. And for that, we need to hear what He has to say on the subject. That's where all hope comes from!