I heard an interview on a podcast this morning. Tom Long was being asked about a book he wrote about Christian funerals. It got me thinking about what makes a good funeral. Here are a few of my thoughts.
- A good funeral needs to lift the life of the person who has died, to speak of their connection to others and their contributions to the larger world. We want to remember the person’s life in all its fullness.
- A good funeral will acknowledge the loss and sorrow that comes with death. Our faith isn’t so heartless that we will skip over the hard parts. Even Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus, and so we can weep also.
- A good funeral will help us to say goodbye. A good funeral can help us get to the point where we recognize that one part of our story with this person has come to an end and new stories will be written going forward.
- And good funeral needs to proclaim the message that God has the final word in all our stories. Death is not the final end. God’s love and promise and hope continue even after death. God provides something more beyond the life we know here and now. There is that great cloud of witnesses and the feast that we all one day will share together, the heavenly banquet that we speak about each time we share together at the Lord’s Table.
One of the prayers in the funeral service in the United Methodist Hymnal has these words:
Speak to us once more your solemn message of life and of death.
Help us to live as those who are prepared to die.
And when our days here are accomplished,
enable us to die as those who go forth to live,
so that living or dying, our life may be in you. ..
The prayer invites us to recognize that God is with us and God’s love is at work in all of life including in our death.
Grace and peace,