What can you say when you must speak during a time when everyone else wants to be quiet? This is the dilemma faced by ministers who are privileged to speak at funerals.
Sure, it is easy for people to say sometimes it is best to just be quiet and let people grieve. Yet the person who carries the awesome burden of responsibility for the dignity of the memorial for the deceased as well as the truly difficult task of speaking truthfully about death and what comes afterwards does not have the option of silence. They must speak.
Today I carry this responsibility and I am faced with this task.
One of the fundamental realities of life is life matters. Our lives are important and thus we grieve when someone’s life ends. We will no longer see them. We can comfort them no more. Their hands will never touch ours nor will their voice ever reach our ears again.
In this life.
How a person chooses to live matters. The Bible says this: “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” Right now, a man has died and his family and friends are mourning his passing. His life matters and so, too, do their lives. How can they honor the wishes of this man?
Wherever this man is now, it is his fervent desire for his family and loved ones and all of his friends to come to know Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ there is hope for the future. The passage I read from the Bible a moment ago does not finish with the idea of judgment but instead carries on in this way:
“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”
In the midst of grief, there is hope for something better. The life of the deceased can be honored by those left behind. They can honor his wishes by choosing to accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on their behalf and so find salvation and hope. Apart from Jesus Christ there is no hope for any of us. Yet this hope in Christ is offered, freely, to each one of us.
The only hope of a joyous reunion with the deceased is to find salvation in Jesus Christ. The only hope for a life which will meet the wishes of the deceased is to find salvation in Jesus Christ.
Right now, when grief is too great to see anything else, the mourners need friends. They require understanding, sympathy and care. This is not a sign of weakness nor should it ever be curbed. Grief is a natural response to death. No one is alone in their grief, however. God, the Father of all humanity, stood by as His own Son died on the Cross. The Son, Jesus Christ, cried out in agony as He faced His own death. No one is alone in their grief because God knows their pain and is there with them.
My role is to bring some comfort to the family, loved ones and friends of this dead man. The only comfort we have is found in Christ and the hope He gives us for a better future. We can find solace in the care received from our friends. But comfort, that is a different thing. The root meaning of the word comfort implies strength. Genuine comfort is not a simple hug and a meaningless wish for better times. Authentic comfort comes from knowing the truth about what is happening so strength can be found by looking hopefully at the future. Jesus Christ can give us hope through the salvation He offers.
This is the good news at every funeral.