Rev. Michael L. Keith
Funerals are not fun. No, I am not here to put the "fun" back in funerals. That is a really bad idea, actually. Instead, let's talk about why we have funerals.
We have funerals for two reasons, really.
One is to recognize that death sucks. A lot. Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult things anyone can go through. It rips a hole in you and it crushes your heart. When you lose a loved one it can seem like you have lost everything. It can make you very angry. Angry at yourself. Angry at the people around you. Angry at the doctors. Angry at the person who died. Angry at God.
So we bring all that hurt and pain and sorrow and sadness and anger and rage and doubt and fear and despair and anxiety to God and lay it at His feet. We don't ignore that we feel this way. This is real. This stinks. It is too heavy for us to carry. We come to God for strength. We gather our loved ones and friends around us so that we can lean on them. We don't try to do this alone. We lean on the community of which God has made us a part through Holy Baptism-and above all we look to God for help. "I look to the hills, from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth" (Psalm 121:1).
We are tempted to deny those feelings. Christians shouldn't feel bad when a loved one dies, right? We should be happy! Our loved one is with Jesus! Why aren't you happy? Don't you have faith? Those are VERY unhelpful things to say to someone who has lost a loved one. You see, the trouble is that a loved one is dead. The trouble is that her loved one is not here with her and it hurts. A lot. Yes, she may be able to find some comfort in knowing that her loved one is resting with Jesus-but right now it hurts.
There is a terrible movement in churches to move away from facing those emotions and to ignore them instead-to have a "celebration of life" and to only focus on the good feelings. To pretend that everything is "okay." To be "nice." This is really bad. It is not real. The Church is real. Death is real. It isn't nice and it brings up feelings that are not "nice." We don't need to be afraid of our real feelings and emotions when a loved one dies. We need to be honest and bring it all to God. A funeral is often one of the first steps in doing that.
Funerals are for real. They are for real people who have died. They are for real people who hurt and have been broken by the death of a loved one. They are for real emotions and feelings. We don't have funerals when everything is "okay." We are broken and beaten and battered and need help!
Funerals are for real. They are for those who need to hear the real Good News that Jesus has destroyed death and conquered the grave. Funerals are so people can hear about the real forgiveness of sins. Funerals remind us to give thanks for the hope of the resurrection of the body-that because Jesus lives, so do we. Funerals are so we can receive real comfort from the Word of God in the middle of one of the worst times in our lives. We have funerals so Jesus can bring His peace and hope and comfort to people who need to hear it. For real.
Rev. Michael L. Keith is Associate Pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church and SML Christian Academy in Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada.
Created: August 13th, 2015