Thursday, June 14, 2007

On Funerals

Time was, I enjoyed writing funeral messages. I could take what I knew of the person's life and weave a story from it that seemed to help the people in grief, and expose others to the light of the gospel.

But today I will be doing the funeral message for the family of a man I did not know, who committed suicide, and who almost certainly was not a believer.

As the pastor of a church in a small town, I knew this day was coming. And I thought I'd be prepared for it. But I've been surprised with just how hard it has been to get a grip on just what God would have me say.

Let me say this up front. I hurt with those who grieve. One of them is a teenager who belongs to our church and is one of the sweetest young Christ-followers I have ever known. She came by our home the day it happened and for over an hour poured her heart out to us. It hurts to see her hurt and to see the shock and hurt in their faces.

But it is becoming increasingly clear to me that what many, many are sharing as Christianity, and what they are trying to rely on in times like these is not Christianity at all. It's cultural religion. Maybe something happened in VBS at age 6, or at a youth revival when they were 13 - in 1965. But nothing of God has crossed their mind in decades, unless His name popped in when a cuss word needed a modifier.

And they look to the pastor at times like this to "Bless this mess."

Uh, no.

1 comment:

  1. Hey David-

    Welcome to the club of small town pastor/priests who are called to "bless the mess". I have done numerous funerals like the one you mentioned. It is a fine line between being gentle/loving/honest and preaching a sinner into heaven.

    I also find the cultural religion to be very frustrating. I wrestle with how to help the family experience true hope while at the same time admitting that their departed loved one probably does not share in that hope and has no guarantees!

    Grace and peace,