When I do funerals at Concord, I always emphasize two things. One is that we ought to celebrate what God has done for someone. Upon death, we are reunited with God and experience that everlasting peace of God’s presence. The “heaven” part of a funeral is always comforting to reflect on! In the midst of grief, we often need that divine assurance God has everything covered. Our loved ones may have died, but through knowing the love of Christ, they can be made new in everlasting life.
The other thing I emphasize ties in with our belief about the communion of saints, as articulated by the Apostles’ Creed. During funerals, I try to do my best to summarize and memorialize the kind of life that someone led. What kind of person was she? How was he a good father to his children? What kind of things brought her joy in life? What fond memories did you have with him?
My reasoning for doing this is really quite simple. Hopefully through remembering someone, we come to recognize and appreciate what they taught us through their life. After all, God gave that person to us as a gift. Through his or her life, we can see a little glimpse of the love of God. They might have been a grandparent who truly showed you love. They could have been a relative who was always a joy to be around. They could have been a friend who would have sacrificed anything to help out someone in need.
As I reflect on saints and things like funerals, it is clear to me that death is often a bittersweet thing we face in life. On one hand, we desperately miss the person we lost. We wish for just one more conversation, hug, or chance to say “I love you.” Funerals often have some very heavy emotions attached to them. We feel the weight of sorrow and might even feel overwhelmed with pain. And yet on the other hand, we can be filled with joy that our loved one is no longer suffering, that he or she is with Christ now.
So in the midst of all these emotional highs and lows, it is important to remember to carry on the kind of Godly character someone may have taught us. We need to continue their example of loving God and serving others. That might be the greatest way to remember people who have died and honor their legacy.