Sunday, December 30, 2012

The seeming solution cremation provides...

Though some posit cost as the chief attraction of cremation over burial, I would offer another reason.  We have become a people of wandering souls who live in dozens of places but few of them we dare to call home.  Nothing brings up the problem more clearly than the question of where we shall be buried.

Pastors are prone to the problem more than others.  I have lived away from my childhood home for more than four decades.  My wife is in the same boat.  Where we now live is not the place that either of us think of when we think "home" (no disrespect to either congregation or community).  My wife's family will all be buried in Northern Indiana and mine in Northeastern Nebraska.  But what about us?

It is no wonder that many choose cremation -- it either postpones or eliminates the problem of where the remains will make their final resting place.  The remains have become as nomadic as the people they were in life.  Children and spouses carry the urns and ashes with them on some strange journey that seems to have no destination.

I have twice been called to the home of a deceased member to counsel the family on what to do with urns and ashes found while cleaning up the loose ends of a parent who died or was rendered helpless by mental fragility.  "What do we do with these?"  Ahhh, that is the question.  And that is the weakness of the choice of cremation.  It is often merely the deferral of a larger question to another time and another person.  "What do we do with these?"  Indeed.  What DO we do with them?

It is even Scriptural -- here we have no abiding city -- not in life or in death.  Always in transit.  Yet this is itself a part of the problem of grief and the way we face up to death.  It is easier to believe in the journey than the destination.  So we cremate without knowing what to do with the remains.  Then we have a celebration of life (instead of a funeral) to make us feel better about it all.  In both cases the emphasis is on the trip and not on the destination.

It would seem to me that that is precisely why we need the funeral, why we need to have this journey placed in larger context, and why we need to find a way to reverently dispose of the bodily remains even as we find our comfort and consolation in Christ who died that we might live and who lives to bring us with Him to heaven and eternity....

11 comments:

Fallhiker said...

My father a WWII and Korean War Naval Veteran (from rural southern Indiana), was really impressed with burials-at-sea. Although at that time the remains were not cremated, and now are for that ceremony, that was his wish. Alas, my Mother passed first (from Cincinnati and also a WWII Navy Veteran) visited Arlington National Cemetery after Kennedy's death and fell in love with the place. Her dying wish was to be buried there. At the time the only way my Mom could be buried there was if Dad made his arrangements to also be buried there. in 2000 he passed and was cremated the majority of his ashes were buried there with mom, but, I the ever faithful son reserved a portion of the ashes for burial at sea. One benefit of cremation not apparent to everyone.

John said...

We will be cremated, the service will be a funeral, and our remains will be buried at our local national cemetery. Cremation does not exclude a funeral, nor does it exclude burial.

Anonymous said...

Can you say more about cremation versus bodily burial?

Mr. Mcgranor said...

Cremation is heathen.

Carl Vehse said...

In its FAQ on Life issues (p. 4) the Missouri Synod concluded that cremation "is a matter of Christian freedom and no Christian who chooses to have a loved one cremated rather than buried should be led to think that such a decision is sinful or in opposition to the Word of God."

Three other Lutheran church bodies (CLC, WELS, and ELS) have similarly explained on their websites or in their official publications that cremation has no Scriptural or theological proscription, so long as the motivation is not unchristian.

Mr. Mcgranor said...

Mr. Vehse, to say that now--would of had to be said then--in order to be valid. No stamp of approval can disguise the practice of cremation as not unchristian. A Christian burial is when you are buried, not burned or left exposed.

Anonymous said...

I believe Pr Peters comments were directed at portable remains that have no resting place and not directly at the practice of cremation - unless I am reading him wrong.

Fallhiker said...

I direct this at Mr Mcgranor.... Show me in Scripture where it would be unchristian to Cremate.
Otherwise you are assuming that it is unchristian in a traditional sense, which I would concede it is. Martin Luther used the Bible and the bible alone to determine if something was proper or not.

ash scattering ceremony said...

That is why a ceremony is important for the love one, it honor, revers and memorializes them.

Anonymous said...

The issue of cremation did not come up, at least that I can remember, regarding the funerals of my parents. My Mother died unexpectedly on October 30, 2013. Around our family kitchen table, my father decided he wanted my mother cremated, and placed with his ashes as he absolutley does not want to be placed in a casket and buried underground. We demurred to his request. After researching this issue, my opinion is that ashes need to be interred in a cemetery, in hallowed ground, to await the second coming of Christ. The bible verse, "ashes to ashes, dust to dust" seems to be consonant with cremation. Hence, it is my belief, after 55 years of life and its experiences, that ashes doe need to be interred so that my mother, my father and eventually myself, can await resurrection. What is clear is that one must possess a belief in Christ as our Savior.

Anonymous said...

One other comment, my Mother was absolutely a child of God, she was the most loving, kind, dedicated and thoughtful person I ever met. I know that her spirit and soul immediately went to heaven because of what I witnessed. The helicopter lifting her from one hospital to the next was engulfed in the sun's rays and it looked like it was carrying her directly to heaven. Later that night, when she passed, she looked beautiful and angelic. I was literally astonished at what I witnessed. While far more significant things happened in the hours and days after my Mother's passing that absolutely showed me that my mother immediately went to heaven, I can unequivocally state that heaven exists, belief in Jesus Christ as the son of god will grant you eternal life, and during our time on earth, treat all others with love, compassion, empathy, understanding and concern, and above all, Love the Lord thy God with all your mind, strength, sould and spirit.