Thursday, July 25, 2019

Value for our money. . .

It occurred to me after a comment about how long Lutheran funerals are that we exhibit our values in hidden ways.  Think, for example, how this comment betrays our values.  We think nothing of spending thousands of dollars at the funeral home purchasing a casket, placing it in a vault, embalming the body, transporting the body, holding a visitation at the funeral home, preparing the grave, marking it with a stone, and such.  We try to personalize it all -- at a cost to be sure but one worth paying for those whom we love.  But then we complain that 45-50 minutes is too long to spend in the funeral at church.  What does that say?

Of course, the same could be said about weddings.  Perhaps the most common complaint about church weddings is that they are too long or that the bride and groom did not get to personalize the rite and make it just their own.  Now think about this.  We are prepared in our culture to postpone the wedding (while cohabiting, of course) until we can afford our dream wedding, we spend a fortune on the costumes worn only for that day and for part of that day, we get the flowers and cake and reception we desires (no matter the cost) and party on with abandon in celebration of the occasion.  But then we complain that 35-45 minutes is too long to spend at church for the marriage rite itself.  What does that say?

In many cases, what happens at church is an afterthought and not the essential thing when death claims our loved ones or when we marry off our sons and daughters.  Even Christians are so tempted to think this way.  Culture has become a great vacuum cleaner and it has cleansed Christians so of their faith identities that how we bury and how we marry looks much the same as folks around us who have no faith or church identity.  I am speaking broadly, to be sure, but this is surely the case.  We will spend thousands of dollars to bury a body while thinking of the funeral itself as something indifferent just like we will spend thousands of dollars on a wedding and while dismissing what happens in the church as an afterthought.

The call of faith is to live as we believe.  While some think the big scandal is cremation, I would consider much of what is considered typical in our burial practices is even more scandalous to the faith.  We don't need to celebrate the life of the deceased but to celebrate the fact that those who die in Christ are not dead and death has not been allowed by Christ to have the final word in their lives.  While some are ready to give up marrying in the church and settling for the blessing of a marriage, I think it is time that we gave the world something to notice in the way we observed a wedding -- putting Christ first and rejoicing with great attention to the union of husband and wife before the Lord and within His family, the church.

What kind of value are we getting for our money?  We spend whatever it takes in time and money to send off the dead in style but forget where we are sending them.  We spend whatever it takes in time and money to party on with husband and wife on their wedding day but forget what marriage is (ordered in time by our Creator and blessed by Christ our Savior).

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

The funeral and mortuary business is one of the most successful scams in US history.

Larry Luder said...

35-45 minute wedding am guessing is a celebration without the Eucharist. No complaints about about a full blast Lutheran Wedding Mass with smells and bells. Was struck by, "We don't need to celebrate the life of the deceased but to celebrate the fact that those who die in Christ are not dead and death has not been allowed by Christ to have the final word in their lives." I couldn't agree with you more.

John J. Flanagan said...

I think the Bible, as declared in the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and in a multitude of verses in the Gospels, defines the word "happiness" in a way which really embraces joy in the spirit, and peace of mind. Of course, the Bible teaches that outside of a first relationship with the Lord, knowledge of our sin tainted fallen nature and need for salvation through Christ alone, there is no real happiness found in worldly aspirations, When we identify as a child of God, a follower of Jesus, a redeemed and saved sinner saved by grace, we can properly embrace a form of happiness which the world cannot understand. God is not an ogre, or so wrathful that He would not allow us to enjoy the fruits of our labors, or share some earthly comforts and aspirations, so long as we honor Our Lord in spirit and truth.