The dead and those who mourn them deserve more than a celebration of life which masks, distorts, or even dismisses the reality of death. They deserve to have their death taken at least as seriously as their life. I have long complained about the way the funeral home industry has catered to our distaste and discomfort around death.
Read this excellent post by Chad Bird. It examines how the death of the funeral has left us less capable of dealing with death. We deserve to take death more seriously.
Read it all here
His view is mostly correct.
Although I have real problems with pastors who intone "we need to face the reality of death." Though I don't think this author goes as far as some in insisting that death play center stage.
The fact is that the Bible itself often uses "euphemisms" for "death" such as "fallen asleep." The Bible does not do this out of sappy sentimentality or a fuzzy vision of the deceased having now reached to spiritual release from the body. It does this because, for the believer, our death occurred at baptism when we died and were buried with Christ and raised with Him to new life.
So, while death must be confronted as a present reality of the effects of sin, at the same time, the funeral also needs to emphasize that because of the cross and baptism, death for the believer is fundamentally altered. So I do encourage the family to use certain biblical euphemisms such as "fallen asleep" and "gone to be with his Lord" in order to get across the biblical concept that death for the Christians is, in fact, a temporary state and no longer truly death.
In answering some modern misconceptions we have to be careful we do not wander to the opposite extreme and step outside of the biblical language.
The best funeral sermons I have heard are those that are properly divided between Law and Gospel. Mustn't we first hear that the wages of sin is death - eternal death, and that we are all sinners? Then, with the proclamation of the saving Gospel we can celebrate the deceased's confession of faith during his life that assures that he has, indeed fallen asleep in The Lord. The thoughts of an old layman.
The older I get, the more I believe that a funeral is the best opportunity any pastor gets for evangelism.
I have always felt uncomfortable when I go to a funeral that's billed a "Celebration of Life." It shouldn't be 100% about the person (narcism) but about HIM (Jesus). A minister conducting the service really doesn't need to know the person at all because the message shouldn't be about him. Thank you for writing/sharing this!
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