Inspiration – A tale of two funerals

Pastor Keith Williams,
High Prairie Bethel Baptist Church

Voddie Baucham in a sermon quoted:

A young man I knew died in a tragic traffic accident. His death was utterly sad. At his funeral, his friends were all wearing T-shirts adorned with his picture. At the front of the church, there were heaped many flowers, footballs and stuffed animals. On top of his coffin was a picture from his senior prom.

The service began with a recording of his favourite song, a heavy metal power ballad. The preacher gave a eulogy, praising how the teenager was such a good friend, such a good person, recounting some the funny things he used to say, telling about the dreams he had for his life.

Everybody in the church was crying.

Then his best friend got up to say a few words. He was sobbing. He finally croaked out his goodbye, as the congregation joined his sobs.

His girlfriend recited a poem she wrote about how much she loved him.

Then, the boy’s grief-stricken father had to get up in front of everybody to talk about his son. As if all of this emotion were not wrenching enough, the funeral director next played a video, showing highlights of the boy’s life – his baby pictures, playing with his friends, enjoying Christmas with his family, waving at the camera.

There was not a dry eye in the house. People said what a beautiful funeral it was.

I have been to funerals like that. Have you? They are indeed sad, all funerals are sad and solemn, at least they should be.

I have been asked to preside over funerals like that, and every time I have refused. Everything: the pictures, the T-shirts, the music, the footballs, the video and, of course, the eulogy, all pointed to this young man – he was the centre of it all. I know what you are thinking: well, maybe some of you, it should point to the young man, he is the one who died.

OK, let me give you the second funeral in the tale of two funerals.

Another funeral I attended was of another young person who died a tragic death, one that was even more senseless and horrible. She had been raped and murdered by a serial killer. At this funeral, the congregation sang old hymns. They were in a minor key, but the lyrics centred on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The grievers joined together in a responsive reading of the Word of God. The pastor, garbed in black, read more texts from the Bible.

Instead of a eulogy, the pastor recited the facts of the girl’s life, emphasizing her baptism, her catechesis, her confession of faith. He described how she joined the church, her confirmation, and her regular reception of the Lord’s Supper.

The pastor, preaching from the Bible, gave a sermon on our travails in this wicked world, on how the Son of God entered our sinful condition, how in his sacrifice and His promises, we have a sure and certain hope that this poor child has entered into everlasting joy.

The justice of God will be manifest, and so will His mercy, and He will wipe away every tear. We sang more hymns. The mood was sad and sombre, but the Word of God that permeated the whole service was like a lifeline. Or, rather like a strong arm supporting us in or grief. Yes, we cried, but the funeral gave us strength.”

A funeral should point to Christ, give us comfort, closure and strength.

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