Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Good Life, A Good Funeral

Last night I went to the funeral of one of our church's long-time members.  She was much, much older, and in failing health, so in some sense, her death wasn't a surprise.

But for me, death is always sort of a surprise.  And I often have the same response: "Does it really all boil down to THIS???!!!"

I know that our lives are just a breath of wind.  We're grass--we're here, and then we're gone.  Some large part of me protests.

That protest makes sense, I think.  It's part of the loving of this exquisite world, God's good creation.  Even if we're convinced we're headed towards something better, why would we want to leave this beautiful place?

One of the functions of a funeral is to remind us all that yes, it really does come down to this, a body left behind, a group gathering to grieve.  It's good to remember that we're here for such a very short time--and so much of what we think is vital and important really is not.

We wept our tears for our loss.  Again, I thought about my feelings that death and disease are a design flaw of creation.

I don't really feel that way, do I?  After all, without death and disease, we'd have a much more crowded planet.  And it's already plenty crowded.

Last night's funeral did more to celebrate a life than to paint a rosy picture of Heaven.  I liked the emphasis on a life well lived, instead of a life yet to come.

I feel somewhat guilty for feeling that way.  I'm a Christian.  Shouldn't I have my sights set on Heaven?

Long time readers of this blog know that I don't focus on Heaven.  I believe that Christ came to call us to Kingdom living right here and now.  The good news is that we don't have to wait for death to call us home.  We can start the transformation now.

Because the church member had lived so long, she didn't have many friends and family outside of the church.  Her daughter reminded us that when her mother was at church, she was truly home.  That note rang true to me.

It was so good to gather as a that community.  I was struck by how many church members I saw last night, members who I usually don't see because we're going to different services.  It was a reunion in all sorts of ways--as we gathered to celebrate the larger reunion.

Our pastor described the deceased as half Ethel Merman, half John the Baptist--if they had both been born in Russia.  It was the perfect description.

He also reminded us of how enthusiastic she had been about church.  She invited everyone to come to her church--and some have become members.

That was not her only contribution, of course.  It was good to be together, to recall all of her wonderful ways that she made our church more like our home.

In short, it was a good funeral.  When church as an institution works well, it's this marking of life's passages that it does particularly well. 

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm even more convinced that you are not a Lutheran. If you were a Lutheran you would have talked about Jesus was born, lived, died, and rose to save all mankind from Hell.

Instead you went to a party.

Please take Lutheran off your blog.

John Flanagan said...

If your focus is on a life well lived, rather than the life yet to come, than the work of Christ was for nothing in your own view, and in your own words. Will you come to your senses? Get out of your existentialist dream world and come to faith in God as your foundation. Certainly your posted views do not reflect any confidence or hope in The Lord of glory, just a mere babbling of philosophy and wispy disconnected thoughts which will perish.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you guys are mean---and rude. I thought the post was lovely and it always strikes me funny how avowed Christians (assuming both posts were from Christians) can be so downright mean. Jesus wasn't mean. Yes, He was the King of Glory, but He called us to LOVE one another. And He was a man who did not exclude or berate people. He called people to live good lives, to turn away from sin, to take care of the poor, to forgive, to not judge, to be merciful.
The comments strike me as creepy. Don't think Jesus would approve AT ALL, folks.

Anonymous said...

Jesus was honest. He threw the money changers out of the temple.

Lutherans preach Christ -- who suffered, died and rose from the dead giving everyone life in Heaven. Jesus didn't preach sit back and let people call themselves Lutheran or Christian when they only want to promote social change.

The author of the blog only wants social change -- theology is not that important to her. She said in a earlier blog that she didn't like the woman who died and now everything is wonderful.

Kristin said...

Not true--I never said that I didn't like our church matriarch. I did say that I felt uncomfortable intruding on the family in the hospital. I did say that our relationship was one of speaking briefly after church. But that's a far cry from saying I didn't like her.

Here's the link to the original post:

http://liberationtheologylutheran.blogspot.com/2014/11/when-church-matriarch-lies-dying.html

Anonymous said...

Your original article is oddly written with no point other than you think you would probably not go to the funeral -- you were looking for a way out.

I even question the actual funeral -- who has funerals at night?