Thursday, October 17, 2013

Attention ministers! Five things NOT to say at a funeral service

1. "We're here to celebrate."

We're not. We're here to mourn and then find comfort in the promise of resurrection. A funeral is not a party.

2. "She'll live on in our hearts."

She might. But my memory is short and I'm going to die too. A funeral forces me to confront my own mortality and the transitory nature of everything. Saying that she'll live on in my heart gives me little comfort. I want solid ground. I want flesh I can see and touch. I want her. Not memories of her.

3. "This was what she wanted. She was ready to go."

Do you know that? Really? Were you with her when she was struggling for every breath? It didn't look to us like she was embracing death as a friend.

4. "It's not death that's the problem, it's just that we'll miss her."

Death is absolutely the problem! It's death that's taking her away from us! Death is not a kindly old man. He's a monster with horns. And 'missing her' doesn't really capture the wrench of grief.

5. "She's going to be with [deceased husband]."

No she's not. If she's a Christian, she's going to be with Jesus. That's who she really wants.


  1. OK. Noted.

    The 4th in the list is a shocker. The others I don't have such a problem with.

    I think what you're worried about is that these 5 things are the only things that a minister will say. Or that they are the main things he or she will say.

    It's perfectly fine to say that she'll live on in our hearts if we also make it clear that we need more than that.

    And it's true that if her husband was a Christian she's going to be with him. But, as you say, it's not her husband who will give her the most joy in heaven. In fact, he won't even be her husband.

    I'm writing a funeral sermon at the moment for tomorrow morning. I'll see how many of these things in the list I can include. And I'll let you know ;)

    1. The main problem is that all of those things are trying to minimise our grief and cheer us up with something other than the gospel.

      Let us feel it - even if it's an old person.

  2. Yes. Of course.

    Especially if it's an old person, perhaps.

  3. I don't see death as a problem if (a) the deceased follows Christ and (b) living was a physical torture for him or her.

    When Dad died last year, I couldn't be unhappy for him because he is now partying in heaven with Jesus and in his last years he was frail and ill on this earth. Indeed, he had mentioned to Mum at various times that he was ready to go. For me it was bittersweet - bitter that I won't be able to have a conversation with him for years (God willing that I continue on earth for years) but sweet that I know I will be able to have conversations with him at some time in the future - and we'll be able to do so in bodies that are not subject to dodgy heart valves. ;-)

  4. This is one woman's later in life reflection on 'the wrench of grief' and how it affected her dad after her sister's suicide. Not easy reading but worth it. (language warning as well).