Preach Jesus

I have a Celebration of New Life service (a.k.a. funeral) to prepare for this week.  It takes place on Friday morning.  In my preparations I got to thinking about some other funerals that I have attended for people I know and for family.  There are two that stand out to me.  They stand out because at each service Jesus was not preached.  Actually…the name “Jesus” was not uttered…not even once.  Jesus was alluded to, but if I were an unbeliever or someone who has never even heard about this guy, Jesus, I would not have heard any Good News.  And both of those services were supposedly Christian funerals.

In seminary, my preaching professor told us that when we preach try to mention Jesus’ name at least once.  The obvious implication was to make sure that we were preaching the Good News of Jesus dying and rising for us.  For if we are not preaching about Jesus then we are just there giving a speech about some religious topic.

For me, a funeral is a golden opportunity to preach the Good News to those who normally would not step foot inside a church.  You also have people who I call CEOs (Christmas Easter Only…with the occasional wedding or funeral).  When I preach at a funeral I not only have the mourners in mind but those who don’t normally hear the Gospel.  We can’t miss these opportunities.

Jesus needs to be preached!

The best funeral preaching advise I have received came from a woman from Salem who died.  She left me detailed instructions about her funeral.  This is an excerpt of what she wrote (and how she wrote it):

DON’T TALK ABOUT ME BECAUSE IT IS NOT ABOUT ME.  THIS IS A CELEBRATION OF NEW LIFE.

And believe me…I was going to listen to her…and I still do.  To this day, this is why we call funerals “A Celebration of New Life.”

Preach Jesus…and don’t miss “golden opportunities”.  Preach Jesus and preach Life.  Preach Jesus…even if you are not ordained, preach Jesus (in words and deeds).  Preach Jesus.

[Did I mention…preach Jesus?]

-edh-

6 thoughts on “Preach Jesus

  1. Amen! While I always try to relate the gospel to the person’s life in some way, in the end it is not about them, but about God, and God’s promises to us in Jesus Christ. Preach Jesus’ death and resurrection.

    I feel the same as you.

  2. You have reminded me that I should add “…death and resurrection” to my request that we preach Jesus…and the promises therein. I was implying that but I need to be more clear.

  3. I’m not crazy about the “celebration” language . . . celebrate new life. Yes, theologically that makes sense, but . . .

    Jews (and other religious traditions) grieve better than we do, with dedicated periods – weeks, even months long – for grieving. I fear that we Christians sometimes jump too quickly to New Life and celebration, and forget that there are people mourning and grieving in the wake of a loved-one’s death. The psalms and other Biblical literature give us great models of expressing grief.

    But if we go with the “celebrate new life” approach to funerals, the new life that we celebrate is not an immediate whisking-away into heaven, but is the new life that we’ll all share in the promised resurrection of the dead at the (future) dawning of God’s new Kingdom.

    To me, a better way to approach this is to preach the promise of New Life that comes to us because of Jesus Christ’s passion, a New Life we’ll all share and that we all look forward to – a collective new life that will spring forth at the inauguration of the Kingdom of God. We’ll all share in that new life, together, just as we all shared and continue to share in the gift of life given at the font and the altar. I fear that too much funeral preaching is bent toward satisfying the bad theology of a “Hallmark Heaven” – “our beloved Fred is happy right now in heaven, playing catch with his dog” – which to me is just not the image of the afterlife found in Scripture or the Christian tradition.

    Sorry . . . don’t mean to rant on your blog . . . Having done four units of CPE and having witnessed plenty of pain in human suffering, I think our church needs to recover a tradition that permits and even encourages grief and mourning. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” I think that too often our churches and our popular spirituality try to reduce even that Biblical injunction of a period of weeping, rushing us to the morning joy without even a proper evening of grief.

    Just my two cents.

  4. I totally agree with you and I do not preach a “Hallmark Heaven” instead I do what you suggest…I preach the promise of new life. One of the things that I always tell people during a funeral sermon is that there will be grieving, mourning, tears, etc. We are going to miss and that is alright and healthy, but don’t forget the joy that come from Christ…the promise of new life.

    Maybe I should have been more clear and I thank you for your comments. If I had written a more complete post about my “Celebration of (the promise) of New Life” practices, then I think you would have seen that we are pretty close in our thinking here. But thank you for including the “promise” language.

  5. We’ve had way too many (yet even one is too many) funerals for teens in our church and community. When I look around, I know that many of the people attending, especially the younger people, never attend church except for funerals. I’m not adding weddings in that sentence because that wasn’t the stage those kids were in in life.

    Think what it would be like to have the only EMOTIONAL connection to “church” or a specific building be the memory of a funeral of someone you’ve been in school with for 10 years.

    I’m just adding this to the mix of what has been said, above. I agree that we need to help people grieve and not make it seem to the unchurched young people that, somehow, if they were church members, that the belief in God/Jesus would take away that pain by some kind of magic. Or that this comes across as somehow unbelievably superficial.

    May God bless you and those grieving at this funeral.

  6. You make a good point, PS, thank you. This is why one preaches the plain and simple Gospel…no hidden agenda…and then let the Holy Spirit work.

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