Funerals are a pain. And I don’t mean that in the sense that they are an annoying inconvenience – they are pain. They mark the passing of family or friend, and they stand as that public moment when we all grieve, love on each other, and make steps toward a new normal without the one we loved. As a pastor I sometimes get to watch as families deal with their loss while the pain is very fresh and sometimes the members of families are all at very different places at the same time. One thing I have never appreciated about some is their immediate tendency to try and brush aside the grief with something like, “at least they are in a better place.” Though that is true for those who die with Christ, and though that truth is part of the healing process, we ought not to short-circuit the process of death and grief so quickly.
A recent article in CT deals with the new book, The Art of Dying: Living Fully into the Life to Come, by Rob Moll. In the article we are encouraged to think more about funerals as an act of spiritual formation and even community formation under Christ. We are, after all, people of a crucified and risen savior living in inevitable physical decay. We ought to therefore embody a community of resurrection – and remember that resurrection implies death. Rob Moll notes:
We live in a culture that has forgotten how to help people measure their days. Through medicine and science, we know more about death and how to forestall it than ever before. Yet we know little about how to prepare people for the inevitable. The church is a community that teaches people how to live well by teaching them how to measure their days. Put another way, when the church incarnates a culture of resurrection—one that recognizes the inevitability of death but not its triumph—it teaches people how to die well.
Have we become so obsessed with living well or living comfortably that we have lost sight of dying well as part of the spiritual act of the believer? If we have neglected this, does it betray a lack of confidence in the providential guidance of God in all seasons of life?
The article is very thoughtful, and I heartily recommend it.