Full Text for Pastoral Theology and Practice- Volume 56 - Funerals that are Faithful and Comforting (Video)

"PASTORAL THEOLOGY & PRACTICE" PROF. HAROLD SENKBEIL & DR. RICHARD WARNECK CAPTIONING PROVIDED BY: CAPTION FIRST, INC. P.O. BOX 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 1-800-825-7234 * * * * * This is being provided in a rough-draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in Order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings * * * * * >> NICK: I attended the funeral of an acquaintance last month and it got me thinking about what it will be like when I help to handle funeral services. It seems like personal eulogies by family members are almost always expected at funerals. Do eulogies have a place at a Lutheran funeral? And how do I work with families to plan a funeral service that is both helpful to the mourners and yet faithful to our doctrine? >> PROF. HAROLD SENKBEIL: Well, Nick, I'd be glad to address that. And the thing that you pointed out here is so very important because it's true that in recent years, perhaps the most recent generation, the expectations of people coming to a funeral certainly include hearing at least one or maybe more, several eulogies, sometimes by family members in the context of that funeral. Now, how do we handle this? Well, I'd like to suggest again that we take the big picture, that we patiently and consistently teach our members regarding what death is, it's a defeated enemy, and what the funeral service is about. We want to certainly help them to see that this is an opportunity for everyone, chiefly the mourners, the immediate family, certainly, but then all their friends and an acquaintances and, I mit add, the entire congregation. Can we build that mind set against our members that funerals are not private affairs but they really are a public service of worship of that congregation? That the members of the body of Christ, when one member weeps, all the members weep with it. When one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. So, a funeral is a public service. Now, regarding eulogies, what does a eulogy mean? It means good words. And certainly it's to be expected that when a loved one dies, there will be a lot of reflections going on. Part of the way that families grieve the loss of those they love is to tell stories about their personal attachment with that person. Sometimes those stories are sad and poignant. Sometimes they're funny and joyful. And I think there's a place for stories like that. But you know I'm not certain that it's within the funeral service. I personally would suggest that we encourage families to engage in that kind of public conversation in all kinds of other avenues. It could happen, for example, if there's a visitation time at a funeral home or after the funeral itself in many areas it would be customary, and I think with good reason, to gather around with some refreshments and to speak with one another. And at that time these loved ones could get up certainly and say their words which are on their heart. What happens all too frequently, in my experience, Nick, is that when these kinds of eulogies are injected within the funeral service, it has the net effect of undoing everything that you're trying to accomplish by way of preaching and teaching the Word of God. The comfort and the consolation which you're providing in Jesus our Lord, who is the resurrection and the life, all too frequently is undermined and set aside as raw emotions show themselves and the great sorrow and the loss is once again shown on public display. Now, one can't fault people for such expressions. Their concern and their compassion is certainly legitimate of the loss which they feel needs to be shared. But I'm not certain that that's the place for it. So I would personally discourage it. If in certain circumstances you simply cannot get away from it, I would say "all right, let's have that person get up before the service starts." I would definitely encourage it that way rather than the other way, for the reason I said before. You want the funeral to point all those who mourn to that time when there will be no more sorrow or crying, when God himself will wipe away every tear from their eyes, when all the saints in glory will be gathered around the throne and when we rejoice now, already now, in the resurrection of the body in the life everlasting. Now, on certain occasions, if the member of your congregation who dies has been a public official or perhaps a member of the military or some other organization like that, there will be a representative of that organization or of the government in that case that would want to offer a word of greeting on behalf of that organization or government. Such a statement, I think, may legitimately be included within the funeral service itself. Again, taking second place to the main thrust, that is to hear the Word of God, to pray and to hear the Word of God proclaimed specifically to this loss and in light of our confidence in the forgiveness of sins for Jesus' sake, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. I think those are the governing principles when it comes to eulogies. * * * * * This is being provided in a rough-draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in Order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings * * * * *