As a pastor, I was asked to preach several funerals. In fact, during my first five weeks as the pastor, I held funerals for three of our deacons. Funerals are fairly easy to preach, because the Word of God is filled with words of comfort and solace. Of course, some funerals were easier than others. When the deceased had lived a good, Christian life, the family and friends were easy to comfort, because they knew that the person was with the Lord (to be absent from the body, (is) to be present with the Lord - 2 Corinthians 5:8). Those are the easiest. Then there is the person who had confessed faith in Christ, but there was little evidence that Jesus was Lord. For those, a preacher must focus on God's mercy toward His children. Whether good or bad, His child will always be His child. It is comforting to know that even though the person did little that glorified the Lord, he was still His child. And though his works be worth little, and they are burned up in the judgment, there is comfort in knowing that the soul will survive the judgment fire (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
The most difficult funerals to preach are funerals for those who rejected God's offer of forgiveness by rejecting Jesus as Lord and Savior. Comfort for the family is hardly possible. If they are Christians, they know that they will never see their lost loved one again. There is little need to preach about the lost soul, and the awful eternity that will be experienced. Most people know that without Christ, there is no hope. But, funerals of that sort are best focused upon the good news, the Gospel. The preacher needs to preach that Jesus came to save sinners by paying for their sin, and that He offers to whomsoever will accept Him, the opportunity to become God's child (John 1:12). One need only to believe in their heart that God raised Jesus from the grave, and confess openly that Jesus is their Lord (Romans 10:8-9). I know it sounds too easy, but salvation is a gift; it does not require works or ritual. Believe and receive!
I closed every funeral with a passage found in Hebrews. It was more a prayer for those attending than it was for the departed. And, with this being the first day of the year 2010, it is my prayer for you and for me. Hebrews 13:20-21 "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." It is His job to work in you that which is well pleasing in His sight (Philippians 2:13). That way, it is He that gets the glory, and not the instrument He uses. We just need to be usable. Let us offer 2010 to the Lord as servants eagerly awaiting His instructions on how and when to serve. Happy New Year!