Today’s devotional read from Our Daily Bread is a timely one given the recent homegoing of our dear friend Jim Thacher. The scripture reading is from Psalm 90, and the devotional is entitled “Life Expectancy.” Kenneth Petersen writes: “Our lifetimes are in the sovereign hands of a loving God.” That truth, however, does not diminish the Christian practice of grieving the loss of loved ones as a church community. Jim Thacher will be greatly missed, as are all the precious servant saints of MBC who have preceded him. But with that said, let me remind us all of some basic truths.
Historically, Christian funeral and memorial services make the truth of the gospel and the resurrection of Christ the focus and hope for those understandably and rightly grieving the death of a loved one. Our services as Christians declare the foundational truth that in the face of our worst enemy- death – there is victory. Our time together prompts those attending to consider their own mortality. A Christian service does not shy away from grief but rather helps us to grieve with hope. We are reminded that we will not escape death unless Christ returns first. The declaration of God’s Word meets our grief with gospel surety and future hope. One leaves a true Christian funeral service having been helped to mourn properly and more focused on Christ. When we think of the deceased, we are comforted knowing they are now more alive than ever together with Christ. We find joy amid sorrow knowing there will be a reunion of believers in the not-too-distant future. We will have plenty of time to remember past interactions with our departed loved one as the months and years unfold (indeed, we should make remembering them a regular part of our lives going forward), but the funeral service is about Christ first and the certain hope we find in Him.
There are three things we should seek to accomplish at a Christian’s memorial service:
- Christ should be the focus.
- Grieving is proper, necessary, healthy, and OK. We grieve with hope!
- Any “celebration” should be about Christ’s victory over the grave, and people should leave thinking of Christ more than the deceased.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep (1 Thessalonians 4:13–14).