Sunday, March 5, 2017

The burial of the dead

I've been thinking about Christian funerals recently, and especially the "celebration of the life" of the deceased in a Christian context. Obviously a funeral or memorial service for a Christian will spend some time remembering the life, the character, the faith, and the contributions — the achievements — of that person. But it seems to me that should not be the primary focus. Of course for a dead  non-believer that may be all that can be said. For a believer the emphasis should be on the Hope we have.

The Book of Common Prayer has a section titled "The Order for The Burial of the Dead," and like every section of that book it rests very heavily on Scripture. The prayers are good, too. I chose readings from this section for my mother's funeral and was somewhat surprised afterwards to be complimented for the choices. I thought they would be familiar to anyone who had attended a funeral. They should be.

The service begins with these words:
I AM the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.
I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not as a stranger.
We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
More, later in the service:
I WILL lift up mine eyes unto the hills; from whence cometh my help?
My help cometh even from the Lord, who hath made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved; and he that keepeth thee will not sleep.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord himself is thy keeper; the Lord is thy defence upon thy right hand;
So that the sun shall not burn thee by day, neither the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil; yea, it is even he that shall keep thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out, and thy coming in, from this time forth for evermore.
JESUS said, Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
I HEARD a voice from heaven, saying unto me, Write, From henceforth blessed are the dead who die in the Lord: even so saith the Spirit; for they rest from their labours.
O LORD Jesus Christ, who by thy death didst take away the sting of death; Grant unto us thy servants so to follow in faith where thou hast led the way, that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in thee, and awake up after thy likeness; through thy mercy, who livest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
I AM the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.