Tomorrow I will officiate at my first funeral. Practically speaking, it’s a perfect situation for a first funeral. The woman is an old member of the church that transferred down to Florida a number of years ago because of her health. She often gave witness to her faith in both words and actions, both here before she moved and down in Florida. She wanted to be buried “back home,” though, so when she was called home to heaven, the family moved to obey her wishes.
That means that my first funeral:
1) is for a believer. There’s no doubt where she is: in heaven!
2) is for a church member in good standing. There’s no question that I can in good conscience and good order preside at the funeral.
3) is someone I’ve never met, meaning I won’t be distracted with strong direct emotions.
That’s not to say I don’t care; this woman is the mother of a congregation member I’m close with. There will be tears, I expect, and I expect that they will be contagious. However, because I didn’t know this person directly, I can concentrate on speaking words of comfort to others without having to comfort myself. I can concentrate on bringing the Gospel to those who desperately need it.
And it means I can concentrate on where she is. I, personally, don’t have the sense of loss that those who persoanlly knew her currently have. I’m not passing through the grieving process here. My heart is with those who grieve, but as one who is not caught in the bonds of missing her, I can point as much as possible at the comfort that only Christians have: She is home. She has been taken home, out of this world and to a mansion prepared by Jesus.
As I serve as a pastor, I know I can expect to officiate at the funerals of those who are close to my heart. I know that while I grieve I will be speaking words of comfort. These times are coming (and possibly soon). I pray I’ll be able to effectively speak the comfort of the Gospel then, too.
But for right now, I’m glad that in my inexpeerience I get a “practice round” of speaking that comfort. It is a real funeral and the people here need to be reminded of what the pastor down in Florida has also told them: their loved one is safe in Jesus’ arms. And I get to concentrate on giving that comfort.
What a blessing!