Funerals

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I’ve had what feels like a rash of funerals (three in a little more than a month). That has meant conversations with families, back-and-forths with the funeral home, worship planning sessions, funeral sermon writing, and a bunch of other work that only shows up around funerals. It’s also meant hearing people laugh as they tell stories, funeral luncheons, working with other clergy, and occasional panic.

You see, there’s a lot of pressure around funerals. I lead Sunday worship just under fifty-two times a year, plus worship services for Christmas Eve, Ash Wednesday, and other holidays. If I deliver a substandard sermon, or the slides are messed up, or one of the hymns doesn’t quite work, I get another shot in about a week. Every service is important, but it’s not world-shattering if something goes wrong just this once.

Funerals are different. Every person gets just one. And each person’s family and friends get to experience just one funeral for that particular person. I have one chance—and only one chance—to give all of those people the service that they need so that they can say goodbye, and grieve, and find consolation.

Except that’s not true. Because here’s the thing: funerals just kind of work. Somehow, every funeral is exactly what it needs to be in that moment for that person… and for that person’s community.

And I know that is because the Spirit is at work. Every funeral is a little miracle.

I don’t know if there are any clergy out there who need to hear this—if there are any clergy who are having their third or fourth funeral in a month (or a week!) and are thinking that their funeral sermon just isn’t what it should be—but I know that I’ve needed to hear it. And I’m sure that I’ll need to hear it again. So I might as well say it:

Breathe. Trust. It’s going to be alright. This funeral will be exactly what it needs to be. Thanks be to God.

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