“Celebrating Life”

Early on in my ministry I discovered that I found more joy in officiating a funeral than when I presided over a wedding ceremony.  People would look at me funny when I told them I would much rather have a funeral than a wedding.  Some of my reasoning could have been that I officiated a lot more weddings than funerals in the early years of my ordained ministry.  In fact, one summer I had twenty weddings!  It got to the point where my main goal was to make sure I said the correct names during the ceremony.  With far fewer weddings here at Lakeside I have come to appreciate and enjoy the weddings that I do officiate.  However, I would still choose a funeral over a wedding and here is my main reason.

Weddings tend to focus more on the bride’s dress than on the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Rather than soaking in the Word of God, most are wondering when the service will end so that the free beer can begin.  Those gathered at a wedding are in a celebratory mood; at least I hope they are excited about the marriage, but often times Christ is not at the center of the celebration.  Those gathered for a funeral are in a much different place and in need of hearing God’s message of hope and comfort.  Their hearts are open to hearing the Good News that death has been defeated by work of Jesus Christ.  Like a wedding, a funeral is also a time of celebration but in a much different way.

According to Webster’s dictionary, the word funeral means the ceremony of burying a dead person.  I believe the word funeral is closely tied to the word “funereal”, meaning dark, gloomy, and sad.  I am not sure when the term “Celebration of life” began to replace the term funeral, but I am glad for the change.  In my opinion funerals should not be dark and gloomy.  Funerals allow us the opportunity to give God thanks for the life we are celebrating.  I fully understand the emotion of sadness that is present when we lose someone that we loved.  Joy and sadness seem to be on the opposite end of the spectrum, but they are often both present when the life of a loved one is celebrated.  I am often amazed at how different the facial expressions are on the faces of the family from the time the service begins to the end.  It is clear that Christ was present and at work bringing comfort.

I always feel blessed to be able to be a part of a deceased celebration of life.  With that said, let’s take a break on dying for a while here at Lakeside.  So much loss leaves a person emotionally drained and physically tired.  The two weddings I have lined up for this summer/fall are looking pretty good.

God Bless, Pastor Bill