Yesterday I attend and led the funeral of an old friend (see here). After (and many times before that), I thought about the question (which many agree as being most important) raised in this meme:
One of the challenges was how to pitch the service. While I like to pay my respects, concentrate on the positives and assist closure, I am not into pious platitudes and sentimental slosh and I was not sure where, in the end, my friend stood on matters of faith, and I knew in his family some were religious and some were humanist. So where to pitch what was to take place: religious or humanist?
One of the things about attending funerals, which I do a lot these days, including taking a few, is one gets to meet old friends, and here I emphasize old, and not unsurprising since my friend and I were both approaching the three score and ten cut off point. Some of the friends looked old, especially compared to when I last saw them. They showed their age and gave indications they were not long for this world. Earlier on, I attended a hospital appointment to address yet another aspect of the gradual shutting down of my body.
Regarding the religious versus humanist conundrum, something each of us needs to come to terms with, after having thought (and prayed) long and hard on the matter, I decided after some closing thoughts to end by reading from the Book of Common Prayer:
“Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay. In the midst of life we are in death: of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord … Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not thy merciful ears to our prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty, O holy and merciful Saviour, thou most worthy Judge … Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed: we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself”.
Speaking (I hope not irreverently), this will be my friends experience (assuming he qualifies) and God is for real. As I further reflected afterward on our “vile body” which we have now and our “glorious body” which we will have following death, besides texts like in the meme above, there are passages in the Bible like 1Corinthians 15 and Revelation 21,22 that discuss this. Without wanting to do a deep theological analysis of the subject, the reality that all we humans face is we are born and assuming we survive we grow into (usually) vigorous youth but it is downhill after that when it comes to what we can do with our body and we end up dying, usually because the body stops working. In the meantime we do what we do and get on with life as best we can, which in my case is intimated at on my website.
The older and more decrepit I get, the more excited I am at the prospect of a glorious new body with its limitless potential, and in the meantime I try to do whatever good while I can with the body I have, even with its many limitations. Given how quickly life passes us by (after all it seemed like yesterday when I was in the same class at school as two of those at yesterday’s funeral) and how soon we get to die, attending funerals puts life in a proper perspective. If people want to know more about what I am talking about concerning life beyond the grave, I refer you to my gospel presentation (see here).