Last week, my grandmother died so my family asked me to officiate the funeral that took place on Saturday. While it was an honor to do my grandmother’s funeral, I was quite nervous since it was my first funeral. As I returned home from Missouri, I reflected on a few truths I learned through the experience:
First, a prayerful heart is absolutely essential when ministering at a funeral. Of course, a prayerful heart is essential at all times, but it is especially vital while ministering to those who are hurting deeply. You see, I’m only 26 years old with very little pastoral experience so I have not dealt much with the death of loved ones as an adult. What am I supposed to say to my mother who has just lost her mother? How am I supposed to begin the funeral sermon? Those were just a couple of the questions running through my mind in the last few days so I spent a lot of time asking the Lord for wisdom and grace during this difficult time. The Lord is gracious to hear the cries of His people and answer them beyond what we could imagine!
Second, the best thing I have to offer is Scripture, not personal words of wisdom. As I spent time in prayer, it became evident that the most important thing I could do is point the family toward the firm foundation of the Word of God. During the funeral, I preached from John 11, which recounts the death of Lazarus. It is there that we see Jesus’ heart for those who mourn, and we see the eternal hope for those who trust in Christ. My sermon lacked stories about my grandmother, not because I dislike memories of her, but because the best way for healing is the story of the One who is greater than my grandmother.
Third, funerals are a great time for evangelism. My family, like most families, is comprised of believers and unbelievers. The death of a loved one forces us to face our own mortality. Therefore, opportunities to share the gospel organically flow out of the whole experience. In the sermon, I stressed the need to examine our own eternal hope, but there were numerous opportunities in the events surrounding the funeral to speak about the hope that is found in the gospel.
Fourth, it is a joy to preach the funeral of a Christian. Yes, I said it is a joy to preach a funeral. Why? My grandmother spent the last several years of her life in a nursing home with her mind severely affected with Alzheimer’s. It was a joy to tell those in attendance that my grandmother had believed (and still does) in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, and because of that, she was now worshipping at the feet of her Redeemer. I could tell the crowd that grandma’s body was going to be raised again when Christ returned, and she would enjoy new creation in her resurrected body without the pains of sin, sickness, or Alzheimer’s. That was a great joy!