Putting the Fun in Funeral

funeral“They want to put the fun in funeral,” a friend told me the other day.

We were talking about how more and more people are trying to make funerals light and cheery affairs – a celebration of the person’s life. “They want to put the fun in funeral,” she told me.

Her statement caught me off guard.

“What?”

“That’s what they said when Bill Cosby’s son died,” she explained.

In 1997, Ennis Cosby was tragically killed by an armed robber. It was reported that at the small family funeral, his parents and sisters took turns telling humorous anecdotes and finding comfort in each other’s laughter. Bill Cosby supposedly quipped afterward, “We wanted to put the fun in funeral.”

Humor can help heal. Remembering a loved one, especially the good and happy times, helps us to cope as we hurt. There is a place for smiles and laughter, even at funerals.

But should our goal be to make funerals fun? Is the purpose of a funeral simply to cherish the happy memories and push away the bad?

My job as a Christian pastor is not to put the fun in funeral, but rather to fill it with joy. In Christian funerals, we remember the person. We talk about his or her life. We maybe even laugh or smile as we do. But we remember the whole person.

Nowadays it is almost sacrilege to speak ill of the dead. When a person dies, they are sainted. They could do no wrong or at least we don’t speak of it. That would just bring everyone down. It would cause more hurt and pain.

At a Christian funeral, however, we remind family and friends that though their loved one was kind and giving, loving and generous, he or she wasn’t perfect. Sometimes we even speak openly and honestly about their specific struggles, because the joy of a Christian funeral is not found in a few carefully selected memories or humorous anecdotes.

The joy of a Christian funeral is found in Jesus. The point of a Christian funeral is not to fondly remember our loved ones, but to joyfully remember Jesus. Your grandmother was not perfect, but Jesus died for her. Your father struggled with his temper, but he was forgiven. With his death and resurrection, Jesus conquered sin, death and the devil.

At a Christian funeral, we celebrate Jesus’ promise: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25,26). A Christian funeral isn’t the celebration of the life our loved one lived but of the life they are now living in heaven because of Jesus.

At a Christian funeral, our God describes for us the heaven our loved one is now enjoying. At a Christian funeral, he promises us that we will see them again, all because of Jesus.

Funerals are rarely fun. The sadness is palpable as we miss our loved ones and contemplate our own mortality. That being said, funerals can be filled with joy, even as the tears roll down our cheeks.

That joy, however, is not found in jokes or fond memories. The joy of a Christian funeral is found in Jesus.

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  4 comments for “Putting the Fun in Funeral

  1. Kim Lahaie Day
    November 5, 2015 at 7:07 am

    You are right about the joy in the funeral being the saving work of the Lord, as our believing loved one is now enjoying eternal bliss in the presence of God, singing day and night in His temple. The tears are for us, those left behind to miss them.

    After the lengthy funeral home visitation for my son our pastor, who was a witness to my son’s drowning, offered Scriptural words of comfort to our family and friends gathered there. Once home again, my brother-in-law remarked that he had never felt better after a visitation than he did that night. And it was not fun, it was assurance through the Word regarding the joy my son was now experiencing. Excuse me for going on this way—-this is an important topic for me. Thank you for writing this today.

  2. Laura R. Charron
    November 5, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    My husband went home to the Lord on September 22nd. His family came to the service. They are not Christians. I told our pastor (vacancy pastor) it needed to be full of Law/Gospel & I’d interrupt him if I didn’t think it was. I didn’t need to. He got them to listen & no it wasn’t fun. It was what it needed to be.

    • Kim Lahaie Day
      November 5, 2015 at 8:30 pm

      God’s blessings and His comfort to you on the loss of your husband. I love your attitude about what was needed at the funeral service, Charron. It’s like one last chance or one more opportunity to share the Good News.

    • schroera
      November 5, 2015 at 11:47 pm

      Thank you both, Laura and Kim, for sharing your very personal stories. I am glad you got what I was trying to say. I was afraid I wouldn’t communicate it well. We don’t need to try and make a Christian funeral anything. We share the amazing message of sin and grace, of death and life, of law and gospel, and God gives us the true peace and joy that only he can give – even in the middle of our sorrow. May God give both of you an extra measure of his peace as you miss your son and husband. What a wonderful day it will be when we see them again!

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