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.
“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.