When the Reformed Worship staff asked me to respond to an article by Joel Belz, "No More for the Undertaker," I put it off for reasons I did not then understand.
Articles in this issue:
An old Navajo man, a strong Christian, passed away after a long-term illness. His widow and children were Christians, too, so his funeral was focused on God and full of the comfort of the Christian faith. But even though they trusted in Christ, the family continued to feel the influence of Navajo customs and traditions—especially in this time of grief and death.
Funerals in Other Cultures
Funeral traditions are potent. They touch our hearts. They express our deepest understandings of life and death. They form major landmarks in the life of every one of us.
Funeral traditions are enduring. They change slowly, if at all. Each subculture, and each group within a subculture, seems to have its own ways of marking the end of life.
A Japanese student describes how he was first led to Christ when he attended the funeral service of the daughter of Kanzo Uchimura (1861-1930), one of Japan's leading Christian figures. At the end of the service, said the student,
Uchimura rose and said, "She had come of marrying age. If she had remained on earth, we would have had to worry about her wedding. But I believe that Jesus has called her to heaven as his bride. This is not her funeral; it is her wedding."
In a funeral service, as in any service of worship, well-chosen music can aid sorrowing people to lift their hearts to the God of all comfort. The community of mourners unites in song to express its sorrow and grief to the Man of Sorrows, and to rejoice in the gift of life from the One who has died. In song the mourners express together the faith that is the foundation of their recovery and renewal in hopeful living.
As the organist plays the prelude, friends and relatives enter quietly and take their seats in the pews. The coffin rests in the front of the church. The minister and family wait in the rear.
The music shifts from the prelude into a quiet processional, signaling the minister to lead the family into the sanctuary. As they make their way down the center aisle, the minister reads three Scripture passages loudly and forcefully, as if banishing the fear and power of death from the room:
All Glory, Laud, and Honor (D. Johnson, AF 11-5085)
Andy Langford. Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1989. 26 pp.
This pamphlet is a brief version of the title above, intended as much for the family as for pastors. It does not contain the actual "Order of Service."
Tell Your Children
September is a month of new beginnings for many churches. After a summer of travel and vacation, the community returns and seeks to be renewed through a new season of education and enrichment programs. "Tell Your Children/' a contemporary hymn that calls us as families and church family to retell "the Story" in the context of our covenant commitment with our God, is therefore very appropriate for September.