Tomorrow, we’ll have a Service of Death and Resurrection (the official name for the funeral service) for a beloved saint of the church. There is a very good possibility that I will do one or two things that make me uncomfortable. The first is to lead the casket and the family into the sanctuary at the beginning of the service; the second is to drive before or immediately behind the hearse in the funeral procession. Both actions make me uncomfortable as I invariably feel that I am stepping out of my place. What right do I have to lead the casket into the sanctuary? Who do I think I am to take a place ahead of the family in the funeral procession?
The answer I come back to over and over again to reassure myself is that I lead the casket and drive toward the front of the procession not because of who I am as a person or even as a pastor, but because, as the pastor, I represent the church, both Abilene First United Methodist Church and the church universal and through the church, Jesus Christ. Christ has gone through death and come out the other side. It’s the task of the church to accompany our deceased brothers and sisters to their final resting place, to walk before those who grieve to show them the way and to comfort them. It’s not practical or even practicable for the church as a whole to lead the way, but it is possible for Jenny and me, representing the church, to do it on your behalf. It’s a great honor and one we take very seriously.
It’s not something we can really do well alone, but we don’t have to. You are there to back us up. The care, compassion, and hospitality you show as a church to those in the midst of grief is a wonderful expression of God’s love and a true fulfillment of your high calling to be the body of Christ for the world. It’s an honor to do what we do. It is an even greater honor that we get to do it with you.