March 2016

Life after Death

For me, funerals tend to come along like London buses. I haven’t officiated at one for months and then 2 or 3 come in within a week or so. It is always a privilege to be invited into someone’s house, but doubly so when they are feeling vulnerable and need some support. Some people, mainly with a church background but not always, have a fair idea of what they want to do in the service to honour and remember their loved ones. Sometimes though, especially if there is some strain within the family relationship, there is a real struggle to decide what content to include, and who should or shouldn’t be the participant(s).

One of the areas I personally find a bit thorny, is the issue of the place of the Christian doctrine of the resurrection in a funeral service. It’s not normally a real problem for those that are in church every Sunday, but for the people who have only a loose connection to church and especially for those who have none, it tends to pass them by and they have a glazed over look on their faces in those parts of the traditional service in which resurrection is referred.

The idea that (and we are coming up to Easter) Christ Jesus rose bodily from the dead, as ‘the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep’ as Paul put it (1 Corinthians 15:20), jars somewhat with the popular notion of grandma up in a heavenly cloud looking down on little Johnny down below on earth.

Funerals are a place of support and comfort to those who are grieving and at a loss, not the place to embark on discussions of Christian theology, but my guess is that most people who have a religious funeral believe in some vague form of life after death, but that’s about it. Eternal Life?, Victory over Death?, Resurrection?. These themes are part and parcel of the Easter story, but many would rather have chocolate eggs and bunnies rather than be confronted with the earth shattering and life changing reality of Jesus rising from the tomb on the third day after his death.

So this Easter, as we hear the bible readings of surprise and wonder and as we sing the songs of victory over death, perhaps it’s time to truly listen to the story of God’s intervention and transformation. If we do, it might just be possible to learn that death doesn’t ultimately have a sting. For Christ is Risen, Hallelujah, He is risen indeed!


March 2016