Vol 8 No. 23 Christian Funerals


Dear Folks,

Nora Walker from First Baptist Church, Victoria gave me a remembrance from the life and personal
belongings of Dr. Naomi Hersom, who was a leader in the CBWC family for many years, as well as an
academic leader in Canadian university life. Nora’s gift to me was an Anglican prayer book given to
Naomi in 1945. I introduced this letter with this story because in remembering Naomi, I turned to the
service called “The Order for the Burial of the Dead” (As an aside, it is merciful that the first instruction
in the order of service seems to have been set aside when it says “Here is to be noted, that the Office
ensuing is not to be used for any that die unbaptized or excommunicate or by their own wilful act”).

The order of service begins with:

I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall
he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. John 11:25, 26

Using a newer translation it reads: Our Lord Jesus Christ said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever
has faith in me shall live, even though he dies; and no one who lives and has faith in me shall ever die.
(John 11:25 GNB)

Why the long introduction to this newsletter?

What’s the big deal?

Why the fuss?

The big deal is because I keep attending “Christian funerals” that do not begin with, nor have at their
core, the resurrection scriptures, which are the only hope and meaning for a Christian service. I have
noticed this as I have travelled the West during the past 5 years and I am appalled and amazed at our
inability to give context to the Christian hope found in Christ. It is very important to be pastoral, and
there are some excellent helps available to us on page 45-46 of the abridged Manual for Worship and
Service, published in 1998 by Canadian Baptist Ministries and available through Kim in the Calgary office
for $10.

While it is a deep disappointment that the scriptures are listed but not printed in the context
of the manual, it is a remarkably sensitive approach. The same helpful resources can also be found in
Gathering for Worship: Patterns and Prayers for the Community of Disciples, published by the Baptist
Union of Great Britain. This too is available from the Calgary office for the cost of $54 and it generally
prints the verses in the order of service. What are some of those verses? Including John 11, the other
passage from John 14 is most appropriate.

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many
mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. John 14:1,2 KJV

Here are some more:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who abides in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the
Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2 RSV

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for
me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on the Day, and
not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-8 RSV

When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm
you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am
the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour. Isaiah 43:2-3 RSV

I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to
come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 RSV

But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not
grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so,
through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 RSV

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.
As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him. For he knows our frames; He
remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:11, 13-14 RSV

Praised be the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ!

In his great mercy by the resurrection
of Jesus Christ from the dead,
he gave us new birth into a living hope
– 1 Peter 1.3 REB

Things beyond our seeing,
things beyond our hearing,
things beyond our imaging,
have all been prepared by God
for those who love him.
– 1 Corinthians 2.9 REB

In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from heaven will break upon us,
to shine on those who live in darkness,
under the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
– Luke 1.78f REB

Why a newsletter that is awash of scripture? Why not? If I am failing to see it or hear it, near or very
near the beginning of funeral services in our family of churches, then people of faith, seeking faith,
or indeed, estranged from the hope that is in Christ, are not hearing these passages either. If these
passages are tucked away somewhere they are seen as incidental and not core to what is being shared.
If they are placed after the first five or so minutes they are considered secondary to whatever other
comments preceded them. It is essential that people are allowed to feel comfortable, that a respectful
and prayerful context is created and that humour and tears flow and mingle freely. But if these key
statements of the resurrection of Jesus, plus the words of comfort found in other parts of the Bible
listed here, are not spoken, then I truly believe that what we are conducting is not a Christian service but

a muddled version of the truth that does not honour the deceased well, nor give the rest of us who are
living, a proper and powerful hope.

Many thanks for listening to this piece. I don’t feel I am being grumpy; I just seek to be clear.

In Christ,