PREPARING FOR A FUNERAL
We are sorry for your loss. If you are looking at this webpage after having suffered the loss of a loved one, please accept our condolences and our prayers. If you are thinking ahead for yourself or for a loved one, we hope you will find the information here of use to you. You are wise to think ahead when that is possible. Death has so large an impact on us that it is truly hard to think and to plan for an event that must follow the death itself very quickly. Along this line, please note that pastor will meet with individuals or families for planning before death occurs.
While death is a fact of life, the meaning of that fact is different for the Christian than for one who professes another faith or no faith at all. The faith given us from our Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles, the faith into which we are baptized, holds these truths, as recorded in God’s Word.
The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27a
Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.’ John 11:25
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall ever snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. John 10:27-29
When we were baptized in Christ Jesus we were baptized into his death. We were baptized therefore with him by Baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be reunited with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. Romans 6:3-9
We believe the meaning of death for the Christian is revealed in the Paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God’s Word and the sacraments, especially the sacrament of Baptism, by which we are joined to Christ and his body, have as their common purpose the salvation of those who receive the gift of faith in Christ Jesus and God’s grace with it.
For the Christian, death completes what was begun at Baptism, the new life conferred by water washed with God’s Word, the conformation of the Christian to the life of Christ, and makes possible reunion with those who have died in Christ, and participation in the heavenly banquet of which the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper has been but a foretaste. We mourn at funerals, but we rejoice to at the fulfillment of God’s promises to the Baptized whose life on earth has come to an end, but whose life everlasting has just begun.
Therefore, the funeral of a Christian is always a service of worship, and is preferably held in the church where the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion are administered.
THE LITURGY OF FUNERALS
The Christian funeral is a rite of the Church, with its own liturgy that proclaims the resurrection to the world in the face of death, and the communion of believers with their Lord and with one another.
The funeral liturgy for a Christian is best held at the church, where God’s Word is preached and the sacraments are received as signs of his grace, but for reasons important to the family or the deceased may be held at home, in a funeral home, or at the graveside in the cemetery. Prior to the actual funeral, a viewing of the body in its casket may be held at the funeral home where the body was prepared or in the church at the place set apart for such things. The family decides whether or not a viewing is to be held and where in consultation with the pastor and funeral home director. Floral arrangements, memory boards, or pictures or items important to the deceased or to his or her family may be displayed around the body during the viewing. With the exception of some floral offerings, these things are not appropriately displayed in the Sanctuary where the actual funeral will be held. They may be moved to the reception site instead.
Some families wish to make a power point or video presentation of their loved one for viewing. Again, this may be presented prior to start of the funeral at the location of the viewing or in the Sanctuary or afterwards at the reception, but is not appropriate during the actual funeral liturgy, when we turn our attention from the earthly characteristics of our beloved dead to the gifts of God’s grace.
The casket may be open for viewing prior to the funeral. It is to be closed for the funeral itself, and covered with a white cloth, a reminder of the baptismal robe given to the newly baptized in Christ Jesus.
Music will be chosen for the service that is appropriate to the event and the faith we share. Other kinds of music may be shared with the gathered guests of this rite at other times. The music will be chosen with the aid of the pastor and the Music Director.
The pastor will aid in planning the funeral. It is customary for pastor to be called in by the family long before death occurs to counsel and pray with the family and their dying loved one, and to offer the consolations of confession and God’s Word and Holy Communion. Near the time of death, pastor will lead the family through the Commendation of the Dying, and at the time of death will pray for the deceased and his or her loved ones.
Pastor should immediately be called following a death, especially an unexpected one, by members of the family, hospital staff, or the funeral home staff so he or she may offer prayer and consolation. The pastor will also meet with the family to plan the funeral service. A bulletin will be provided by the church for the funeral service if it is held in the church itself, but not if the service is held in some place other than the church.
A eulogy may be offered by members of the family of the deceased or by a co-worker or friend. The number of eulogies will be kept to one or two, and while they should cover the life and characteristics of the deceased they should focus also on his or her faith.
Pastor suggests that the family consider offering Holy Communion at the funeral, that they might share with their loved one the feast Christ prepares for us all.
The pastor of this congregation shall preside over the funeral liturgy and preach the funeral homily. Other pastors not currently serving St. Jacobs Lutheran Church may join the service at the discretion of the currently called pastor of this church.
Following the funeral liturgy, the casket will be taken to the cemetery for the commendation and the burial followed by the gathered assembly unless the family has made other arrangements. Those of us unable to safely traverse the cemetery for reasons of health or disability are welcome to wait for the return of the congregation in the Sanctuary or the fellowship area of the church.
The pastor strongly suggests that the family of the deceased plan a luncheon or reception for after the funeral and the commendation of the deceased at the cemetery. That reception may be held at the church itself or elsewhere, but it is a valuable opportunity for the family of the deceased to share love and memories with those who knew their loved one.