Monday, July 14, 2008

An Excersize in Missing the Point

I went to a funeral today. Yes, it was sad, of course it was sad. The saddest part was when the focus went off what this child of God had spent her entire illness, 17 years, trying to teach people, that it is not about the struggle, its about the triumph. She died. She died with less limbs(both legs, an arm, and some fingers were taken), sores over much of her body(never healing but compounding and remaining open and inflamed), and skin that looked as if she'd been in a tanning bed set to "scorched earth" but her focus was never on the fact she was dieing, that was obvious, her focus - that dear, dear saint, was that she was A.L.I.V.E., alive and kicking, fully alive, alive and she is STILL A.L.I.V.E. So, pastor whatever-your-name-is, how can you add to that prayer, to that gospel? You think telling people that "Good people don't go to heaven" is going to cut it? Relax and live in the moment, smell the flowers, look at the pictures of her life and remember that message that she lived, the gospel, the true gospel, meted out in the life of one who L.I.V.E.D. and had such grace that words... well, if I had a picture, you'd get it.

4 comments:

Pastor Andy said...

I realize that pastors take different approaches to funerals of those who may not have professed the Christian faith (if that is the situation you are writing about). I've never felt that it was even near appropriate to suggest that the deceased was in hell. I am constantly humbled by the responsibility I have when called upon to officiate a funeral, because I am not perfect and it is such a difficult time. I just hope and pray for the Grace of God to be in those times and places.

I think what it comes down to, aside from a sense of a pastoral heart, is that some choose to focus on the fear of hell and damnation, while others try to use those elements of redemption and point to Jesus Christ the Redeemer.

At the end of the day I don't know what is in people's hearts and how God will judge them. I'm ok with that. Scripture seems to suggest that there will be some surprises.

sam said...

Andy,

what you are reading is one guy's response to a funeral but more importantly I wished to memorialize her struggle and my appreciation for the hope that my aunt gave people if nothing more than by comparison (which is a nasty way to live your life but many choose it). You could visit her and she'd be sitting there in obvious pain but be asking you about your struggles as if yours were the most important to her in all the world. Pastors have their work cut out for them - an impossible task for any human. Take a bunch of wolverines, all looking to get their own meal and protect it from others, and send in a sheep to heard them, teach them who they are, and get them working together to not only impact a community but to forgo the meal that they desperately believe they need.
That is the job of a pastor. Who developed that model?

Andy, do you notice how you ended your post with grace? That is speaking the truth in love - which really was lacking at the graveside yesterday and didn't at all look like the life that my aunt had lived.

I really appreciate the response, its like a morgue on this page sometimes. See you soon.

Pastor Andy said...

Who developed that model?
Now you're preaching to the choir.

Sam, the background information helps. I am sorry for the loss of your aunt. I am also sorry that your experience at the funeral sounds less than optimal. I guess what I was trying to get at in my comment was that there are pastors who approach funerals in a way that I don't understand and that I disagree with both pastorally and theologically. Grace is important to me, as you pointed out, because it was God's grace that saved me, not someone condemning me.

I suspect your sense of what would have been a good message and eulogy is probably right on, and most likely would have advanced the Gospel in a better way.

Again, my heart goes out to you. The pastor who did my Grandma's funeral didn't really do a good job and that has always stuck with me. I have pretty strong feelings about these things actually, but I am holding back since I don't know the entire story of the situation you mention, and I don't want to jump to too many conclusions.

You could visit her and she'd be sitting there in obvious pain but be asking you about your struggles as if yours were the most important to her in all the world.
Some people just have that gift. It's a courage and compassion that is very striking when you encounter it. She sounds like an amazing lady.

Take care.

Sally Basner said...

I agree what your comments are about what the pastor preached at the funeral. I was shocked about the way he performed his sermon and was appalled that would even say that. I was disappointed that there wasn't a showing, but God granted us a sunny and warm day to grace her with our good-byes. The last time I remembered seeing her was at the Bridal shower. I was so excited that she came because I knew she was in a lot of pain, but she made sure that she was there. And you are right; she always had a way of making you feel special. She will be missed.