I think I must have conducted about 750 funerals over my 23 years in ministry. When I was a pastor in Scotland I looked after two parishes, so on average I officiated at about 2 funerals a week. I can even remember one busy week when I completed five funerals within seven days. I don’t know where I got the energy to do that, but it was expected of parish ministers all across Scotland.
After the services were over in Scotland, close friends and family often shared soup, sandwiches, and tea at a local hotel or in someone’s home. It was a community gathering and frequently family and guests shared some funny and worthwhile stories about the deceased. Instead of weeping and mourning, people honored the dead by laughing and celebrating. It also helped loved ones begin their process of grief and healing.
It’s no surprise that in the Bible we find these opposites side by side. Weeping and laughing, mourning and dancing all have their special places in our lives, even at funerals. It’s not just a way of coping with loss, it’s also a remarkable fact of the human experience – life goes on around us, no matter what we go through.
The Church of Scotland Book of Worship states it this way in the funeral liturgy: We were not meant for the darkness of death; instead we were created for light and life, and to share these with God forevermore.
I think that’s a beautiful way of dealing with death, finding faith, and eternally embracing God.
Prayer: Lord God, we thank You for the precious gift of life and the priceless blessing of faith. In the midst of our pain and loss, grant us healing and comfort. Throughout those times of weeping and mourning, let us also experience laughter and dancing. In Christ’s Name, we pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. I you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.