A Tough Funeral

I’ve got a tough funeral on Saturday. You can read the obituary here. James Odom was a good man whom I liked and depended on a lot.

But we want to do justice to James’ memory and bring honor to God with the funeral service. We’ve got our top music team taking part — April Geiger, John Pavlovitz, and Chris Macedo.

And I believe that funerals are really important. I’ve seen a lot of bad ones in my time in ministry. Bad funerals do two things: 1) deny the reality of the grief the survivors are feeling; and/or 2) use the service as an evangelism tool, attempting to get all the “lost” people in the congregation converted to Christ. Please. Not the right time or place.

Instead, we want funerals at Good Shepherd to give expression and permission. Here’s what I mean by giving expression: I pray that my words and our music will give voice to things that people are already feeling but haven’t been able to verbalize. That includes memories of the person who died, the qualities that made him or her unique, and why it is that this loss is especially poignant.

Giving permission is closely related: I pray our funeral services give people permission to grieve. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” Grief is natural, healthy, and good; denial or trivializing of grief is in the long run harmful to survivors and congregation alike.

In the end, when we are honest in that expression and permission, we do justice to the memory of the one who died and bring honor to the One who gives life in the first place.

I pray that happens on Saturday.