“Living Hope: Funeral Hymns and Scripture,” a Women of the ELCA program I wrote and compiled, is now online and ready to download. In addition to group activities, individuals will find inspiration in the personal reflections (see pp. 6, 18-23) and useful information in the lists of suggested hymns and Bible texts (see pp. 26-32).
“The Formula,” my reflection in “Living Hope” (p. 23) is not the most profound example, but it does explain why the subject is personally important.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
As funeral directors, my parents had a quiet ministry helping area clergy lead good funerals. Kermit and Norma knew what they meant by a “good” funeral and offered this formula:
A good funeral = Gospel story + personal story.
A great funeral, by the way, connects the Gospel and personal stories in meaningful ways.
“It’s about balance,” Mom explained. When a funeral is heavy with personal story, the assembled may miss the rest of the story: death is defeated. They may miss the comfort of a sure hope in Christ’s resurrection.
When a funeral is light on personal story, the gathered may miss the comfort of remembering. Sadly, my mom’s funeral sermon illustrates the point. Though the sermon the pastor seemed to have pulled from his file could have been good on paper, it wasn’t a good funeral sermon because it offered no connection to my mom or her faithful life. It’s been 19 years, but I remember I didn’t shed a tear until the soloist sang “On Eagle’s Wings.”
As a frequent member of a St. Luke’s Requiem Choir, time and again I witnessed the blessing of balanced funeral and memorial services. Personal story and Gospel story are beautifully and profoundly connected. With tears and laughter, those gathered in grief claim, proclaim and cling to a living hope.
I am deeply grateful to the people who generously contributed to “Living Hope,” including Anne Krentz Organ, the Rev. Stephen Larson, the Rev. Michelle Miller, the Rev. Craig Mueller, Nancy J. Stelling, Syd Brinkman, Linda Post Bushkofsky, Sarah Post, Barbara Andrews, Joanna Anderson, Barbara Burswold, the Rev. Roxi Kringle and Linda Lovell. I hope you will help me thank them by using and sharing the program.