gao_lu — 2017-09-27T08:07:57-04:00 — #1
Tips? Suggestions? Helps?
wolfgang_schneider — 2017-09-27T11:24:00-04:00 — #2
My first considerations would be, that I would not want to judge the dead person to have been an unbeliever, as I admit that I do not count myself to be able to say so. From various facts concerning the case, I might know more, but I would not want to call someone an unbeliever, just because the person perhaps did not belong to a certain church organization, or did not believe a certain church dogma, etc etc ....
As part of the funeral ceremony, I would concentrate on family, friends, etc. and what might bring them some comfort and on what they could in their situation now set their focus. I would think there still can be Scripture texts which would "from the viewpoint of my (the minister's) conviction" show hope, comfort, etc that is available to those who believe ... without any reference to the dead person and what he/she may have believed or done, etc .... In other words, don't make false statements about the dead person and what "he/she is now , or has, etc", but rather state from the Scriptures that "those who believe do have eternal life" (in a general sense).
I would include some "look back" on the person's life and things that would be important to the family to have mentioned ... without telling lies, but also without pronouncing demise (one does not have to say everything one may know)
tyrone_howard — 2017-09-27T11:35:59-04:00 — #3
Preach Repentance, for the Kingdom of God is near. As I don't see any other examples of Preaching in scripture, I don't suppose you could go wrong with this one.
Otherwise, I'm not sure what to do.
dave_l — 2017-09-27T13:14:18-04:00 — #4
I've been in this situation before. And I tell people who have lost loved ones who lived a decadent lifestyle, people you expect to see most in heaven will not be there. And those you would least expect might greet you. Because salvation is purely of grace. It is not based on people choosing or becoming obedient to God. Had the thief on the cross died before making his profession of faith, he would still have been in Paradise that day with Jesus.
bill_coley — 2017-09-27T13:23:19-04:00 — #5
With an acknowledgment that the question of how to approach the funerals of people in various spiritual states is simpler for universalists such as I, here are some of my thoughts.
- My daily Bible reading this morning had me in 1 Corinthians 4, a chapter Paul begins with a reminder that humans don't pass final judgement, and an advisory not to "pronounce judgment" "before the Lord comes." (1 Corinthians 4.1-4) Whatever might be the consensus view of the deceased's spiritual state, I recommend staying well clear of any consequences you and/or your audience might believe attach to that state.
- Probably my most significant learning/development from/over the 558 funerals I've written during the last 35 years is that for the people attending the service, the funeral is NOT a worship service. In general, if those folks wanted to worship, they'd go to church. They attend the funeral to honor/celebrate the deceased's life, to grieve his or her death, and to find company with people similar circumstances. Hence, I strongly recommend directing the focus of the funeral onto the person's life.
- To do that effectively, in my view, requires time with the family. In advance of every funeral I write - people I know well and people I've never heard of - I spend one to two hours listening to whichever family people are willing and available. After some introductory info, I simply ask them to "tell me about XXXX." What they say prompts me to ask other questions, and the result, invariably, is a session that ministers both to them as well as me.
- The "sermon" piece of the funerals I write are collections of word pictures that depict the life of the one who has died. I refer to God's gift of eternal life - which as noted earlier, for a universalist is not complicated to offer - at the end of the meditation, but it comprises no more than 5-10% of the meditation's content. I devote the VAST majority of that time to reminding people about the life they came there to remember. I want people to draw two conclusions from their experience of the funeral: That I couldn't have said what I said about anybody else, and that what I said accurately and helpfully depicted the person's life they came to celebrate. [As an additional nod to my passion to make every funeral a unique and personal experience, I write every funeral fresh, from scratch, repeating nothing from service to service except the Bible readings.]
Bottom Line: I recommend that the spiritual state of people believed to be "unbelievers" not be a subject in funerals called to celebrate their lives. Since I know that you don't affiliate yourself with universalism, I suggest that you focus on the person's life, and allow the Bible readings you choose to communicate your faith about the gift of eternal life, without your additional commentary.
Hope this post helps in some way.
gao_lu — 2017-09-27T17:48:43-04:00 — #6
Every post above has been very helpful. Thank you all very much,
(There is still room for more responses)
david_taylor_jr — 2017-09-28T11:22:17-04:00 — #7
Don't focus on the fact that they were an unbeliever, unnecessary pain to those that remain.
However, do preach the Gospel and preach it unashamedly.
justin_gatlin — 2017-09-28T16:52:00-04:00 — #8
It has been my custom to get some great characteristic of the person (their joy, hard work, reliability, live, etc. In the absence of any positive characteristics - accordong to the grieving family -I once used the suddenness of their death to transition to Psalm 80) and use it as an illustration of God's care for the audience as a basis for preaching the gospel. So I talk about the person who has died only in the first part of the sermon, then switch to the people who are still able to repent and believe. It runs the risk of letting the elephant stay in the room, but has the virtues of being honest and focused on grieving and comfort.