I just finished officiating at the funeral of a good friend, Don Over. Don was a wonderful man. He always showed kindness to me and to my family. Every summer, he brought me a huge cabbage from his garden, and every Christmastime he and Joan would showed up at my office with a beautiful wreath handmade by their son. He helped receive our offerings to the Lord at FBC. This past Sunday, when Don wasn’t in his normal place, I choked up just a bit and had to gather myself. I’ll miss him terribly. I already do.
Perhaps my emotions are too high right now, but I’d like to write these few words about funerals: I hate them.
From time to time, I’m asked to perform a funeral for someone unknown to me. I hate that. It demands that I speak to people I do not know about someone I did not know. If it were not for the opportunity to present the good news about Jesus at a time when people will listen, I would decline.
As hard as the funeral of a stranger is for me, it’s still better than the funeral of a friend. I hate that even worse. In most cases, as today, I can rejoice for a fellow believer who has gone home. But there is still this concomitant sense of pain for the family and personal loss, a desire to weep myself with an awareness that this would only add to the family’s burden. O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God, it is through Christ Jesus.
I think that gets to what I really hate about funerals. It’s what’s behind them—death. I hate death. I hate it with a passionate hatred. Talk all you want about it being part of the cycle of life, you will not bring me solace. I refuse to be comforted, and I refuse to be comfortable with death. I don’t think I should be. I think death is an enemy. It is an intruder, an occupying force wreaking havoc in God’s cosmos. It does not belong here. It is a constant reminder of the ravages of sin, and I’m sick of having to deal with sin and all its ugly consequences. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. He is eternal. He is life. Death is antithetical to everything God is. So I hate it, and I long for the day when death and Hades are destroyed. Until then, I intend to heed the words of Dylan Thomas:
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Father: “Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”