I just got home from another funeral. Seems we’ve gone to more than our share lately. And once again, as I left the church, I pled with those closest to me, “Please don’t make my funeral all about me.”
We were an hour and fifteen minutes in to today’s funeral before anyone read from the scriptures, and further in until there was a prayer. Resurrection wasn’t mentioned until the benediction. There were too many funny stories to tell about the deceased, too many recollections, too many good things to say about the things she accomplished to speak of what Christ has accomplished on her behalf.
But then this wasn’t a funeral. It was a “Celebration of Life.” In fact there was really little mention of death or of the ugly way sickness slowly robbed our friend of everything. Christ and his saving benefits could not be made much of because death and its cruelties were largely ignored.
When we sit a funeral, I suppose few of us can resist allowing our thoughts to wander to thinking about who might show up when we are the one in the casket. We can’t help but think about who will speak and what will be said. Of course when that day comes, especially if it comes unexpectedly, we’re not here to express what we hope our funeral will say about who we were, or, more importantly, whose we were.
So I have decided to write it down. When I die, you won’t have to wonder what I would have wanted. You’ll know. You’ll know that nothing would make me happier than for my funeral to be all about Christ instead of all about me. Please make it all about his righteous life and not my feeble efforts at good works. Make it about his coming to defeat death and not my courage (or lack thereof) in the face of death. Make it about his emergence from the grave with the keys to death and the grave, which changes everything about putting my body into a grave.
Sure, my name will come up. You can express gratitude that God chose me and drew me to himself. You can thank him for transforming me from a spiritually dead little girl into a spiritually alive and therefore indestructible co-heir with Christ. You can praise God for his mercy that is wide enough and his anger that is slow enough and his love that is steadfast enough for a repeat offender like me to be drawn into his good graces. You can honor God for being true to his promise to cause all things to work together for my good and thank him for allowing me to see some of that good in my lifetime. You can thank him for his Word that is living enough and active enough to pierce deep inside me, dividing joint and marrow, exposing my shallow beliefs and hidden motives, going to work in me to renew me and give me the mind of Christ.
You can shout at my funeral if you want to. Shout praise to the God who raised Christ from the dead, providing a preview of what will happen to my body because I am joined to Christ. You can mock the defeated desires of the Devil by shouting that neither life nor death can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus my Lord. You can cry at my funeral if you want to. But don’t think for a minute that my death is tragic. No matter how it happens, no matter when; it simply can’t be a tragedy. Leaving this world with all of its sin-sickness to enter into the beauty and perfection and peace of the presence of Christ is something to anticipate, not avoid. Death, for me, will not be the second-best option to a longer life here. To be with Christ will not be a minor improvement on this life, but “far better” (Phil. 1:23). You can cry, but I hope your tears are, at least in part, tears of joy that I have entered into the joy of my Master.
While someone might sentimentally suggest that I am looking down on all that is happening or listening in to what is being said, don’t believe it. My faith will have become sight, and my eyes will be fixed on my beautiful Savior. I will have found my place among “the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (Heb. 12:23), and my spirit will not linger here.
What you must not do at my funeral is make it all about me. What I want most is that “Christ will be honored in [my] body, whether in life or in death” (Phil.1:20). Those gathered that day have no need for a sanitized, idealized rendition of who I was or what I accomplished. On that day, in fact on every day until that day, “he must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
I am not afraid to look the king of terrors in the face,
For I know I shall be drawn, not driven, out of the world.
Until then let me continually glow and burn out for thee,
And when the last great change shall come, let me awake in thy likeness. — The Valley of Vision