July 18, 2017

The purpose of a funeral in the Christian tradition

When funeral sermons fail, a review of Speaking of the Dead by Russell Salzman

". . .how does death serve God's purpose? The answer -- biblically and theologically -- is it does not. This is why God must promise to restore all that death claims. The promise of God is to destroy death, the final enemy of God's creation. There is the Good News. But it must be said so we can hear it in our lowest moments. It must be spoken at a funeral."

 Catholic Funeral

An interview with Russell Saltzman, author of Speaking of the Dead, When We All Fall Down, which was written when he was still a Lutheran pastor before he entered into full communion with the Catholic church in 2016.

I wanted to pay tribute to some memorable people to whom I was pastor, their last pastor. The funerals are categorized — children, atheists, nice old ladies, others. But each includes a biography of the person, to the extent I knew it, and the funeral sermon as it was delivered. And each reflects my notion that every Christian life (even for the non-Christian) reveals to us something of the Gospel. That’s what I fish for in the death of the Christian, the proclamation of the Gospel as ordinary people lived it, sometimes in ways they never imagined. Also there are essays on death and dying; my distaste for the “death awareness movement,” and my opinion on what the funeral sermon should say, and what it should not. I had started on the book in 2010, and stalled. I was able to resume work only after the deaths of my parents.
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Death is a hard thing to look at. Christian pastors must not, cannot treat it as a “celebration of life,” just another phrase for denial. Death is the penalty for being human, our reality. And without saying that bluntly, we have no real opportunity to grasp the the equally blunt wonder of resurrection. We must be able to say “as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all rise.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at July 18, 2017 1:18 PM | Permalink