Where have all the funerals gone?

Thursday, 30 November 2006

Let me make this abundantly clear: when I die, I die. I will not pass away. I will not pass on. I will die. My soul will leave my body and wait. My body will likewise wait. I, in my body and soul, shall wait for the resurrection of the dead, as promised by Christ my Lord.

Let me also, in absolutely unequivocal language, state that upon my death I will have a funeral. This is non-negotiable. It will be done in the church, and it will not be over until my body has been placed in the ground.

I just received an email from a churchly source that should know better announcing a death and informing the reader that the “Celebration of Life” service will be held in the next days. It’s stuff like this which has me actually considering the merits of simply going mad.

What, gentle reader, are we suggesting with a “Celebration of Life” service? Could it be, perhaps, that when one “passes away” it is most vital that we look back and share and ponder in our hearts all the wonderfull things they did? Sure! Let’s focus on what an upstanding member of the community–nay, of the church!–the person was. We’ll treasure the memories, for in these we–we–grant them life after death. “I just know that he’s up there watching over me now.” And of course we’ll do it without that nasty corpse. We don’t want to go mucking about with dead bodies. Let’s get rid of it beforehand. Bury it or burn it, whatever. Just don’t have us look at it. And we absolutely do not want it anywhere near our “Celebration of Life” service. God knows that would only remind us of that icky, nasty death. Instead let’s surround ourselves with pictures of happy times, when the late So-and-so was doing thus-and-such. This is how we choose to remember him.

Given the enormity of sin, is there anything more futile in death than to celebrate the sinner’s life? The fact that they are now dead pretty much tells you what, ultimately, there was in them to celebrate. And why must we celebrate at all? It’s a death, for crying out loud.

I have a little more sympathy with tearing one’s clothes in mourning or anger. Stuff like this just makes me want to break something. We take the teeth out of death, we take the comfort out of resurrection. We stop talking about death, we stop talking about resurrection. The more euphamistically we talk about the Final Enemy, the more generically we talk about the Conquering Savior. We fear pain and suffering so much that we’ve removed these from our dealings with death. We’re not going to mourn Edna’s bodily death. We’re going to celebrate the life she lived before that point. We’re just going to ignore that ugly death thing as much as we can. Obviously we can’t totally block it out. There is that hole in our lives now where she used to be. We’ll just comfort ourselves with her memory instead of being comforted (passive!) by the promised resurrection.

Death is bad. Mourn it. Loss is hard. Mourn it. Resurrection is the last word. Look for it.

An actual funeral gives us a chance to do just that, and to be comforted with the promise of the resurrection yet to come by the merits of Jesus Christ. For the sake of the saints of God, let’s stop avoiding the ugly parts of life and thereby robbing ourselves of God’s comfort, rich and full.


A Tale of Two Symposia

Thursday, 30 November 2006

Kudos to Concordia, St. Louis. And I’ve got a (I’m not certain it’s legitimate yet) gripe with Concordia Ft. Wayne.

I, I’m sure like many brother pastors, can’t always make it to the seminaries for their symposia. They each make offerings for the edification of the church, but for most of the pastorate (and laity) these require travel. As a CSL alum, I remember fondly the Symposia, the Dellinger Lectures, the Days of Theological Conversation and the Days of Homiletical Reflection. On the whole they were interesting and informative. I have not yet had the opportunity to experience the same on CTSFW’s campus, although I have certainly read papers that were delivered there. My point is that both make substantial contributions to the ministry that is done in the congregations served by their graduates and those who continue to receive education from them as they are able.

So I can now go to iTunes and download free audio of CSL’s symposium.

Or I can send $7.50/speaker (+ tax and shipping) to CTSFW for its counterpart on CD. Or rather, on many, many CDs.

Now, I understand that if I were willing and able to travel, I’d be paying CSL for the opportunity to hear the presentations live. Certainly CTSFW is entitled to charge for the resources it provides. Yet when I pay to attend a conference, I generally pay with the expectation that it includes the opportunity to meet other symposi-ites, ask direct questions of and receive direct answers from speakers, and generally engage in the activities of such symposia. With access to audio alone, I certainly receive the same presentations, but my interaction is limited.

I would pay for the interaction. I would pay for the opportunity to have the conversation. Such conversations are precious to me, especially where I currently serve.

I suppose my question (perhaps my irritation being fueled by my recent sleep deprivation) is, what prevents CTSFW from making it’s audio resources available free of charge? It would honestly be less work to post .mp3’s than to burn CDs and ship them. And they might enjoy a wider audience without the price tag. In the end I’ll likely end up paying for some of them. But I’d love to simply grab a podcast.


Thursday, 30 November 2006

My energy levels are low. The little one has a knack for interrupting a REM cycle. But that’s a part of it all. But the exciting news is his recent ingrafting to the Body of Christ. I baptized (God used me in His baptizing of) my son last Sunday. As a parent you never really stop worrying about the fragility of a little guy like that, but with baptism I did find that I was a little less reluctant to exhale.


Saturday, 18 November 2006

We’re home. All of us. Thank you all for your prayers. The little guy is doing really well–nary an episode in the last 72 hours. God is good.

Toby 2

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Thanks for the prayers. We’re not out of the woods yet, but the neonatologist is optimistic. Apparently he simply stops breathing for 20-30 seconds and starts again, for a myriad of possibilities, but no certain ones yet. So we are taking up residence in the NICU for the next 48 hours. Hopefully soon the little guy will come home. God’s peace to all, and thanks again.

Prayers, please

Tuesday, 14 November 2006

On Sunday our family grew by one. Tobias Joshua was born at 22:30 GMT on November 12, 2006. He’s generally healthy, but they can’t yet figure out why he’s having trouble getting oxygen at times. Mom’s doing well, and Toby is doing mostly well. Yet he is in the NICU tonight. Pray for wisdom and guidance for the medical professionals, peace for my family, and health and healing for little Toby.