That's the opinion of one writer in the Bible. If
there are blessings to be found in the funeral home, I guess I must
be really blessed. If you'll read on, I'll explain.
door opened to a ministry beyond my regular pastoral
responsibilities — to work alongside a remarkable team of hospice
professionals. Not too long ago, if you invited me to be a source of
comfort to the families of hospice patients, I would have said:
"Thanks, but no thanks. I'm glad God gifts people for that kind of
work, but I'm not one of them."
But God is quite the recycler. Ugly things become beautiful in
His hands. In my case, the long and painful experience of my own
brother's sickness and death a few years ago led me to be a
participant in a local grief support group, then to co-lead this
group and eventually to this part-time ministry with Safe Haven
Hospice. My mantra has become, "With God nothing goes to waste."
Though some might think it strange to call it a privilege, I am
truly honored to attend our patients' funerals. In recent months
I've been to the "house of mourning" dozens of times. From highly
liturgical to homespun, these services have been as different as the
person being mourned. A few have even included welcome moments of
comic relief. Just recently I was at a service that began with "In
the Garden" (a standard hymn for such occasions), except this
version sounded suspiciously like the work of humorist Garrison
Keillor — a suspicion that was confirmed when the words of the last
verse melodiously expressed how this hymn would be sung at his
funeral, but God-willing, it wouldn't be anytime soon!
Though unique, every funeral has the obvious in common: someone
died. A heart was stilled. Lungs stopped drawing breath. Neurons in
the brain ceased their firing. A body was taken away and prepared
for cremation or burial. Arrangements were made. Loved ones were
notified. Flowers were sent. People from across the miles and across
the years came to share memories and kind words and say goodbye and
perhaps share a meal. Then everyone departed to resume the business
of living out their own days.
But being in the same room with a corpse does something to you.
Folks who hardly ever give a passing thought to the day of their own
death are suddenly confronted with its approaching reality. We've
all heard it before — the mortality rate is 100 percent. Life is
In the house of mourning you begin to ponder life's most
perplexing and enduring questions: When my body ceases, will I? Is
there any part of me that will outlive my flesh? Is there an
afterlife and a God who oversees it? If there is a God, and He is
good, why do we all have to die? It seems so wrong, so unfair,
When it comes to our end-of-this-life questions, people often
seek answers from someone who has been there. There are plenty of
books that relate personal experiences of heaven and hell from
individuals who were clinically dead but lived to tell about it.
Having read some of these accounts, I've no reason to doubt them
except that I've also read tales of others, just as dead, who came
back to say they remember nothing. No tunnel. No bright light. No
heavenly choir. No welcoming committee. Nothing. And whatever the
case may be, each of these people will have to die again someday. I
wonder if it will be the same for them the next time they cross
[to top of second column]
I'd rather put my trust in the words of someone who was more
than "mostly dead." There is only one person who ever lived who
truly died who was raised to life in such a way that He will
never be able to die again — Jesus, the very Son of God.
Crucified by our own avarice. Pierced by our own desire to sit
on God's throne. Sacrificed on the altar of self-governance.
Humanity wanted God out of the way so we could live as we
please. Jesus let us have our way with Him. He taught the people
that His Father had given Him the authority to lay His life down
(John 10:7-18). And He did. He allowed Himself to be mistreated
and brutally slain to show us just how ugly sin really is.
Thankfully, Jesus was not only given the authority to lay His
life down; God His Father also gave Him the right and the ability to
take it back up again. And He did! Friday was darkness and doom.
Sunday morning was light and hope!
Thank God for Good Friday, but thank Him all the more for Easter
Sunday! Because Jesus lives, you can strike the word "final" from
the phrase "final resting place," for someday every grave will be
But we're not there yet, and the reaper is coming. When it comes
to your end-of-this-life issues, whose account will you believe?
Movies about friendly ghosts with unfinished business on earth?
Television programs that promote sentimental
everybody-goes-to-heaven ideology? The latest Facebook post about
deceased loved ones becoming your own personal angels?
Before your body is put on display in the house of mourning, I
hope you will investigate for yourself the words of the One who
said, "I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive
forever and ever!" (Revelation 1:18) I pray you will lay
down your life of self-rule and take up life — real life, new life,
everlasting life — in the One who called Himself "the way, the
truth, and the life" (John 14:6) and trade the house of
mourning for the everlasting joy of knowing He will guide you to
"dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
[By Pastor GREG WOOTEN, Lincoln
Church of the Nazarene]