“Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” – St. Matthew 5:4
Dear Saints in Christ:
The first Sunday of every November is a Sunday that we look forward to with both joy and sadness. We observe the Feast of All the Saints (November 1 is the actual day, but just as we observe Reformation on the last Sunday in October, we do the same with All Saints). Jesus preaches to us from the Beatitudes, the opening words of His Sermon on the Mount, and we hear again, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
We mourn because we die, and we long for comfort because we grieve. We grieve for many reasons, but it all comes down to death. We know that we die because of our sin, but – thanks be to God – we have the hope of everlasting life through Jesus’ victory over the grave! Our Lord Jesus came from heaven to earth to live our life, die our death, and rise from the grave to sit at the right hand of the Father in glory, interceding for us and sending the Comforter, His Holy Spirit, to continue to work among us and in us through the Means of Grace – the Word and the Sacraments. Baptized and forgiven, we are God’s beloved children by faith. It is our joy – in all things – to confess this faith.
One of the most important confessions of our Faith is the one we make when we die and are buried. God’s children die in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the body to life everlasting, and the worship that surrounds the death of a Christian must confess this. To that end, your pastor strives to work with individuals and families before and at the time of death to faithfully prepare and conduct the Funeral Liturgy with this Christian confession in mind. The readings, the sermon, the hymns, the prayers, and the visitation – all of them serve to provide Christian comfort to all of us as we grieve and hope together in God’s Resurrection Promises in Christ.
Now – perhaps more than ever – the world around us is becoming more and more confused about death and dying, and our funerals (yes, often even Christian Funerals) are being driven more and more by our “me-centered” culture, and turned into occasions to express our individuality and provide some kind of emotional catharsis instead of pointing at the consolation Christ gives in the midst of death, which is the purpose of Christ-confessing Christian Funeral Service.
The answer to this “me-driven” culture that is all around us is to follow God and His Holy Word. The Lord who promised that those blesséd ones who mourn would be comforted is the One who not only accomplishes that comfort through His own death and resurrection, but also consoles us with His gifts in Holy Baptism, His Word, and the Lord’s Supper. The world tells you that you must leave your mark, your legacy behind you; but for the Christian, the only mark that matters is the one placed upon you at your baptism to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the Crucified – the one who will raise you from the dead!
I encourage all Gloria Dei members – as you are able – to consider planning ahead by thinking about the readings and hymns you would like to be read and sung at your Christian Funeral Service. Your pastor would be glad to assist you if you would like help. I hope to include a Service Planning sheet in an upcoming Gloria Dei Messenger for this purpose. You will be invited fill it out, and return it to the Gloria Dei Church Office.
And so, this All Saints’ Day and always, we rejoice with all the saints on earth and with all the saints who have gone before us marked with the sign of Faith: the Cross of Christ. We celebrate All Saints’ Sunday in both joy and sadness to be sure, but mainly with great joy: joy in the crucified and risen Jesus, who has born all sins in His flesh and risen for us triumphantly over death and the grave. Let us confess Him with our lips and with our lives in life, and let us confess Him with the confession of our Christian Funeral Service in death, as we sing with all the saints in glory.
Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed, Alleluia!