May 01, 2006

Looking Ahead to May 7 -- 4th Sunday of Easter

This Sunday is informally known as "Good Shepherd Sunday" The Scriptures are:

  • From the Life of the Early Church: Acts 4:5-12
  • Psalm 23 (VU p. 749)
  • From the Letters of the Early Church: 1 John 3:16-24
  • From the Gospel: John 10:11-18

In keeping with the sermon (see below) and the training event taking place at Riverview this weekend the hymns this week will all be hymns that people have requested for their funeral when the time comes. [As usual, all numbers refer to Voices United]

  • 820 Make a Joyful Noise
  • 703 In the Bulb There is a Flower
  • 182 Stay With Us
  • 238 O Lord My GOd (How Great Thou Art)

The sermon title is Big Leagues to Hall of Fame, Saying Goodbye.
First of all, I apologize for the sermon title. It really isn't very good but I was trying to choose a title that went with the Hockeyville celebrations around town.

We live in a society that has a hard time with death. We tend to avoid talking about it until absolutely necessary. There are a number of reasons for this and a number of reasons it is not always healthy (of course it isn't healthy to never talk about death either -- appropriate balance is the key). One of the results of this reluctance is that we rarely talk about how best to say good-bye. The only time we talk about funerals is at a funeral, or when the family meets with the minister and/or funeral director to plan a funeral for a loved one. And then the question asked is often some variation of "what (hymn, scripture, etc) do you think mom would have wanted?". How to answer?

It can be healthy to talk about what we want at the end of our life. This can include a discussions about funeral services (casket or cremation? donations in lieu of flowers? lots of singing?) as well as discussions about when to let go and when to keep medical interventions going (so-called "living wills") and discussions about organ donation. This sounds morbid, who wants to have these discussions, why would we talk about something so depressing. But it can be healthy. It can be a way, especially in the case of someone who is terminally ill or whose death is near, of preparing the way. The discussion can help start the grieving process, can give us a chance to say good-bye in person.

As a minister I often have people say "sing that hymn at my funeral". My common response is "Tell your family". Tell them what your wishes are, write them down, pass on the information. That avoids a lot of indecision and arguing.

When someone close to us dies we don't often want to be making a bunch of decisions. We want to grieve. If we have some of these discussions beforehand those decisions can be easier to make. It is also easier then to get what matches your loved one's personality rather than a cookie cutter, fill-in-the blank service (especially true if the person "doing" the memorial service does not know the deceased well). Take time to prepare for what will come eventually.

We all have a terminal condition -- it's called life. Eventually we all move on to what lies beyond death. It is only sensible to prepare for the leavetaking in some way.

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