On January 14th we had the memorial service for Pete McGuire. It was a wonderful service, with a full sanctuary. We’ve had quite a few funerals / memorial services this past year. I am convinced that there is an opportunity for ministry which many of you can do when someone dies. There are at least three ways you can show love and support to those who are grieving.
First, send cards. I never really thought much about this ministry until Tanya’s Dad died last year. The cards we received really were a wonderful gift. Before this I didn’t always read the message on cards that I receive, but I have read all the cards for Tanya’s Dad and for my Dad. The messages that they give are a comfort. The message I appreciate most is that comfort comes from the memories we have of loved ones and from the hope of eternal life we have through Jesus Christ.
Second, if at all possible, come to the funeral. In Jesus’ time there were professional mourners, people who came to a funeral even if they didn’t know the person who died. I always thought that was weird, but the more I think about it, simply showing up to a funeral is a form of ministry. Pete’s service was full, which was a wonderful gift to the family. Simply coming to a funeral is a form of ministry.
Third, pray. Pray that God would comfort the person grieving. Pray that they would remember the promise of eternal life and the hope we have that death is not the end. Pray that as the anniversaries and important dates come up they would continue to remember their loved one and know God’s abiding presence filling the empty place in their hearts.
Death is never easy. Yet the reality is that we all must deal with it. As Thomas Green said, “All of us must die; to accept death, however, to affirm it, to say ‘yes’ to it as the necessary culmination of life, is perhaps the most important and difficult confrontation of a person’s life” (When the Well Runs Dry p82). As we deal with death, whether our own or that of a loved one, let us remember that “Through death we are recalled from exile to dwell in the fatherland, in the heavenly fatherland” (John Calvin, Institutes III.9.6). Death is not the final answer. Life is. Jesus promised “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of” (John 10:10, The Message).