1. Meet with the Family.
2. Distill to One Best Trait/Quality.
3. Include Psychological Cues.
4. Lead People to Christ/Hope.
5. Select a Text that Ties Best Trait to Christ and Eternal Life.
I recently preached a funeral, in which the best trait was the person’s willingness to be the one to help someone, anyone, in need. I need to reitirate here that the perspective of the family is the key, not our interpretation – but their truth of the person. No, I am not postmodern in perspective, but it is hearing their beliefs about their loved one tied to Christ that will most dramatically impact them – not our interpretation of the individual’s life based upon a 45 minute meeting. This trait came up over and over again in the mouths of the family. It was this trait that I went searching the text for.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan was the passage that best tied this trait to Christ and to eternal life. At first you would think this would have little to do with eternity, but the framing of the parable is an expert in the Law’s question of Jesus, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds with two questions, “What is written in the Law?” and “How do you read it?” The expert responds with the formula of loving God and neighbor – and Jesus tells him that he is correct. The expert trying to save face ask Jesus who his neighbor is…and the parable of the Good Samaritan ensues.
Here we have Christ, himself, speaking about eternal life within the context of helping someone (esp. a culturally despised someone) in a time of need. Perfect!
The beauty of this approach to preaching funerals is manifold:
A) the whole of the Scriptures is opened as possibility;
B) the uniqueness of the individual can be fully reflected in a God-honoring funeral;
C) a call to action is perfectly at home at the end of the funeral service, based upon the person’s life and the Life of Christ;
D) the memory of the deceased will be inextricably tied to the message of Christ for all who attend the funeral service.