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.
6. Teach About the New Heaven and New Earth.
You remember the Tom and Jerry cartoons where one or the other of them (or maybe Spike) would get hit a little too hard, and they would bite the big one. The next thing you would see would be an ethereal version of them floating up out of their body with a white robe, a set of wings, a harp and a halo. They would then make their way to heaven floating in the clouds strumming said harp.
Laughable, right? Unfortunately, Tom & Jerry did a better job of consistently teaching the American culture what heaven is going to be like than the Church did…and they screwed it up!
One of my pet peaves is to hear someone say that “God needed another angel” in an attempt to give someone comfort over the loss of a loved one.
#1. God doesn’t need.
#2. He certainly doesn’t need any more angels.
#3. Humans will NEVER be angels. We will in fact one day rule with Christ over even the angels.
We also won’t be inhabiting some other-worldly environ, flitting about playing harps. The Scriptures are abundantly clear that Humanity was created a physical creature, and that we will be physical creatures for all eternity. The place we will dwell will be the New Earth (think Eden revisited), and the capital city will be the New Jerusalem which will descend to the New Earth, and God will dwell with us here.
We are body and breath, when we die, the breath leaves the body awaiting a new body. In this in-between stage of waiting, we are seen as “sleeping” or awaiting the last day (in the case of the martyrs, crying out for justice). Our bodies now are perishing, our bodies then will never perish…but still bodies.
When performing a funeral, don’t get teachy, and certainly don’t co-opt the service to jump up and down on your soap box about their bad theology; but weave into the service the Christian teaching about the next life. Funerals are one of the few opportunities we have to speak to as wide a population base as Tom & Jerry got (the other being weddings). take advantage of the opportunity to speak about our hope of eternal life, not eternal floating and harp-playing.