An order of readings for a funeral service

Psalm 130

Wisdom 1:12-15

Wisdom 3:1-9

Psalm 23

Romans 5:5-11 (or Romans 6:3-9)

Psalm 121

John 6:37-40

1 Corinthians 15:5-55

Notes – BibleGateway is an excellent website for copying Bible verses. They have many translations, including the “New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition” which will have the readings from Wisdom, a book from the Apocrypha and thus not in a Protestant Bible. All of these readings (except for Psalm 121) come from the Catholic daily readings appointed for All Soul’s Day.

Note that I don’t say “Celebration of Life” as some people will. While it is important to be positive and celebrate the person who we were fortunate enough to know, it is also important to acknowledge that they have died. There is too much white-washing of death going on these days. “Cemeteries” are now called “memorial parks”. Prominent and visible headstones are now out of favor for discrete in-set bronze plaques. Even coffins which have the shape of a person have now been transformed into caskets, which are simple rectangular boxes to intentionally obscure the fact of the contents. Funeral directors are no longer called morticians or undertakers. Embalmers are “derma surgeons”. The more we cover over the reality of death, the harder it will be for us to accept its inevitability. Death comes to us all. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we can go on with living our lives mindfully, knowing that they are finite.

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A Scot’s Farewell (memorial service reading)

When I come to the end of the road,
and the sun has set for me,
I want no tears in a gloom-filled room.
Why cry for a soul set free?

Miss me a little but not too long,
and not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love that we once shared.
Miss me – but let me go.

For this is a journey that we all must take
and each must go alone
It’s all part of the Master’s plan,
a step on the road to home.

When you are lonely and sick of heart
go to the friends we know
and bury your sorrows in doing good deeds.
Miss me – but let me go.

– source unknown

My memorial service

(Here’s an exercise – create your own memorial service. Death is the one true equalizer. It will happen to all of us. Better to create your service now and save your loved one’s the trouble when the inevitable happens. You can edit it later if your change your mind, but get it started. And share it with them now.)

Song – “Oceans” by Hillsong United

Psalm 107
Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;
His faithful love endures forever.
2 Let the redeemed of the LORD proclaim
that He has redeemed them from the hand of the foe
3 and has gathered them from the lands—
from the east and the west,
from the north and the south.
4 Some wandered in the desolate wilderness,
finding no way to a city where they could live.
5 They were hungry and thirsty;
their spirits failed within them.
6 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble;
He rescued them from their distress.
7 He led them by the right path
to go to a city where they could live.
8 Let them give thanks to the LORD
for His faithful love
and His wonderful works for all humanity.
9 For He has satisfied the thirsty
and filled the hungry with good things.
10 Others sat in darkness and gloom—
prisoners in cruel chains—
11 because they rebelled against God’s commands
and despised the counsel of the Most High.
12 He broke their spirits with hard labor;
they stumbled, and there was no one to help.
13 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble;
He saved them from their distress.
14 He brought them out of darkness and gloom
and broke their chains apart.
15 Let them give thanks to the LORD
for His faithful love
and His wonderful works for all humanity.
16 For He has broken down the bronze gates
and cut through the iron bars.
17 Fools suffered affliction
because of their rebellious ways and their sins.
18 They loathed all food
and came near the gates of death.
19 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble;
He saved them from their distress.
20 He sent His word and healed them;
He rescued them from the Pit.
21 Let them give thanks to the LORD
for His faithful love
and His wonderful works for all humanity.
22 Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving
and announce His works with shouts of joy.
23 Others went to sea in ships,
conducting trade on the vast waters.
24 They saw the LORD’s works,
His wonderful works in the deep.
25 He spoke and raised a tempest
that stirred up the waves of the sea.
26 Rising up to the sky, sinking down to the depths,
their courage[i] melting away in anguish,
27 they reeled and staggered like drunken men,
and all their skill was useless.
28 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
and He brought them out of their distress.
29 He stilled the storm to a murmur,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 They rejoiced when the waves grew quiet.
Then He guided them to the harbor they longed for.
31 Let them give thanks to the LORD
for His faithful love
and His wonderful works for all humanity.
32 Let them exalt Him in the assembly of the people
and praise Him in the council of the elders.
33 He turns rivers into desert,
springs of water into thirsty ground,
34 and fruitful land into salty wasteland,
because of the wickedness of its inhabitants.
35 He turns a desert into a pool of water,
dry land into springs of water.
36 He causes the hungry to settle there,
and they establish a city where they can live.
37 They sow fields and plant vineyards
that yield a fruitful harvest.
38 He blesses them, and they multiply greatly;
He does not let their livestock decrease.
39 When they are diminished and are humbled
by cruel oppression and sorrow,
40 He pours contempt on nobles
and makes them wander in a trackless wasteland.
41 But He lifts the needy out of their suffering
and makes their families multiply like flocks.
42 The upright see it and rejoice,
and all injustice shuts its mouth.
43 Let whoever is wise pay attention to these things
and consider the LORD’s acts of faithful love.
(HCSB)

(New Testament reading)
Matthew 14:22-33
22 Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds. 23 After dismissing the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone. 24 But the boat was already over a mile from land, battered by the waves, because the wind was against them. 25 Around three in the morning, He came toward them walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost!” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 Immediately Jesus spoke to them. “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s You,” Peter answered Him, “command me to come to You on the water.” 29 “Come!” He said. And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid. And beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out His hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 Then those in the boat worshiped Him and said, “Truly You are the Son of God!” (HCSB)

(Sermon)
“Walking Towards Jesus”
I love the story of Peter walking on water. Sure, we remember Jesus walked on water, but so did Peter. This means that the miraculous is available to all of us, if we have our focus right.
The disciples were by themselves. Times were getting tough. There was a big storm that had pushed them far from safety. Our lives are like that. When we are alone the storms of life beat up against us and push us even further away from security.
Then they see Jesus walking towards them at three in the morning. The light isn’t great at that time of day. It isn’t quite night, but it isn’t quite day. Everything looks strange. Also, at three a.m., I’m pretty sure the disciples are shot. They’ve been up all night because of the storm. They haven’t had a good night’s rest because of all turbulent sea and the wild sounds of the storm. Then they think they are seeing something. Why would they expect to see Jesus walking on water towards them? This is a whole new experience.
But this is Jesus. He takes the shortcut. He walked straight towards the disciples rather than waiting for them to get safely to shore. This is Jesus. He walks through danger, straight towards us, right when we need Him.
Of course they were afraid. They were worn out from the storm. They were afraid they were going to die. Then this ghost comes towards them? Things have gone from bad to worse. But what does Jesus do? Immediately he calls to them, telling them to have courage and not be afraid.
That again. “Don’t be afraid.” The same words that have been echoed throughout the Old and New Testament. Don’t be afraid. Don’t freak out. It’s OK. These are good words to remember. God is in charge. Everything that happens is part of God’s plan. If we believe in a loving God, then we have to trust that God’s got it under control, so there is nothing to worry about.
But then something even more unusual happens. Peter asks Jesus to command him to come out on the water to Him. I find this fascinating. Why did Peter ask to come out there, rather than asking Jesus to come closer, towards the boat? This seems like the last thing I’d do. Terrified, worn out from a terrible night on a boat, seeing things – yeah, I’m going to stay in the boat, thank you very much. Getting out of the boat seems insane. The boat is the only sure thing in this picture. But Peter doesn’t see it that way. Peter asks Jesus to command him to come out to Him.
The Jews have a big concept about commandments, in that God sanctifies us by His commandments. By God giving us commandments to follow, we are made holy. Peter didn’t say “ask me to come to you”, he said “command”. The result would have been the same, but in this case he’s giving over control. Peter would be doing the walking on the water whether he was asked or commanded, but by being commanded, there is a measure of authority and force. The fact that Peter gave Jesus the authority, by asking him to command him, means a lot.
Jesus’ command is simple. Just one word. Just “Come!” Jesus doesn’t waste words, or even really command or ask. Just one word is all Peter needs, and he’s right over the side of the boat, and he’s walking towards Jesus. On water. In a storm. At three a.m. It sounds crazy. But it happened. And it still happens today. Not necessarily people walking on water, but doing things that they never thought they could, because they are walking towards Jesus.
Peter was doing fine until he got distracted. He saw the strength of the wind. He got afraid. How often does this happen to us? We start off fine, and then we start to think about it. He didn’t look at the waves, or think about how deep the ocean was. That didn’t scare him. Surely he saw all that before he got out of the boat. The wind got him. He lost his focus. He stopped looking at Jesus and he started getting afraid. This is the secret, here. The more we look away, the more likely we are to get afraid.
Then Jesus reaches out His hand and rescues Peter, marveling at how little faith he had, wondering at his doubt. Peter has been with him a long time and seen a lot of amazing things. Surely he should be able to get this, right? Nope. Fear is an old habit, and hard to break. Perhaps Peter’s doubt didn’t come from a lack of faith in Jesus, but in his own ability. Peter was used to seeing Jesus perform miracles. He wasn’t used to doing them himself.
I think God came to us in human form, not only to know what it was like to experience human life from the inside, but also to watch us. God learned a lot about our limitations by not only being one of us, but by living among us.
We are fragile, frail, and fallible. We fear a lot. We fall a lot. And every time, Jesus is there to rescue us. Jesus took Peter’s hand and pulls him up, out of the water, out of danger. This is Jesus, every time. He’s there to save us from ourselves, from our fears and doubts. This isn’t just a story of something that happened back then. This happens every day. Jesus is real, and present, and with us, now. Get out of the boat, and keep walking towards Jesus.

(Song chosen by the person officiating)

“Gone from my Sight” by Henry Van Dyke
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then, someone at my side says, ‘There, she is gone’
Gone where?
Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me – not in her.
And, just at the moment when someone says, ‘There, she is gone,’
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, ‘Here she comes!’
And that is dying…
Death comes in its own time, in its own way.
Death is as unique as the individual experiencing it.

Saint Francis’ prayer

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

Death is nothing at all

(By Henry Scott Holland)

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?

I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.

All is well.

Nothing is past; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before only better, infinitely happier and forever we will all be one together with Christ.

Gone from my sight

 

“Gone from my Sight” by Henry Van Dyke

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says, ‘There, she is gone’

Gone where?

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me – not in her.
And, just at the moment when someone says, ‘There, she is gone,’
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, ‘Here she comes!’

And that is dying…

Death comes in its own time, in its own way.
Death is as unique as the individual experiencing it.