For those who are mourning

Saint John Climacus

I’ve been going through some trials recently and most of times all I can do when I pray is crying. While looking for some resources on mourning I came across this beautiful saying of St. John Climacus who wrote steps for the “Ladder of divine ascent”. One of the steps is called “mourning” and he says:

“Greater than baptism itself is the fountain of tears after baptism, even though it is somewhat audacious to say so.  For baptism is the washing away of evils that were in us before, but sins committed after baptism are washed away by tears.  As baptism is received in infancy, we have all defiled it, but we cleanse it anew with tears.  And if God in His love for mankind had not given us tears, those being saved would be few indeed and hard to find.”

May our tears be shed at the feet of the cross and may it water our faith as well.

The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip by Sara Brunsvold — Book Review

This Christian novel tells the story of a young reporter, Aidyn Kelley, who is given what seems to be a lowly job — writing an obituary for a hospice patient with no family. At first, she is uncomfortable visiting with Clara (Mrs. Kip) and wants to quickly get the facts so that she can be done with her assignment. Gradually, over the course of a week, she comes to see Clara as an inspiring role model. Although Clara never left her home in Kansas, her life was an adventure that had long term effects on her community and even the world. As the author puts it:

“Sometimes we do things in life without knowing what ripples flow from it long afterward”

This is a light and enjoyable read, that manages to depict the process of dying without too much sugar-coating. You’ll get a bit of history about the war in Vietnam and what happened to in the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal. It will encourage readers to look back over their own lives to see how God has been at work, and trust in Him to work out His purposes even during the times that seem bleak.

VERDICT: 4 STARS. To understand the title, you’ll have to read the book for yourself!

For more Christian novels see these posts:

white picket fences by Susan Meissner–Book Review

By Her Own Design by Piper Huguley–Book Review

The Souls of Lost Lake by Jaime Jo Wright–Book Review

A Beautiful Metaphor/Analogy/Simile

I’m still an English major at heart, and I love this short paragraph I came across in my recent reading. The author is using figures of speech creatively to compare human life and death to the life cycle of a leaf. Sometimes God saves the best part for the end.

“A leaf is a silent proverb. Did you ever consider that? When it buds on the tree, people rejoice. Throughout its prime, they love it for the shade it provides. But only when it reaches the end of its time on the tree does brilliance come through. Sometimes yellow, sometimes orange, sometimes deep read. Dazzling in its artistry, like a drop of sunset you can see at all hours of the day …A leaf has the most extraordinary death. There is so much beauty in it.”

From The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip by Sara Brunsvold

P.S. I’ll be reviewing the book in an upcoming post.

For more quotes about death see these posts:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Death

Martin Luther on the Pain of Death

Martin Luther on God’s Victory Over Death

A Funeral Prayer

This is the prayer that is used at the closing of many Lutheran funeral services. It is included in “Minsterial Acts” published by the AFLC.

“Almighty, everlasting God, because of our sin we must die and return to the ground, so teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Grant us a true faith in Your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who was delivered for our offenses, was raised again for our justification and reigns to all eternity. Help us by Your grace that we may die daily unto sin and live according to Your Holy Will, so that when the hour of death shall come, we may be prepared through faith in Your Word for a peaceful departure. Receive our souls unto Yourself, and grant that at the last day our bodies may rise again from the grave unto everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

For more posts about prayer see:

Eleanor Roosevelt — A Wise Prayer

An Ignatian Prayer

Samuel Johnson’s Prayer of Confession

Scripture Verses for a Funeral

Just as you may choose particular hymns for a funeral service, the pastor may ask if there are any Scripture verses you want included. Of course, there are suggestions included along with whatever guide the pastor is using to lead the service. I checked out my husband’s copy of “Ministerial Acts.” The service is intended to lead us through what the bible teaches about sin, death and judgement; the need to be prepared for death; the truth of resurrection and eternal life; and what can give us comfort. Here are some of the citations if you would like to look them up:

Psalm 90:2-6; 12

Romans 5:12 and Hebrews 9:27

Luke 12:35-37;40

John 11;25-26

1 Corinthians 15:51-57

John 14:1-7

Revelation 21:1-4

However, you may choose other verses that are special to you or your loved one. Here are the readings I would like at my funeral and why I chose them.

Old Testament Reading Job 19:23-27 – I have confidence in God and look forward to seeing Him face to face)

“Oh, that my words were recorded,
    that they were written on a scroll,
24 that they were inscribed with an iron tool on[b] lead,
    or engraved in rock forever!
25 I know that my redeemer[c] lives,
    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.[d]
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
    yet[e] in[f] my flesh I will see God;
27 I myself will see him
    with my own eyes—I, and not another.
    How my heart yearns within me!

New Testament Reading (this is my life verse, like the hymn it inspires and motivates me.  I have had so many faithful witnesses in my life and I give thanks for them) Hebrews 12:1-3  Please use this verse in preaching the funeral sermon.

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Psalm 16 (like David, I have had a blessed life and I praise and thank God for all of it)

miktam[a] of David.

Keep me safe, my God,
    for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    apart from you I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
    “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
    I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods

    or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Gospel Reading John 3: -8 ( I always identified with Nicodemus.  I think I would have wanted to learn more about this Jesus, but I would have been cautious and not made up my mind quickly)

1 Now there came a man of the Pharisees whose name was Nicodemus, a member of the council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could do the miraculous signs that you do unless God were with him.”

3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter his mother’s womb and be born a second time, can he?”

5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

This has been a rather long post, but I hope readers will find it helpful. Remember your funeral is the last opportunity you have to influence others for Christ. Use it wisely!

Hymns for a Funeral

What hymns would you like people to sing at your funeral? My husband, a pastor, says when he asks people if their loved one had a favorite hymn, or if a particular hymn would be comforting to the family, they have no clue. Maybe this is something we should be talking about or choosing ahead of time. But how to choose?

Some people may have a hymn they associate with a special event — their confirmation, or wedding for example. Others may love a hymn that brings back memories of their childhood, one that was a favorite with their family or home church.

Most hymnals (at least the Lutheran ones I am familiar with) have a section listing hymns that are appropriate for funerals. Here are a few I found listed:

*Abide with Me

*I’m but a Stranger Here

*For All the Saints

*I Know That My Redeemer Lives

*I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb

*The King of Love My Shepherd Is

Almost any Easter hymn would be a good selection. There are many suitable contemporary songs as well. Here are the songs I have selected:

Borning Cry (Because I know God has been with me throughout my entire life)

Hark the Voice of Jesus Calling (this is the one I consider my life hymn – it inspired and motivated me) This should be the sermon hymn.

Til we Meet Again (My wish is that I will meet everyone who is mourning me at my funeral again and that right now I am meeting many loved ones and saints who have gone before)

There is no right or wrong choice but make it meaningful. Again, this is a final chance to testify about your faith and what it has meant to you. Talk to your loved ones or write out some instructions. They’ll be glad you did.

For more funeral songs see these posts:

Funeral Songs

No Scars In Heaven

Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

A Meditation on Death

“Blessed is he who always has the hour of his death before his eyes (Ecclesiastes 7:1), and daily prepares himself to die. If at any time you have seen another man die, remember you must also pass the same way (Hebrews 9:27). When it is morning, think you might not come to eventide. And when it is evening, dare not to promise yourself the morning. Always, therefore, be ready, and so live that death might not take you unprepared, for many die suddenly. When that last hour shall come, you will have a far different opinion of your whole past life and regret you have been so careless and remiss.”

Thomas a Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ

For more by Thomas a Kempis see these posts:

Of the Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis–Book Review

Thomas a Kempis on Union with Christ

Thomas A Kempis on Waiting

Writing a Christian Obituary

Did you ever think of writing your own obituary? In a recent sermon, this suggestion was made by the Pastor. He said we might think of this as the final opportunity to witness to our faith in Christ. If you are a Missouri Synod Lutheran (I’m not but I sometimes visit a Missouri Synod church), you can find examples in the Lutheran Service Book Agenda which your pastor probably owns. You can also find suggestions on-line. Here are some of the things you might include or do:

*The date of your baptism, mentioning it as the day you became a child of God

*The date of your confirmation in the church

*Refer to your marriage and your children as gracious gifts from God

*List the different ways you lived out your Christian faith in service to God in your church, the community and your career

*Refer to death as a home-coming, or the day we went to be with Jesus

You might decide to include an introductory statement such as:

“Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death and brought life and immortality to us through the Gospel. Let us remember with thanksgiving what God has done through His servant ____ “

and/or a closing paragraph like:

“The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord. We give thanks to God our Father through Jesus Christ, our Lord for ______.”

I know not everyone will want to do this, but I thought it was an interesting idea and something to consider. I’d be interested to hear what others think.

For more posts about a witnessing to your faith see these posts:

How To Be A Christian Witness

“O my Lord, I am not eloquent,”

Through the Generations

Martin Luther — A Letter to his Father

This short excerpt is from a letter Martin Luther wrote to his father as he neared death. The words of comfort it gives are still valid today.

“We have yonder a true mediator with God, Jesus Christ, who has overcome death and sin for us and now sits in heaven with all his angels, looking down on us and awaiting us so that when we set out we need to have no fear or care lest we should sink and fall to the ground. He has such great power over sin and death that they cannot harm us, and he is so heartily true and kind that he cannot and will not forsake us, at least if we ask his help without doubting. Jesus has overcome the world and we need not have a care.”

He also added these words. quoting from the Catechism: “Our departure from this life is a smaller thing to God than my journey would be to Mansfeld or yours from Mansfeld to Wittenberg. It is only an hour’s sleep, and after that all will be different. This is most certainly true.”

For more Martin Luther quotes see:

Martin Luther on the Kingdom of God

Martin Luther on Heavenly Blessings

The Hope of Heaven

A Poor Wayfaring Stranger

After writing the post about being a stranger or sojourner on earth, this folk song came to mind. Not a surprise, since it’s based on the same passage in Psalm 119.

“I am a sojourner on the earth …” Psalm 119:19a

The origins of the song are a little murky. During and for several years after the Civil War, it was called the Libby Prison Hymn, because the words had been inscribed by a dying Union soldier incarcerated in Libby Prison, a notorious Confederate prison in Richmond, Virginia. It was said that the soldier composed the song, but this was not true — it had been published several years before the war began. There are many variations of this song, and it has been performed by many artists over the years, a testament to the universal appeal. At times we all feel a longing for our real, heavenly home.

For more gospel music see these posts:

On the Wings of a Dove

Oh Happy Day

Precious Lord Take My Hand