“Ashes to Ashes, and Dust to Dust” That’s what I’m used to hearing at funerals. Well, that and the obligatory Baptist question, “Are you right with the Lord?!” But at a recent funeral I was stunned to hear what I heard. In fact, I was so stunned, that I almost stood up and walked out.
I could forgive the family preacher for mentioning that his brother-in-law was a gunsmith like the deceased, and that he’d made his wife a – well, whatever kind of rifle for valentines day! But, I could not forgive the flippant way he refered to the word of God as “Housekeeping.” In the funeral, the Gospel was never shared. There was no reading of resurrection. What he said was this: “I have to do a little housekeeping, and then we’ll get to the good stuff. I have to read some scripture…” Have to? Some scripture? Housekeeping? Seriously?? I cringed.
He proceeded to read Ecclesiastes 3, “For everything there is a season…” and he made a few vague comparisons about how the deceased had experienced many different seasons in his life. Then he dismissed the scripture like a dirty rag, and got on to what he repeated was “the good stuff!” “Okay, I told you I had to do some housekeeping,” he said. I grabbed the pew, out of instinct, to keep from going all Sampson on his lion!
The deceased was a member of my flock, but no one else in the family was connected. I would say I hope the entire family was engulfed by their grief enough to have missed the offense, but I doubt it. “How could you?” I sat there asking. “How could you have such a weak esteem for the witness of the Gospel?” My heart pounded as a considered what my seminary professors might say; those who helped me appreciate the sacredness of the word. My blood boiled as I thought of my Episcopalian friends who walk the Gospel down the aisle to the center of the congregation to read it because it’s THAT important! My lips worked, over and over again, and I clamped my mouth shut tight, as I tried to re-imagine what I would have done from that pulpit. Never before had I heard such a universal dismissal of the resurrection at the exact point where people need to hear the resurrection. Instead it was decided for them, that they needed the self-serving, ego friendly, fluff and convenience of dispensing with the “Housekeeping” of scripture so they could get to the good stuff…that wasn’t even very good!
“Where is the humanity?” I cried! Where is the sacredness of life? Where is the holiness of struggling with life and death itself? Where is the proclamation that death has been defeated, and life is renewed day by day? THAT is the good stuff!