Funerals are meant for the dead and for those who mourn. For those who have died in Christ, we pray "rest eternal grant her/him, O Lord; and let light perpetual shine upon her/him." For those who mourn, we pray “God support us all the day long of life, strengthen us in our weakness, calm our troubled spirits, and dispel our doubts and fear.”
We pray assured that God always remembers and keeps God’s promises, even as we seek to remember and live God’s promise of new life.
When we were baptized into Christ Jesus, God granted us life — the same life of Christ raised from the dead. Nothing separates us from that love, from that life. Funerals point to God having destroyed the power of death, God’s never-ending commitment to be with us always, even in our eternal resting places. Each time we visit the final resting places of our beloved dead — in fact, each time we commend ourselves to God — God invites us to hear that promise anew.
Funerals are founded on the joys of Easter. The community that gathers for a funeral is an Easter community, witnessing to Christ’s resurrection in the promise of life for the one who has just died. Easter joy, however, does not make human grief unchristian. The love we have for each other brings deep sorrow when parted by death. Jesus himself wept at the grave of his friend, Lazarus.
Sorrow is best expressed within community, allowing the community to offer the love of Christ to those who mourn. The community is also the place in which faith is affirmed: by the power of God’s love, we shall one day be brought to our beloved and to God.
A columbarium in the Sanctuary of Saint Peter’s Church contains the remains of many people. It witnesses to God’s promise to gather into one body all who dwell here and in the nearer presence of God. In Communion, this body is formed and shares in God’s banquet feast of new life. In sprinkling with water, all remember anew God’s baptismal promise of new and eternal life.