Last week was a first for me in that I performed my first funeral. One reason that it was a challenge is that I haven't even attended that many funerals in my life. I had to rely on the experience of other pastors and what I read in books to help me out.
This all happened because I have been preaching lately at a local Baptist church that is without a pastor. A couple approached me after the evening service last Sunday and asked if I could perform the woman's mother's funeral. I wanted to help them out so I said, "Yes." Then I began to worry a bit.
It turns out that this was a great first funeral for me to perform. Why? First of all, the deceased lady was saved. Second, she was 90-years-old. Third, the funeral was a simple one at the graveside. Last, there did not appear to be any family conflict among those in attendance.
One concern of mine was that I did not know the woman who died. God came to the rescue on that issue, too. Two granddaughters and two great-granddaughters wanted to say something in tribute. This meant that I basically just had to offer a few words of comfort and preach a mini-sermon.
I preached from I Corinthians 15:50-57 and John 14:1-6 and 27. I stressed both the reality of the resurrection of the dead and the peace that Jesus gives. I also took some time to clearly lay out the basics of the gospel message.
The entire service only lasted 15-20 minutes. My main goals were that God be praised, that the family be comforted, and that the gospel be proclaimed. It seems that all three of those things happened. The couple who asked me to perform the funeral was pleased with how things went and were very grateful after the service.
Afterward, I remained there for awhile until almost everyone had departed. Presence is a key in all grief situations. I attempted to give them a chance to talk if they wanted to. I think they were just pleased that I was there.
In some ways this was "on-the-job-training." The great blessing was that God was merciful to me, and honored the proclaiming of his word. It was an experience I doubt I will ever forget.