So, I attended a funeral today at a "Community" Church nearby. I knew the preacher (who also works part-time at a local funeral home - he does a fine job there). I find I don't like going to non-lutheran funerals in general - they tend to make me angry. False Doctrine does that.
Today, though, I ended up being more reflective. It wasn't horrible (it wasn't a solid Lutheran service), but it could have been worse. But even with an okay service, here is what I noticed.
1. "A Celebration of Life" is Law. A lot of times churches now hesitate to call funerals funerals. They think this is too depressing, and instead, we "celebrate the life of the deceased." The thing is. . . they are dead. Yes, the deceased was wonderful. . . and right now, I don't have that wonderful anymore. Yes, those times were good. . . but they gone now and so are those times. To simply celebrate the life is to highlight a gift that is gone. There's nothing wrong with celebrating the life - in fact, it is good to reflect and give thanks to God for the blessings we have received - but that reflection never will give comfort - it will always be a bittersweet celebration, and the bitter taste is the one that will linger.
2. Losing the Liturgy means losing prayer. So the preacher told us before hand that the service wasn't going to be "liturgical" -- oh, there would be an order, but it would just sort of flow. And we entered, and there was a song, and then there was an ex-corde prayer (including the preacher wanting help to get through the service), and then a reading of the obituary that was interspliced with personal comment and reflections (and I guess life-celebrations), and then we looked at pictures while the Carpenters (the band) sang. Then there was - I guess it was a sermon (at least the hope of heavenly reunion although not a lot of focus on Christ) - then another prayer - then a hymn, then "Still the One" by Shania Twain. . . and that was it.
The big thing I noticed is that there was. . . so little prayer. Everything in the Liturgy is prayer - we are constantly calling upon God in prayer whenever we speak in Church. And that was. . . just not there. It just made me appreciate the impact of a liturgical life on my ability to pray.
3. A guiding of emotion or a proclamation of the Word? Whenever I have a service, my thought is to proclaim the Word of God - any service. At a funeral, it is proclaim the death and resurrection of Christ for the sake of the deceased, to proclaim that they now live in the presence of God. It is bold, it is decisive. I don't worry about things that I don't know (I may mention them in passing) - I declare the Word of God. It is declarative, it is authoritative.
What I heard today seemed more to be a guiding of emotional responses through the grieving process (or at least to get it started). The emotion of the preacher was much more clearly presented - and he put himself in the position of being with us, not just in an empathetic way, but in a participatory way. And the movement of the service was in moving us to good feeling, good memories.
On all these things, I am glad I am a liturgical Lutheran.