Myths about Death: Why Easter Matters

Several individuals, concerned with the statement, “The chief function of a funeral is to care properly for the body of a Christian after death,” suggested that the chief function is rather to preach the Gospel for the comfort of the grieving. I regret framing the question such that these two very important concerns are put in opposition to one another. They are both important. When planning a funeral, neither should be minimized. Proclaiming the Gospel for comfort is honoring the body, and honoring the body is proclaiming the Gospel for comfort.

Rev. Jared Melius

I appreciated the article written by Jared Melius entitled “Myths about Death: Why Easter Matters.” Personally, for me as a pastor, I consider the care of the living my chief responsibility. I can’t do anything for the dead body. Even with care, the body will decay. I see the funeral being for the living.

Rev. Ken Krause
Rockford, Ill.

Thank you for taking on some of the common myths about death (April), especially the myth that death is natural. In my ministry to families who are grieving, I often point out that it is no more natural for children to bury their parents than for parents to bury their children. May our Christian confidence and peace in the face of death never be misunderstood as “acceptance” of it as a natural part of life.

Rev. Steve Stolarczyk
Auburn, Mich.

Just two comments/questions regarding Jared Melius’ fine article “Myths about Death.” First, the dead don’t hear the sermon/Word of God that day. The living do. Second, Rev. 2:10b declares, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life,” and that would seem to be worth celebration. Perhaps, at times, in a sincere attempt to say something strongly, we overstate ourselves.

Rev. M. J. Nicolaus
Thompson Falls, Mont.

The dead in Christ no longer need our prayers, nor to hear the Gospel, nor to be comforted. However, it is of primary importance (chief) that those living and attending a Christian funeral hear the Word to be comforted and rejoice in Christ’s victory over sin, death and hell! The chief function of a Christian funeral is to proclaim Christ and His victory over death for the deceased Christian and for all believers in Christ.

Rev. Paul A. Hartman
Denton, Texas

Thank you so much for the article “Myths about Death: Why Easter Matters.” Rev. Melius helped me feel better about the way I was feeling about my husband’s death in December and upcoming burial and memorial service in May. I have always known that his soul was in heaven but never understood that the body wouldn’t be there until our Lord returns. I feel so much better knowing that even though I grieve and miss my husband, the Lord understands and helps me through.

Ann Mitchell
Red Creek, New York

I thank Rev. Melius for the excellent article on “Myths about Death,” and especially for his dealing with the “resurrection of the body,” as confessed in the Apostles’ Creed. In the Nicene Creed, we also confess our faith in the resurrection of, not just the body, but the “resurrection of the dead,” for just as Jesus is referred to as dwelling in the tomb between His death and resurrection (even though we also know that His soul was, at that time, in the hands of God), so also it is most proper to refer to our deceased Christian loved ones as being at rest in their graves from which “they” will be raised up when Christ returns on the Last Day (John 5:28–19; 1 Thess. 4:13–18).

Rev. Dan Dierks
Schererville, Ind.

Rev. Jared Melius underscored a number of clear biblical truths in the article “Myths about Death: Why Easter Matters” (April). I respectfully disagree with the opinion that it is a myth to call the funeral of a Christian a celebration. Why pit “comfort” against “celebration”? We can label it a “funeral” or a “Celebration of Life,” but if it is a Lutheran service, it will include both comfort and celebration. Consider the powerful hymns listed in the “death and Burial” section of the Lutheran Service Book. Note that many of them are Easter hymns with “alleluias” and exclamation marks! Sure sounds like a celebration of life in Christ to me . . . and that’s precisely why Lutheran services are genuinely comforting!

Dr. Richard Noack
Spring, Texas

Concerning “Myths about Death” in the April 2011 Witness: During my mother Velda’s final days, she asked me to help plan her funeral service. “None of this ‘celebration of life’ business. A Buddist or Muslim can celebrate life. This life is a veil of tears. I want to celebrate what Jesus has done for me so I get a new life!” she boldly said. Go, Mama!

Glenda Schuft
Glencoe, Minn.

I thoroughly disagree that it is a myth to consider the funeral of a Christian a celebration of life. Jesus died and rose again, and when he returns He will raise us to live with Him forever. That is our proclamation at funerals, and those are the words Paul encourage us to comfort each other with (1 Thess. 4:18), and if that is not a celebration of the life we have in Christ, I don’t know what is.

Rev. John Stennfeld
Austin, Texas

The following is in response to the article in the April 2011 issue, “Myths about Death: Why Easter Matters.” The author declares, “The chief function of a funeral is to care properly for the body of a Christian after death.” To be sure, caring for the body is important but not, as Melius states, the Pastor’s chief responsibility. Undertakers generally do a fine job of caring the body. Let the pastor make his chief function the proclamation and application of God’s Word to those who are saddened by the loss of a loved one!

David A. Kluge
Baltimore, Md.

Thanks for your article about death. As a church, we have slid on the slippery slide on the pastoral practices on death. The resurrection is the number one doctrine of the Christian faith. Many of our pastoral practices have misled our people on what our doctrine is on death. I was hoping that the practice of cremation would be in your article. As the Fritz’s Pastoral Theology states: “Cremation is a heathenish custom…The Bible way of disposing of those who have died in the Lord is by burial.” Yet again thank you for article. Maybe as a church we proclaim the again resurrection of the body until Jesus comes again.

Rev. George Zehnder
Chesterland, Ohio

One particular inaccuracy that cannot go unaddressed would be myth number five where the author writes, “The chief function of a funeral is to care properly for the body of a Christian after death.” He further states, “The family is important, but caring for the dead and confessing Christ is more important still.” In the book Pastoral Theology by John H. C. Fritz, D.D., Fritz quotes regarding funeral sermons, “Reu says, ‘Funeral addresses, which, when they must be held, should always be held for the sake of the living, should contain a public witness to the hope in the resurrection, a last tribute of love, and a solemn reminder of the inexorable hour of death.’” For the pastor, proclaiming the Resurrection is to take place over everything else. Do you hear it? “He is Risen!” If this critical message ever takes second place to guarding a body, then the real ministry is lost.

Rev. Bill Lowrey
Arlington, Texas


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