Planning a Christian Funeral

A Christian funeral service is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and an opportunity to remember and give thanks for the life of the one who has died. The heart of a funeral is always the promise of resurrection and new life in Christ. This Gospel “good news” provides hope and comfort to all who worship, and proclaims Christ as Lord of both the living and the dead. Therefore, we strive to ensure that the music, Scripture, message, prayer, and liturgy all lead to a celebration of the resurrection.

 

Location of Worship Service

Baptized members of Grace are strongly encouraged to hold worship at the church. This is where the people of God regularly gather to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. Holding the service in the church helps all who attend more clearly understand that what we do at a funeral is worship.

 

Funeral Pall

For those funerals where a casket is present, a white cloth covering called a funeral “pall” is placed over the casket before it is brought into the sanctuary at the beginning of the worship. The pall symbolizes the righteousness of Christ that covers us through our Baptism (Romans 6:3-5). The funeral pall reminds us that we enter the church through holy baptism and that we leave this world clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

 

Scripture Readings

Scripture read at funerals or memorial services reflect our hope and trust in Jesus Christ and His promises to us. A funeral service often has three readings from the Holy Scriptures. If the deceased had favorite Bible passages, please let the Pastor know. The following are possible selections of scripture for funeral services. References in bold are more familiar.

 

Psalms

Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd

Psalm 25:1-5, 15-20 Guard my soul and deliver me

Psalm 27 I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord

Psalm 42 Let them bring me to your holy hill

Psalm 46 The Lord of hosts is with us

Psalm 65:1-8 Blessed is the one you choose and bring near

Psalm 90 Satisfy us with your steadfast love

Psalm 118:1-21 This is the gate of the Lord

Psalm 121 My help comes from the Lord

Psalm 130 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord

Psalm 139 When I awake I am still with you

Psalm 143 For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life

Psalm 146 I will praise the Lord as long as I live

 

Old Testament Readings

Job 19:21-27 Job confesses his faith in the resurrection

Isaiah 25:6-9 The Lord God will swallow up death forever

Isaiah 26:1-4 Your dead will live

Isaiah 35:3-10 Sorrow and sighing will flee away

Isaiah 40:6-11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd

Isaiah 40:27-31 He gives strength to the weary

Isaiah 43:1-3a, 25 Fear not….you are mine

Isaiah 49:13-16 I will not forget you

Isaiah 61:1-3, 10 To comfort all who mourn

Isaiah 65:17-25 New heavens and a new earth

Lamentations 3:22-33 His compassions never fail

 

New Testament Readings

Romans 5:1-11 Christ died for us.

Romans 6:3-10 Baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection

Romans 8:31-39 Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ

Romans 14:7-9 Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord

1 Cor. 15:20-26 In Christ all will be made alive

1 Corinthians 15:51-57 Death is swallowed up in victory

2 Corinthians 4:13-18 The one who raised Jesus from the dead will raise us

2 Cor. 5:1-10 Away from the body and at home with the Lord

Ephesians 2:1, 4-10 God made us alive with Christ, by grace

Philippians 3:20-21 Our citizenship is in heaven

Colossians 3:1-4 You have been raised with Christ

1 Thess. 4:13-18 The dead in Christ will rise first

Hebrews 2:14-18 By His death he destroyed death

Hebrews 12:1-3 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus

1 Peter 1:3-9 A living hope through the resurrection of Christ

1 John 3:1-2 We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is

Revelation 7:9-17 Standing before the throne in front of the Lamb

Revelation 14:13 Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord

Revelation 21:1-7 A new heaven and a new earth

Revelation 22:1-5 The Lord God will be their light

 

Gospel Readings

Matthew 5:1-12 Blessed are you….

Matthew 11:25-30 Rest for the weary

Mark 10:13-16 Little children are brought to Jesus

Mark 15:33-39; 16:1-6 Jesus’ death and resurrection

Luke 2:25-32 Lord, let your servant to in peace

Luke 2:36-38 Anna spoke to all looking forward to the redemption

Luke 7:11-17 Jesus raises the young man of Nain

Luke 23:44-49; 24:1-6a Jesus’ death and resurrection

John 3:16-18 God so love the world

John 5:24-30 He has passed over from death to life

John 6:27-40 I will raise him up at the last day

John 10:11-16 I am the good shepherd

John 10:27-30 I give them eternal life

John 11:17-27 I am the resurrection and the life

John 14:1-6 I am the way, the truth, and the life

 

Funeral Music

The music at your funeral certainly can reflect your personal preferences, but it should also proclaim the hope we have in Christ through the resurrection. Secular music is not appropriate for worship, but could be played at the meal time and/or at the funeral home visitation. Ask yourself, “Does this music give glory to God and witness to our hope in Jesus Christ?” If it does, then it is appropriate for your funeral worship service.

 

Congregational Hymns

Hymns that the congregation sings are strongly encouraged. Singing gives expression to our faith by proclaiming our hope in our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God uses our singing to lift us up and bring us hope. Select hymns that are both easily sung and commonly known. Typically, three hymns are sung at a funeral service. Listed below are just some of the hymns that you might consider. All of these hymns are from Lutheran Service Book, the worship book we use here at Grace Lutheran Church. If you have other suggestions, please speak with the Pastor.

 

878 Abide with Me

744 Amazing Grace

656 A Mighty Fortress

537 Beautiful Savior

676 Behold the Host Arrayed in White

649 Blest Be the Tie That Binds

725 Children of the Heavenly Father

605 Father Welcomes

677 For All the Saints O Lord

809 Great Is Thy Faithfulness

918 Guide Me Ever, Great Redeemer

728 How Firm a Foundation

801 How Great Thou Art

740 I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb

461 I Know That My Redeemer Lives!

748 I’m But a Stranger Here

427 In the Cross of Christ I Glory

457 Jesus Christ Is Risen Today

588 Jesus Loves Me!

570 Just As I Am, without One Plea

837 Lift High the Cross

700 Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

702 My Faith Looks Up to Thee  

575 My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less

465 Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds

733 O God, Our Help in Ages Past

761 Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me

711 Savior, like a Shepherd Lead Us

709 The King of Love My Shepherd Is

710 The Lord’s My Shepherd

680 Thine the Amen

770 What a Friend We Have in Jesus

730 What Is the World to Me

763 When Peace, like a River

See also LSB Hymns 670-680 and 741-765

 

Other Music

Soloists or instrumentalists can be a part of praising God at funerals or memorial services. While it is okay to have a friend or relative provide such music, they should have the music abilities necessary and the emotional strength to sing or play at a time when they may be grieving. Again, only music that reflects our trust in Christ and His promises to us is appropriate at a funeral. One or two solos can be sung as a part of your funeral service. Please check with Pastor before making a final decision.

 

In Closing …

For the Christian, death is not the last word. Love incarnate is stronger than death (John 11:25). Christ’s death and resurrection proclaim that victory belongs to life. Jesus calls His disciples to follow Him through death to life. That journey begins in the death and resurrection that happens in Holy Baptism. The burial rites take the Christian on the last steps of this journey to the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.

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