Happy Funerals

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He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

Being an Infected Saint means facing the reality that we are all going to die. Infected saints are positionally perfect in Christ but still battle with sin. Unless Christ returns first, death is inevitable. Rarely does anyone look forward to dying. As Christians we get much more excited about the thought of resurrecting with a perfect body. I can’t imagine me with a perfect body. That is Heaven! But seriously, you cannot know the joy of the resurrection without first knowing the pain of death.  It is only out of death that something beautiful resurrects.

I read an article in Christianity Today (March 2016) recently on Christian trend towards “happy funerals.” Christian funerals are encouraged to have a positive spin: they are in a better place;  they feel no more pain; you need to move on while cherishing the memories.  More upbeat songs are being played at funerals. There has even been a change in clothing. Dark suits have been replaced with something more upbeat and casual. The goal is more celebration, more moments of joy. I get that.  Jesus brings victory over death. Death is not the final word for a believer. That is cause for celebration. Yet, joy should not replace our grief. It is not only ok to hurt; it is necessary.

If not careful, we could be in danger of brushing over the truth about death. Death is loss. It is a time for grieving. Shortest verse of the Bible shows Jesus weeping over the loss of his friend, Lazarus (John 11:35). Was Jesus showing a lack of faith? Did Jesus not know death was not the final word for Lazarus? Why didn’t Jesus celebrate? Jesus knew that Lazarus would walk again in a few moments from then, yet He still wept tears of grief. Jesus felt great sorrow. His tears were not just for His friend but for the necessity of pain and death because of sin. Death is a constant reminder of the destructive nature of sin. Jesus wept for it.

Hope should be apparent in a Christian funeral. As the word says, we “grieve but not as those without hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Yet, we are no different than any lost person who loses someone they care about. In fact being Christian means we understand better how to love and so our pain might be felt even deeper than the nonbeliever. That pain should not be ignored. Not letting yourself feel or express the pain is not a mark of spiritual achievement but a denial of the reality of loss. We need to deal honestly with our pain. We hurt because we cared. We need to feel that, experience it, and let it come through in whatever way it wants. Grieving is not a sign of doubt, but serves as evidence that you loved deeply.

Death reminds us of the tension between living in this age and the age to come. Infected saints know that this world is not home. We look forward to the afterlife but face the reality that we have to pass through death to get there. Death is necessary for resurrection. Resurrection is our hope. Death might be imminent but it is not the final word!

We should celebrate our hope in Christ at a funeral but not to the dismissal of our pain. So if you lose someone you love, grieve deeply. It’s ok. Don’t lose hope while you grieve, but do not feel guilty for hurting deeply. Jesus did and so should we.

A TRIBUTE TO AARON CARL TORIAN

 

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While I only met him once, Aaron Carl Torian grew up in the church, Heartland Worship Center (AKA Bible Baptist Church) in Paducah, Kentucky, where I am one of the pastors. I never knew him except for a quick hello here and there but I heard about him often. I heard how he had immense passion for his country and that many of his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan were due to his volunteering. Aaron understood that freedom had a price. He was willing to sacrifice it all to protect that freedom for you and me.

While I’ll never know exactly all that he did, I know that he was a sniper and that his rank was a Master Sergeant. I read how he was named 2005 2nd Marine Division’s Noncommissioned Officer of the Year for his actions during Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004.  I know that he was well respected by all who spoke of him and that he received great honors over his career. The word is on the street that he saved several lives of other soldiers and civilians. That he risked his life for their benefit.

There is a lot I don’t know about Aaron but I do know this… He is a Hero. A hero is someone who gives his or her life to something greater than themselves. That was Aaron. He was adored by his mom and step-dad. Adored by his children. Adored by his church. He is not just a hero because he died doing what he loved, defending our country. He was a hero before that. My guess is all his brothers who served with him would tell you that we in the states only know a small fraction of all the reasons Aaron is a hero. The sacrifices he made. The courage it must have taken to go where he went and to do what he was called to. The brotherhood he shared that very few will ever experience.

I wish I had known him better. I wish I could have spent time with him to see what motivated him. I wish I could have been inspired personally by his passion. To be challenged by his discipline. To be a better person because I spent time with him. When I heard he was killed in service my heart broke as if he were someone very close to me. When heroes die we all feel the weight of it. We know that we have lost someone significant to the very world we know.

Most of all I am thankful for Aaron’s faith. That he put his ultimate trust in Jesus Christ. There is nothing that brings more joy to my heart and to the heart of those who knew Aaron than to know he is now in Heaven. A place where there is no more suffering, no more tears, no more pain. A place that Aaron will be able to rest and enjoy His Lord for all eternity. I will see you one day Aaron and I will be honored to call you a brother and to enjoy the presence of the Lord with you for all eternity. For now I honor you and remember your sacrifice for me and my family. Thanks for reminding me what constitutes being a hero.

To his wife, Jurley, and his children, Elijah, 9, Laura Bella, 4, and Avery, 2, we will do our part to remember well the man you called Husband and Father. Thank you for your sacrifice and know that his memory will live on in the hearts of a nation.