Death will strike your congregation. Are you ready? Are they?
Death has become a four-letter word. Whereas in previous generations, the practice of memento mori (“remember death”) was embedded in family life, people today have found ways to distance themselves from death. As Western culture becomes increasingly more secular, the Christian understanding of death and the funeral appear more and more strange.
Fear of death affects us all, and so pastors have significant hurdles to overcome. What Christians need today is a renewed vision of the traditional Christian funeral liturgy. In Funerals, Tim Perry recovers the rich theology inherent to the Christian funeral: communion with the saints in death, peace in forgiveness, hope in the resurrection, and joy in life eternal. Perry guides pastors through the practice of funerals, from planning the service to preaching the eulogy, and offers wisdom for the hard cases.
Perry’s Funerals will help pastors disciple their people to see through the valley of the shadow of death and into the hope beyond.
This is the best of pastoral theology: wise at discerning the times, gentle in its recommendations for the care of souls, incendiary as it fires the pastoral vocation all over again. Reading Funerals will remind you why you wanted to be a pastor in the first place.
—Jason Byassee, Butler Chair in Homiletics and Biblical Interpretation, The Vancouver School of Theology; author of Surprised by Jesus Again
If any book deserved to be a bestseller, this mini-masterpiece is the one. Who would have thought something titled Funerals could be so good? Perry teaches us not only about funerals but about the entirety of Christian dying and living. Pastorally wise, theologically sane, and beautifully written, this book should be Christianity Today’s book of the year.
—Matthew Levering, James N. and Mary D. Perry Jr. Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary; author of Dying and the Virtues
Opening this book is like walking through a narrow door into a banquet hall. Funerals is not a “how to” book but a rich table of theology, history, biblical and practical methods in caring for souls. The writing is compelling and engaging. A rare and much needed book for these days and the future. A must for all pastors.
—Jo Anne Lyon, general superintendent emerita, The Wesleyan Church
“Christian understanding of death is not nearly so instrumental and certainly not as deifying as the one just described. Neither does it trivialize or objectify it. In the Christian imagination, death presents us with the mystery of life held in the hands of God—life that is not our own, that is fragile and limited. It presents death as the great severer of all loving relationships, as the punishment for sin, and as the final enemy. That’s the bad news. And it’s where we must begin.” (Page 38)
“Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius, perhaps the greatest emperor of pagan Rome, phrased it aptly: ‘Do not act as if you had ten thousand years to throw away. Death stands at your elbow. Be good for something while you live and it is in your power.’2 On this much at least, Christian faith and Stoic philosophy agree. Death is inevitable and ought to impinge upon how we live this life.” (Pages 23–24)
“‘You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd,’ wrote Flannery O’Connor. Christians in the West are at the start of a journey into oddness that will persist for quite some time. I am convinced Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is right to say that this is part of a purifying process through which the church will emerge chastened, holy, and smaller.” (Pages 12–13)
“Grieving people have little difficulty talking about a wonderful afterlife, even if they don’t actually believe in it.” (Page 28)
“And that means, when we walk with a spouse, a child, or a family through the valley of the shadow of death, we are going to need to recover and teach them an old language and reinvigorate a set of practices to help them make sense of what they are going through.” (Page 8)
The Lexham Ministry Guides, edited by Harold L. Senkbeil, offer practical, proven wisdom for the church. But wisdom takes time. The authors in this series developed their wisdom through years of ministry experience and conversations with colleagues. These books invite you to enter into these conversations to better serve the Savior’s sheep and lambs with confidence. You will find hands-on tools, lessons from years of ministry experience, and an array of resources to apply to your own ministry context.
Learn more about the other titles in this series.
Tim Perry (PhD, Durham University) is adjunct professor of theology at Saint Paul University (Ottawa, Ontario) and Trinity School for Ministry (Ambridge, Pennsylvania). He is author of Mary for Evangelicals: Toward an Understanding of the Mother of Our Lord and editor of The Theology of Benedict XVI: A Protestant Appreciation.
Harold L. Senkbeil is executive director emeritus of DOXOLOGY: The Lutheran Center for Spiritual Care. His pastoral experience of nearly five decades includes parish ministry, the seminary classroom, and parachurch leadership. He is author of numerous books, including award-winning The Care of Souls, Christ and Calamity, and Dying to Live.