I read an article in Modern Reformation magazine some time back that really clarified and crystallized something which had long been a sense inside me without words to express it.
The article marked the contemporary trend of replacing traditional funerals with "celebration of life" ceremonies.
I understand a person's desire to memorialize the loved one who has passed on and the mournful, morbid, dark, and haunting feeling of attending a funeral. A dead body in full view. A body that once was animated and vibrant and given the image of God by which to operate and experience life and influence (for better or for worse) the lives of others.
However, it robs people of their right to grieve. To invite people to a formal gathering in the name of the person now passed and ask them to be joyful is unBiblical and a pervision of the process. For a pastor to insist that the gatherers do not mourn or weep for their loved one is in a better place is an insult to the current pain of loss (especially when this sermon is preached with a broad brush, i.e. everyone's loved ones get cuts in the line to Heaven the moment they are dead).
My purpose here is not to indict unbelievers of their burial practices. They are not concerned with honoring God with their lives, thoughts, practices, or deaths.
Christians should mourn. Not like everyone else, but mourn none the less.
Death is horrible. It is a result of sin. It is the earthly destination of every single one of us born as sons and daugthers of Adam, our first father. Funerals remind us that we will someday die. It is good for us to ponder these deep things. It anchors us in reality. Real reality.
Even the author of Eccelsiastes knew that a funeral and a party are two different things and they have different purposes. There is a time to party and a time to cry.
Celebrations of life blur that difference and rob both of their function in drawing us near to God. I know that God loves joy and singing and dancing and partying. The Scripture is full of these images and a great wedding banquet awaits those saved by grace through faith in Jesus.
I am not worried that we will forget to party if we attend the occassional funeral. My concern is that if we turn funerals into FUNerals we may never mourn or think about all of that which is so deep and accessible primarily through the experience of sadness, reflection, and somberness.
I know we want to put on our church face and be happy Christians who are untouchable in a world of people far too touched by everything and everyone else (Snap!). But Christians are not called to be stoic, statuesque monsters who are absent of any real emotion other than spray on smiles.
Jesus wept. We should too. Not always, but sometimes.