For most laypeople, sermons are a bit like sausage. If it ends up good, they don’t care how it was made. I totally understand if some aren’t particularly wowed by this post or its title. But yet, I think it is important to talk about preaching funerals sermons. For if there is a place when even a generally faithful preacher can end up doing something really awful, it is in a funeral sermon.
So how do I write a funeral sermon? Well in a funeral sermon, I tell the story of every man and woman redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. What do I mean? Well, I always speak of these things:
1. The person being brought out of darkness into light through the hearing of the Word and Holy Baptism.
2. The person being kept in the faith by the Spirit through Word and Sacrament in the Church. Their constant need of forgiveness for their sins is here mentioned. Here Jesus crucified for sins is the core message.
3. The person bearing fruit by the power of the Holy Spirit. Here is where memories of vocations well-lived fit in the sermon. These are told directing the glory back to God. Also sometimes the fruit mentioned is worthy of imitation by those in attendance, especially being gathered regularly to Jesus and his gifts.
4. The person being dead. We must deal with this reality. Here is where I address mourning and the mortality of humanity. Here we recognize sin and death’s connection. We also here mention briefly the blessed nature of the rest of the dead in Christ.
5. The person bring raised up on the last day. This alone is our hope in the face of death. Here Jesus risen from the dead is the core message.
I think skipping any of these points does not accurately describe the life of one redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. And when we do not characterize the Christian life well at a funeral, people end up with all sorts of ideas about life and death.
I doubt anyone listening to one of my funeral sermons would say, “Hey that is the same sermon you preached for my uncle last year.” I use the words of the text to craft each sermon with different images and emphasizes. And sometimes, there is something from the memories shared that can also be use as a metaphor for the Christian life. When that exists, I use it to wrap the Law and Gospel up in a package familiar to the hearers. But essentially every funeral sermon ends up with those five points. This is how I write a funeral sermon.