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Cemetery OHS

Today was the first time I saw this apparatus on which a coffin is placed in order to be lowered into a grave.

Apparently it’s safer that the ground-level apparatus they formerly used.

I suppose the big city cemeteries have been using these for years.

(I imagine they’d also hinder any folk who might be inclined to want to jump in the grave after the coffin as well.)

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The Aroma Of Memory

A funeral for a Christian man, whose life was the aroma of Jesus.

At the graveside his family were given sprigs of rosemary, the herb of remembrance, to cast in the grave.

Holding the herb, squeezing it gently, breathing in the herbaceous sweet woody aroma provided a pause to collect final memories of this man, and of his wife who had preceded him to heaven.

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, … because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”

Philippians 1:3,5

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Please Don’t Make My Funeral About Me (via Nancy Guthrie)

These sorts of posts pop up from time to time and they’re always worth reflecting on, particularly for Christians.
Make sure your family knows you want your funeral to be about Jesus and not about you.
People are under all sorts of pressure to conform to a pattern that makes a funeral all about the deceased and not about the one from whom they can find comfort in loss.
Or worse, a committed Christian may find that family members well meaningly arrange for a minister or celebrant whose idea of a proper funeral for a Christian is to read a variety of sentimental pieces of prose or poetry (with maybe a Bible passage included among them). This can happen if the family don’t have an active faith, and if the person who died has spent a long time in an institution and has become cut off from active church life. A very long and active part of who they are is simply pushed aside because it has been inactive for the season before their death.

Nancy Guthrie lays it all out. And suggests we take the step of writing down everything we want well in advance.
Here’s the intro…

I just got home from another funeral. Seems we’ve gone to more than our share lately. And once again, as I left the church, I pled with those closest to me, “Please don’t make my funeral all about me.”
We were an hour and fifteen minutes in to today’s funeral before anyone read from the scriptures, and further in until there was a prayer. Resurrection wasn’t mentioned until the benediction. There were too many funny stories to tell about the deceased, too many recollections, too many good things to say about the things she accomplished to speak of what Christ has accomplished on her behalf.
But then this wasn’t a funeral. It was a “Celebration of Life.” In fact there was really little mention of death or of the ugly way sickness slowly robbed our friend of everything. Christ and his saving benefits could not be made much of because death and its cruelties were largely ignored.

Read the whole post here.

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The Best Is Yet To Come

Attended the funeral today of a 49 year old husband, father of two and follower of Jesus.
For twenty-one years he lived with the impact of cancers in his head.
For forty-nine years he lived a life that grew and grew in its demonstration of the love of God who loved Him in Christ.
Among many touching and remarkable aspects of the service, this is his favourite song.
We heard it a couple of times.
From Paul Colman.
The best is yet to come.

Here’s a Spotify embed of the song.

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Singing ‘Amazing Grace’ At A Funeral

A lot of the funerals I conduct have me singing what turns out to be virtual solos.
Maybe that’s why this story appealed to me.

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Raising Bethel – A Genesis 28 Funeral Message

Today I conducted funeral for a lady who died in her one hundredth year.
As part of her preparations for the funeral she recorded a request that I sing a solo of Nearer My God To Thee.
In accepting her request it seemed appropriate to read Genesis 28:10-22 and explain the background to the hymn’s distinctive imagery.
The reading describes the situation of Jacob, a man who had sought the blessing of his father and the family birthright, and had achieved these at the cost of his relationships and his safety. His brother wanted to kill him, he had deceived his father, and his indulgent mother could no longer protect him.
He had gained everything he wanted, but, in effect had nothing.
Under the open skies, Jacob beds down for the night on a pillow of rocks, an emblem of the loss, grief and confusion which is now his life.
It is as he sleeps that God reveals himself to Jacob.
All the scheming and deceptions have counted for nothing. It is at this lowest of the low points that God comes to Jacob and reveals the nature of the promises of relationship and blessing which will flow to Jacob and his descendants.
Importantly this is the time during which the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac personally becomes the God of Jacob.
Not when he is at his best. Not when he is at his strongest. Not when all is as Jacob wants everything to be.
But when he is at his worst. When he is at his weaker. When his circumstances are loss, grief and uncertainty.
This pattern is observable throughout the Scriptures. Again and again God reveals Himself to people when they are at their lowest. He includes them in His love when they are most hopeless.
We see this most clearly in the incarnation and redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Immanuel, God with us, comes among those who weren’t seeking him, and who didn’t want to receive him.
God reveals Himself.
What does this say to us?
Well, at times like this, when we grieve the loss of a loved one, when we realise the fragility of our own lives, when we come to understand our inability to get or maintain our own way; when our struggles to achieve our own blessings and sense of peace with God seem futile or fragile, we are in the very place where God can come to us.
God reveals Himself to Jacob as Jacob’s God.
Jacob is able to take the stones which represented shattered dreams and a ruined life, and erect a marker place he calls ‘Bethel’, the house of God, as a demonstration that the place which was the end of his personal dreams was the beginning point of a new life in which God’s plans take the forefront in his life.
The sadness, loss, confusion and grief which we experience at this funeral can also be the marking point of a new season of life, what we experience now as a ruin of grief can be the time when God makes Himself known to us in redeeming love.
If you seek Him, He will reveal Himself to you, and this time of sadness will become your own Bethel.

Note: In singing the song I added the sixth verse which has been added to the original five stanzas. This verse clarifies the themes of the hymn which I explained above.

Nearer, My God, To Thee
Nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
still all my song shall be,
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
darkness be over me, my rest a stone;
yet in my dreams I’d be
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
There let the way appear, steps unto heaven;
all that thou sendest me, in mercy given;
angels to beckon me
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
Then, with my waking thoughts bright with thy praise,
out of my stony griefs Bethel I’ll raise;
so by my woes to be
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
Or if, on joyful wing cleaving the sky,
sun, moon, and stars forgot, upward I fly,
still all my song shall be,
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
There in my Father’s home, safe and at rest,
There in my Savior’s love, perfectly blest;
Age after age to be,
nearer my God to Thee.
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

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Your Room Is Ready – A John 14 Funeral Message

Yesterday I conducted a funeral which comprised a graveside committal in the morning and a thanksgiving service at mgpc in the afternoon.
In preparation I asked if there was a passage of Scripture that I should read and was told, without hesitation, to use John 14. The reason being that the elderly lady in question had been saying for some time that she expected her new room to be ready and waiting for her, and she was awaiting the transition.
This reminded me of a number of thoughts which I shared with the congregation.

The first of which was a story which a minister named Jack Knapp told me about his stays with my grandparents when he visited the town of Theodore in Queensland to conduct Presbyterian services in the late 1960’s. In his gregarious fashion, Jack would wander in and simply ask if his room was ready for him. And, thanks to the loving hospitality of my grandmother it always was.
The second is that, pretty much universally, we can travel all around the world, stay in places of utmost luxury, have people wait on us to meet our every need, but there is no experience of relaxation equal to feeling your key slip through the tumblers on the lock on your front door, walking in and flopping into your favourite chair.
The third has to do with what a funny construct the notion of home is anyway. I talk to people whose fondest sense of place and home can be attached to a handmade hut with a dirt floor, wood stove and outdoor plumbing they lived in forty years ago. Clearly it is not creature comforts that make a home, but the sense of relationships which those places represent in our memory that are our emotional anchor.
Which leads me to a fourth observation. For some people, home is wherever a particular person they love is located. Home is not so much a place as a relationship.
And I think this is the essential truth Jesus is conveying in John 14. As he prepares the disciples for his death and physical absence from their midst, Jesus is not seeking to comfort them with a view of the age to come which equates heaven to a five-star luxury resort. He’s pointing his disciples to the fact they will have relationships with God that will surpass all the resonances of that security of affection and place which their best memory of home conveys to them in this life. The Christian eternal hope is essentially relational, not locative.
On what basis does Jesus make that promise? Isn’t it impertinent, presumptuous and rude to simply walk into a place and behave as if it is home? How can we simply assume a relationship of love and acceptance with the Creator? Most of us fall into the pattern of adding up our lists of what we’ve done right and what we’ve done wrong, hoping the what we’ve done right list is longer, or contains sufficient merit so as to outweigh the what we’ve done wrong list. There can be a lot of uncertainty in that process if we’re honest with ourselves.
That’s what is so wonderful about Jesus’ words of assurance in John 14. He says that he’s the one who is going ahead to prepare a place, to make that relationship. And that he is the one who takes us there, who brings us into that relationship. The cross and resurrection describe his achievements in that regard.
All we need to do is recognise our need, set aside our own efforts and trust in him. Trust that Jesus is the reason why we’re acceptable to God and welcomed into relationship with Him.
Whatever season of life we are currently in, trusting in Jesus for our relationship with the Father, home is always waiting, a father’s love receives us.
Our room is always ready.