Eulogy and eulogies. Or, the difference between good words and the Good Word.
I'm fresh from my father-in-law's funeral, so this may be a bit personal. I know there's a wide range of opinions out there, but my own is that I don't much like eulogies (lower case) at funerals. Other places fine, but not in the church service. Sure, I like hearing about the deceased and learning more about the person and having the service warmed by the personal reflections and recollections shared by loved ones and friends. But as they brought my father-in-law's casket in, I realized that all the good memories of him would not bring him back. I also had this little check in the pit of my being reminding me that I, too, would one day share a similar fate. I needed a different kind of Word at that moment to give me hope.
There were three remembrances given – four if you count what was shared by the preacher. What was said was all good in its own way. But each person was doing what we all do in such instances – they were speaking of their own personal experiences of the man I once had the privilege of asking for his daughter's hand in marriage. My experience may have overlapped theirs, but it was different. My relationship was different as a son-in-law than my wife's as a daughter or my kids' as a grandson or granddaughter. And it was different from the relationship my father-in-law enjoyed with his friends or with his wife or with his brothers.
All that to say that when someone gives a eulogy – a good word about the departed – it will never be the words I would speak if I were to give the eulogy. All relationships are different. And good words about the life of someone we are all missing doesn't really get at the pressing issue on the table (or in the casket). I mean, who has a eulogy that will give a definitive answer to death?
And then what about those who have no friends or family? I've been to a few dismally attended services. If no one is there to share a good word on the departed's behalf is there therefore no hope for such a person?
But I digress a bit. Given the totality of yesterday's service, I must say that I am so thankful for the gift of music. I am especially thankful for my dear friends Rich, Matthew, Melanie, Chris and Rachel, who lent their musical gifts to help us worship. The blend and volume were such that I felt enfolded in the music. I just closed my eyes and let the songs work on my heart. And I found the Good Word there. A Eulogy with a capital E. I heard these good words: (sung to Jesus):
Death could not hold You
The veil tore before You
You silence the boast of sin and grave
The heavens are roaring
The praise of Your glory
For You are raised to life again
You have no rival
You have no equal
Now and forever God You reign
Yours is the kingdom
Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name above all names
What a powerful Name it is...
The Name of Jesus Christ my King
What a powerful Name it is...
Nothing can stand against
Nothing means nothing. Not the cruelty of suffering, not old age, not coronaviruses, not death itself can stand against the power and love of my Lord Jesus. And then these words:
Tho' Satan should buffet tho' trials should come
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate
And hath shed His own blood for my soul
My sin O the bliss of this glorious tho't
My sin not in part but the whole
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more
Praise the Lord praise the Lord O my soul
And Lord haste the day when the faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend
Even so it is well with my soul
I love my father-in-law. I will always cherish the times I shared with him. But what I needed yesterday was not a word about him, but a word about Him who is the Word and who took on flesh to rescue me from sin and death. It was that Eulogy which gave me courage and comfort and hope and peace.