As a pastor for over 30 years, I have been a part of many weddings and many funerals. On the surface, few things seem more different that these two events. Weddings are full of life and celebration, and funerals are filled with feelings of pain and separation. Everyone loves a wedding, and most people hope they never have to go to a funeral.
A FUNERAL BECOMES A WEDDING
Recently, I simultaneously experienced the conflicting emotions of a wedding and the anticipation of a funeral on the same weekend. On the way to a wedding, I received word that a dear friend was hours away from death. The weekend was filled with the wedding festivities, and the celebration of the new marriage was joyful and beautiful, but I could not stop thinking about my friend.
When I was able to return home, I went to see him. His eyes were closed, his breathing was shallow, his time on this earth was very short. His family knew I had been at a wedding all weekend, so it came up in conversation. Because we had just spoken of my friend’s funeral service, I accidentally used the word “funeral” instead of “wedding”. We laughed at my slip of the tongue. Then, someone mentioned that it would actually be appropriate to call a wedding a funeral, in a very good way. Immediately, I thought it was also true a funeral could easily be referred to as a wedding.
A wedding is an invitation to a death of self. In the Bible, a man is called to a life of sacrificial love in which he lays down his life for his wife, just as Christ gave His life for the Church. A woman is called to a life of sacrificial love in which she lives as a supportive partner for her husband. Marriage vows are promises to die to ourselves, our desires, and our own interests and to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of another and for the glory of God.
Conversely, when a Christian comes to the moment of death, it could easily be seen as a time of celebration and an experience of a deep intimacy between a Bridegroom and His Bride. Funeral services are often called a “Celebration of Life”. These services celebrate the life that the departed has lived, but also celebrate the life they will enter as the bride, the departed, feasting with her bridegroom, Jesus for all of eternity. As such, death is a transition for believers in Christ into the nearer presence of Jesus to experience a deeper intimacy, a new depth of life itself, and a realm of existence that is far more wonderful than the one that is left behind. An exit here will be a celebration of marriage with Christ in Heaven.
As I thought about these things, it occurred to me that the bottom line is that all of life is found in Christ. As we lay down our lives in marriage, we find the most beautiful and fulfilling lives of love that we can experience. As we pass from this life into eternity through our physical death, as Christians, we find life and joy in the fullness that God has designed for us. In this world and the next, the words of Jesus ring true when He said, “He who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Christian marriages and Christian funerals both affirm that reality. In weddings and in funerals, Jesus makes all the difference!
For His Glory,