Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Funeral Plan for Rev. Jonathan C. Watt - (Reposted)

image But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thess. 4:13–14 ESV)
A few years ago I wrote an article for the Lutheran Witness titled "Thinking About Your Funeral."  In keeping with that idea I am posting my funeral plan here.

My Funeral Plan

This reminder to my family and friends.  My funeral is not about me but about Jesus
It is important to understand that a funeral is a worship service. We do not worship the person lying in the casket; rather, we worship the One who died and rose again. Jesus Christ is the center of all Lutheran worship—especially a funeral—because Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and the devil is clearly proclaimed. The whole funeral service echoes this truth over and over, reminding us of what Jesus did for us at our Baptism. (The Lutheran Witness, Vol 126, No 8, p. 21)
At the present time the best expression of a Christian, Christ-Centered, funeral service is the Funeral Service found in Lutheran Service Book (p. 278ff).  It draws its flow from the life of the Christian beginning with Baptism (Placing of the Funeral Pall), flowing through God's Word (readings) , prompting a confession of faith (The Apostles' Creed), Prayer, and the Nunc Dimittis (Song of Simeon, Lord, now You let Your servant go in peace, Luke 2:29-32) the Hymn of departure in Christian faith.  The service is punctuated with Christian hymns, the believers faith in Christ as the only Savior from sin, expressed in song. 
The funeral takes place in the Christian congregation as the Christian's life flows from God's gifts through Word and Sacrament to life everyday.


image I am baptized.  Through this precious gift, God declared me to be righteous for the sake of Jesus Christ.  My sin was given to Him.  He bore my sins punishment on the cross.  His perfect life, lived perfect in thought, word and deed, all that he did and all that he didn't do, were given to me.  God's name was given to me.  Along with God's name come His promises, forgiveness, life, salvation and the promise of the resurrection of the body.
This wonderful gift of Salvation is clearly symbolized in the placing of the pall over the casket.  In Paul's words:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:3-5 ESV)

(I love the Lutheran Service Book Hymn (594) God's Own Child, I Gladly Say It. I addition to the hymns listed below it makes a wonderful funeral hymn.) 


As part of the church’s prayer book, a favorite Psalm can express the depth of our feelings, as well as confess our faith in a loving and merciful Savior. (The Lutheran Witness, Vol 126, No 8, p. 21)
Psalm 130 (ESV) - A Song of Ascents
1     Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! 
  2     O Lord, hear my voice!  
         Let your ears be attentive
         to the voice of my pleas for mercy!  
  3     If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
        O Lord, who could stand?
  4     But with you there is forgiveness,
       that you may be feared. 
  5     I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
        and in his word I hope; 
  6     my soul waits for the Lord
        more than watchmen for the morning,
       more than watchmen for the morning. 
7     O Israel, hope in the Lord! 
       For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
       and with him is plentiful redemption. 
8     And he will redeem Israel
       from all his iniquities.
I love the absolute contrast in this psalm.  The expression of grief "out of the depths..." and the expression of faith "with you there is forgiveness"; "I wait on the Lord" and "with the Lord is plentiful forgiveness."  Words that mourners will need to hear and speak.  Grief is mitigated by the forgiveness offered in Christ. 


The Old Testament reading reveals God’s plan of salvation for His creation. Like us, God’s people in the Old Testament trusted in the Messiah who would come to save them from their sins and raise them to eternal life. (The Lutheran Witness, Vol 126, No 8, p. 21)
Job 19:23-27a, ESV
23 “Oh that my words were written!
     Oh that they were inscribed in a book! 
24 Oh that with an iron pen and lead
     they were engraved in the rock forever!
25 For I know that my Redeemer lives,
     and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
     yet in my flesh I shall see God,
27 whom I shall see for myself,
     and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
     My heart faints within me!
Job 19 is a clear expression of the physical resurrection that Christians look for when Jesus returns.  "and my eyes shall behold," in other words, with these very eyes, in this flesh and body, I will see Christ. 
The Epistle reading has several purposes. It can give a clear confession of our Christian hope in the Resurrection (1 Cor. 15:51–52). It can show that not even death can separate us from God (Rom. 8:38–39). It brings out the peace we have with God because of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins (Rom. 5:1–6). And it can state how in death, through Christ, we gain everything (Phil. 1:21–23). (The Lutheran Witness, Vol 126, No 8, p. 21)
Roman 8:31-39
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39 ESV)

This text answers the question that those at the funeral will be asking.  Why?  It answers it by saying that God's perspective is very different from ours.  Death seems like such a defeat, yet, through Christ God says it is not a separation from God. 
In the Gospel reading, Jesus comforts us with His own words, deeds, and prayers. “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).  (The Lutheran Witness, Vol 126, No 8, p. 21)
John 11:20-27
So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” (John 11:20-27 ESV)
What better words than the words of Jesus himself? at a funeral? Jesus comforts Martha with the truth about who He is and why He has come. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. His promises are true. He promises eternal life after death. He delivers on His promises.


The singing of hymns at a funeral service is the second part where the comfort of Christ is heard by those attending. Like the Psalms, hymns can express the depth of our faith. St. Paul says that through them God’s Word “dwells in us richly” (Col. 3:16). Your pastor may suggest that you select Easter hymns. Your favorite hymn may be beautiful, reflecting God’s work for us in Jesus, but Easter hymns speak so clearly to grieving hearts. (The Lutheran Witness, Vol 126, No 8, p. 21)
LSB 490 - "Jesus Lives! The Victory's Won" by Christian F. Gellert, 1715-1769 Translated by Frances E. Cox, 1812-1897
Jesus lives! The victory's won!
Death no longer can appall me;
Jesus lives! Death's reign is done!
From the grave Christ will recall me.
Brighter scenes will then commence;
This shall be my confidence.

Jesus lives! To Him the throne
High o'er heaven and earth is given.
I shall go where He is gone,
Live and reign with Him in heaven.
God is faithful. Doubtings, hence!
This shall be my confidence.

Jesus lives! For me He died,
Hence will I, to Jesus living,
Pure in heart and act abide,
Praise to Him and glory giving.
Freely God doth aid dispense;
This shall be my confidence.

Jesus lives! I know full well
Naught from me His love shall sever;
Life nor death nor powers of hell
Part me now from Christ forever.
God will be a sure Defense;
This shall be my confidence.

Jesus lives! and now is death
But the gate of life immortal;
This shall calm my trembling breath
When I pass its gloomy portal.
Faith shall cry, as fails each sense,
Jesus is my confidence!

(Text Public Domain)
Jesus lives! This is the cry of faith in the face of death.  I love the picture in the final verse.  Life is slipping away, the Christian trembles in the face of this terrible enemy.  But Christ's triumph over death changes everything.  Jesus is my confidence! is the cry of faith.  Jesus has defeated this enemy for me. I cannot stop death from taking me, but my Savior promises it is the the portal to life forever.
LSB 563 "Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness" by Ludwig von Zinzendorf, 1700-1760 Translated by John Wesley, 1703-1791
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.

Bold shall I stand in that great Day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully through these absolved I am
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

The holy, meek, unspotted Lamb,
Who from the Father's bosom came,
Who died for me, e'en me t'atone,
Now for my Lord and God I own.

Lord, I believe Thy precious blood,
Which at the mercy-seat of God
Forever doth for sinners plead,
For me--e'en for my soul--was shed.

Lord, I believe were sinners more
Than sands upon the ocean shore,
Thou hast for all a ransom paid,
For all a full atonement made.

When from the dust of death I rise
To claim my mansion in the skies,
E'en then, this shall be all my plea:
Jesus hath lived and died for me.

Jesus, be endless praise to Thee,
Whose boundless mercy hath for me,
For me, and all Thy hands have made,
An everlasting ransom paid.

(Text Public Domain)
I have come to really love and appreciate this hymn only recently.  One man, not a member of my congregation, came express his faith in Jesus for the first time in my hearing.  He was dying and during my visits to him, this hymn is what he wanted to hear.  It expresses what faith in Jesus is, a dependence on Him, totally for salvation.  It fits so well in a funeral.  I especially like how it begins as the funeral does:
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
This is a picture of the Funeral Pall being placed over my casket.
LSB 708 "Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart" by Martin Schalling, 1532-1608 Translated by Catherine Winkworth, 1829-1878
Lord, Thee I love with all my heart;
I pray Thee ne'er from me depart,
With tender mercies cheer me.
Earth has no pleasure I would share,
Yea, heaven itself were void and bare
If Thou, Lord, wert not near me.
And should my heart for sorrow break,
My trust in Thee no one could shake.
Thou art the Portion I have sought;
Thy precious blood my soul has bought.
Lord Jesus Christ,
My God and Lord, my God and Lord,
Forsake me not! I trust Thy Word.
Yea, Lord, 'twas Thy rich bounty gave
My body, soul, and all I have
In this poor life of labor.
Lord, grant that I in every place
May glorify Thy lavish grace
And serve and help my neighbor.
Let no false doctrine me beguile
And Satan not my soul defile.
Give strength and patience unto me
To bear my cross and follow Thee.
Lord Jesus Christ,
My God and Lord, my God and Lord,
In death Thy comfort still afford.
image Lord, let at last Thine angels come,
To Abram's bosom bear me home,
That I may die unfearing;
And in its narrow chamber keep
My body safe in peaceful sleep
Until Thy reappearing.
And then from death awaken me
That these mine eyes with joy may see,
O Son of God, Thy glorious face,
My Savior and my Fount of grace,
Lord Jesus Christ,
My prayer attend, my prayer attend,
And I will praise Thee without end.
(Text Public Domain)
I've selected this hymn for the last verse.  It is a prayer of faith.  A confession of the hope of the resurrection. 

To the Preacher

 "When we listen to a funeral sermon, we listen to hear that this is one who was Baptized. The rest is chaff." Norman Nagel.
Your pastor’s primary task in the funeral sermon is to preach Christ crucified. His message may be made personal by showing how faith in Christ was revealed in your life. But remember, while your pastor may relate stories of your life during the sermon, that is not the reason for his preaching. The proclamation of God’s Word at your funeral service is to point those who grieve to Jesus and the hope that is found in Him alone.  (The Lutheran Witness, Vol 126, No 8, p. 22)
My confirmation verse is:
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33, ESV)
image Pastor, you may use my confirmation verse for the text of the sermon or another of your choosing.  The funeral sermon is to be especially about Christ.  Jesus is the center.  His life, death and resurrection for sinful men, of which I am one, are the main and only point.  Preach the law in its sternness (you'll never get a better example than my dead body lying in front of everyone as the wages of sin) and the gospel in all its sweetness, this funeral service is packed full of images you can use.

I have arranged for burial rites at Zion Lutheran Church, Worms, NE

This is my funeral plan.
Rev. Jonathan C. Watt, pastor, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa
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