Last night Marcus Merritt, Bryan Alexander, Tony Samples, and I were returning from First Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL to Atlanta following the funeral service of Nell White Dodd, the mother of our GBC Executive Director, J. Robert White.
Dr. White preached the sermon for the memorial service and extolled his mother as a godly woman, an ideal pastor’s wife, a true servant of God, a gracious spirit, and a great homemaker with a great sense of humor.
As we traveled back to Atlanta I asked my traveling companions, “What are the advantages to be gained from attending a funeral?” It was a legitimate question, because Ecclesiastes 7:2 says: “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.”
Every man and woman will be laying in a house of mourning some day. Solomon says this is the end of everyone; and we do well when we give serious thought to the reality of death.
The discussion that ensued among my traveling companions was interesting and some compelling observations were presented that offered convincing proof that going to a funeral will do you good.
First, going to a funeral causes one to come to grips with his/her own mortality. If you think you can elude death, you are sadly mistaken. Death is inevitable! The Bible says, “It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment.”
There is no fountain of youth. There is no amount of physical fitness, plastic surgery, and organic foods that will give you such a grip on life that you will be able to dodge the death-dealing sickle of the grim reaper.
Only two people in history escaped death. One was Enoch and one was Elijah. There are no more Enochs and Elijahs and no one can justifiably think he or she will be able to escape the funeral director and the embalmer.
Second, going to a funeral causes one to come face-to-face with eternity. Everyone needs to understand that death is not the end, but simply a transition into either an eternity in heaven or hell.
Today many people say, “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.” That philosophy suggests that we should enjoy this life, because there is no life after death. It implies that that we should invest in the here and now and dismiss the notion of the hereafter. One beer commercial used to declare, “Get all the gusto you can, because you only go around once in life.”
So, the fool thinks only of today and nothing of the future. His life is the endless pursuit of pleasure. He is the hedonist and the humanist, the one who doesn’t want to think of death at all.
Third, going to a funeral is generally a sorrowful experience that teaches incredible lessons. Although, the memorial service of Nell White Dodd was the celebration of a devout Christian who lived 96 years and died in her sleep, there had to be a sense of loss to her family and those who knew her best. Even though Dr. White preached a marvelous sermon and presented a heartwarming eulogy, those of us who attended the service knew amidst the celebration there was the underlying sense of sadness and sorrow.
In many funerals, especially the funerals of those who are lost or those who have not been faithful servants of Christ, there is even a greater sense of anguish and sorrow. In such funerals we can share the sorrow and burden felt by the family members and friends of the deceased.
I am reminded of the words of Robert Browning, who penned:
I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow;
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When Sorrow walked with me.
Fourth, going to a funeral underscores the importance of friendships. Life is fleeting and when we experience the death of loved ones or even acquaintances we realize that we must cherish friendships. When we hear eulogies of family members or friends and recall how our lives have intersected with their lives we start to realize the depth and sacredness of friendships; and we can resolve to be more attentive to nurturing those friendships.
Fifth, going to a funeral helps one review priorities. In a funeral service one can get a better perspective on what is really important, the stuff that doesn’t matter and the things that are really important.
Listening to Mrs. Dodd’s eulogy I was able to hear her son articulate the legacy she left and wondered what kind of legacy I am going to leave. Will it be positive, profoundly Christian, impactful and lasting or will it be incidental, limited, questionable, and insignificant? I did some priority adjusting during the course of the memorial service at First Baptist Church in Montgomery. I came to a new realization of what it means to live each day with a purpose and with Christ as my Lord.
Obviously, there are many other reasons going to a funeral will do you good. Let me just encourage you to go to a funeral – even the funeral of someone you may not know. I would even suggest that you go to a funeral at least twice a year.
God may very well have some lessons to teach you while you are there.