Author Topic: A Collision at Nain  (Read 2319 times)

Russ Saltzman

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A Collision at Nain
« on: June 06, 2013, 11:25:58 AM »
There's a best-selling sermon for Sunday going around. Unfortunately, it's not mine. Mine is here:

http://www.clcumary.com/3-pentecostot-10-9-june-2013/

And, Richard O. Johnson is now one of the contributors at http://www.clcumary.com/.
Russell E Saltzman
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Michael Slusser

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Re: A Collision at Nain
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2013, 12:03:08 PM »
There's a best-selling sermon for Sunday going around. Unfortunately, it's not mine. Mine is here:

http://www.clcumary.com/3-pentecostot-10-9-june-2013/

And, Richard O. Johnson is now one of the contributors at http://www.clcumary.com/.

Thank you for the sermon, Pr. Saltzman, even though I'm not preaching this weekend. And thanks for the site, which I'd never heard of.

I had one question about your sermon; it had to do with funeral preaching.
Quote
They were flat funerals, both of them. It seems most of the passion at a funeral shows up in family tribute. The family remarks are way of telling listeners how significant is their loss, and how deep was their love for the deceased. The family, it seems, must do this because neither sermon I heard ever got around to it.

From what you say later, I infer that you do not think that the sermon at a funeral should focus on the family's loss or their love for the deceased, so this section seems a little contrary. I'm quite happy to let the family speak to that themselves (preferably at the beginning, between the welcoming of the remains of the deceased and the start of the Mass itself).

Would you care to say more about the extent to which the preacher should go into the life of the one we are burying?

Peace,
Michael
Fr. Michael Slusser
Retired Roman Catholic priest and theologian

Russ Saltzman

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Re: A Collision at Nain
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2013, 01:07:43 PM »

Quote
I had one question about your sermon; it had to do with funeral preaching.
Quote
They were flat funerals, both of them. It seems most of the passion at a funeral shows up in family tribute. The family remarks are way of telling listeners how significant is their loss, and how deep was their love for the deceased. The family, it seems, must do this because neither sermon I heard ever got around to it.

From what you say later, I infer that you do not think that the sermon at a funeral should focus on the family's loss or their love for the deceased, so this section seems a little contrary. I'm quite happy to let the family speak to that themselves (preferably at the beginning, between the welcoming of the remains of the deceased and the start of the Mass itself).

Would you care to say more about the extent to which the preacher should go into the life of the one we are burying?

Peace,
Michael

Sure.

When I was a new pastor one guy fouled up my call schedule by dying. I didn't know him; I had barely met him. I asked a couple of the older men what I might say about his life. "Well, Pastor," I was told, "we all knew him pretty good. Why don't you just preach the gospel."

That works. But I have found that if I cannot relate the Gospel specifically to the deceased, then I've failed as a preacher.

So, good funeral sermons must ask and answer a series of related questions before one word gets written. Tend to these and the preacher will capture the Gospel and equally say something of how this life lived that Gospel - sometimes to greater and lesser degrees. So, to that last note, a sermon first must be honest in asking and answering the questions I always pose in crafting my remarks.

Why this sermon to these gathered people marking this death? I have the notion that every Christian life tells us something of how the Gospel gets lived. I try to say it. Asking each time those same questions helps me approach this death. I have to understand in some way what this death means for the Christian community.

Always, there is a final question. What will God do about death?

Linking those questions and those answers to the scripture reading will produce a sermon that takes into account the life that was lived, how that life was lived in the Gospel, and how the Gospel animates our hope of joining Christ in resurrection.

That approach does not end up with gooey sentiment, gushing over what a great guy/gal the deceased was. Nor does it presume an "automatic" immortality without the messy business of God actually cracking graves to get us up.

As to honesty, I have found it sometimes helpful to preach on the text "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." For several funerals, that's about all I could say of the deceased, but in a Christian context it is sometimes all that needs to be said.

Sorry to ramble.
Russell E Saltzman
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Michael Slusser

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Re: A Collision at Nain
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2013, 01:55:38 PM »

That works. But I have found that if I cannot relate the Gospel specifically to the deceased, then I've failed as a preacher.


I seek information about the baptism. As this person was entrusted (or entrusted himself or herself) to God in baptism--this is especially easy to use since the Easter candle in present and lighted--and was nourished at the table of this altar, so it is most fitting that here we take our leave by entrusting this person to God who made and has promised to remake his child.

Peace,
Michael
Fr. Michael Slusser
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Chuck

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Re: A Collision at Nain
« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2013, 02:02:05 PM »
The rain in Nain falls mainly for our gain...


Good job, Russ!
Chuck Ruthroff

I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it. —George Bernard Shaw

LCMS87

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Re: A Collision at Nain
« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2013, 02:35:35 PM »

I had one question about your sermon; it had to do with funeral preaching.
Quote
They were flat funerals, both of them. It seems most of the passion at a funeral shows up in family tribute. The family remarks are way of telling listeners how significant is their loss, and how deep was their love for the deceased. The family, it seems, must do this because neither sermon I heard ever got around to it.

From what you say later, I infer that you do not think that the sermon at a funeral should focus on the family's loss or their love for the deceased, so this section seems a little contrary. I'm quite happy to let the family speak to that themselves (preferably at the beginning, between the welcoming of the remains of the deceased and the start of the Mass itself).

Would you care to say more about the extent to which the preacher should go into the life of the one we are burying?

Peace,
Michael

When I was on vicarage, one of the homebound members I was visiting critiqued a funeral sermon.  She was very unhappy because the pastor didn't speak the name of the deceased anywhere in the sermon.  At the very least, the person's name can and should be spoken in the sermon.

In addition to Baptism and reception of the Lord's Body and Blood you mention, I have found the opportunity to utilize the biblical text the person was given at confirmation is often helpful.  Perhaps the time this idea was solidified for me was when the man who died had Matthew 11:28 as his confirmation verse and asked that it be used at his funeral.  I used it as the sermon text.  The fact that Walter wanted it to be used spoke to its importance to him and the value he felt it would have for his mourners.  All I had to do was explain and reflect on the promise.


Oh, and with regard to the sermon linked, I particularly appreciated these sentences:

At the city gate the two processions couldn’t be more different. Death and sorrow were going out; life and hope were coming in.
The wages of sin was going out and the sacrifice for sin was coming in.
Jesus—the voice of God on earth—confronted death with no more than ten words. To the widow, “Do not weep”; and to the dead, “Young man, I say to you, rise.”
And listen to St. Luke: “The dead man sat up.” What’s wrong with that sentence? Read it again: “The dead man sat up.” Simple. Dead men don’t sit up. Not unless the voice of God speaks.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2013, 02:38:27 PM by LCMS87 »

Dan Fienen

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Re: A Collision at Nain
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2013, 02:55:12 PM »
When possible, I use memories of the life of the deceased as related to me by the family and friends as sermon illustrations to illuminate the working of the Gospel (and the law) in the life of the Christian.  If nothing else, I can indicate what the faith is that saves, the faith in which the person was baptized.  I can also suggest ways of working through grief by treasuring good memories, and recognizing that however trite it sounds, Christians really are in a better place.  Not that that immediately eliminates grief (grief is a process that each must work through) but as the promise that with time and with God's help it does get better.  And the hope and faith with which the deceased faced the troubles of life, or could face troubles if the family has given me no material that matches that, is available to all who are there.
 
The Gospel of Jesus Christ must be the center of the sermon, not only because we are Lutheran but because that ultimately is the source of our best comfort and hope.  But usually we can illustrate that from the life of deceased.
 
Dan
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Terry W Culler

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Re: A Collision at Nain
« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2013, 09:38:13 PM »
The funeral service in the AFLC has a section before the sermon which is a life sketch.  When I preach the sermon I will find ways to weave the deceased into it, but the primary thrust is evangelistic.  There are 2 times when you know you have unbelievers before you--funerals and weddings and I never miss an opportunity to speak Law and Gospel to them.
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Pilgrim

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Re: A Collision at Nain
« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2013, 09:58:37 PM »
Tim comments: living in bapticostal territory, eulogies are usually the name of the game, unfortunately. For our parish funerals we gather the evening prior to do our story telling of the deceased in a semi-organized way. It is hugely therapeutic & healing. That frees up the funeral mass to focus primarily on the Gospel and the promised hope of resurrection to life eternal. I can't even begin to count the number of bapticostal attendees who express surprise, shock and deep gratitude at this practice which seems as foreign to their experience as a Muslim funeral might be. Word and Sacrament are empowered by God's promise. Twere that we Lutheran Pastors, one and all, truly believed and faithfully carried out this gift entrusted to us. But my experience has suggested that some among us think we can improve on these gifts with our own winsome eloquence. Russ is spot on, and if the Meal of Life (too often missing) is not present in the face of death... well, why not?
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Michael Slusser

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Re: A Collision at Nain
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2013, 02:04:32 PM »
A pastor phoned me at 6:30 Saturday morning to ask me to take the 5:00 p.m. Mass at his parish, so I had to try this text myself. In the RC lectionary, it is accompanied by 1 Kings 17.17-24.

Today the Church offers us two accounts of sons being raised from the dead: the child of the widow of Zarephath, raised by the prophet Elijah, and the son of the widow of Nain, brought back to life by Jesus.
   The setting is tragedy. There is no tragedy that pierces the heart like a parent’s loss of a child. Children are supposed to bury parents, not the other way around. Mothers know this tragedy all the more keenly, since many of them also have experienced in their own bodies the loss of a child by miscarriage or induced abortion. What has happened cannot be undone; we cannot change the events of the past, and their consequences remain with us. Let us pause for a minute in prayer for all who carry the burden of the death of a child . . . .
   What good does it do us to hear about Elijah and Jesus raising the sons of these widows? It does not undo the fact that our children have died, or even restore them to us after their sufferings and ours. What we need to hear is that God knows and that God is committed.
   Elijah has met this widow and her son before. At the time of the thre-and-a-half-year drought and famine, she shared with him the last morsels of food that she was preparing for herself and her son before they would starve to death. The prophet in return miraculously made her flour and oil continue to last until the famine was over. So Elijah knew her and her son, and they had shared with each other for a long time in desperate circumstances. How could the God who had preserved them then, now allow the boy to die of something else? It was out of that experience of solidarity that Elijah took the child to himself and begged God to restore it to life and give the mother back her son.
   The gospel does not describe any such lengthy history between Jesus and the widow of Nain and her son. All he sees is the dead boy, the mother’s grief, and the solidarity of her friends and neighbors who accompany her to the graveyard. He shares that solidarity and is moved with pity, and he gives the young man a command that foreshadows what he will say to all the dead—to our children, our parents, ourselves: “I tell you, arise!” Here he commands just this one young man, not all those whose deaths have been a tragedy. Likewise. Elijah was not sent to all the widows whose children had dies, but only to the widow of Zarephath. Would it not have been even better if these tragic deaths had been prevented before they happened?
   These are mysteries that we all live through together in solidarity. We Christians know that God knows and that God is committed, even to sharing in our human fate himself, with all its tragedies. We look at the crucifix and realize that. And the stories in the scripture today assure us of something else that we really need to hear: God also has power. Death does not have the last word. In Jesus, it has met its Master. Death may take our loved ones from our presence here, but it cannot snatch them out of Jesus’ hand. Thanks be to God!

Peace,
Michael
« Last Edit: June 08, 2013, 04:31:40 PM by Michael Slusser »
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John_Hannah

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Re: A Collision at Nain
« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2013, 02:26:00 PM »
Excellent, Michael. I have not gotten such a call yet, so I will not be preaching this weekend. But if I do....


Peace, JOHN
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Mike in Pennsylvania

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Re: A Collision at Nain
« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2013, 03:46:30 PM »
Fr. Slusser, Elijah's famine lasted three and a half years; it was Joseph's that lasted seven.
Fix it before some other nitpicker catches you!
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Michael Slusser

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Re: A Collision at Nain
« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2013, 04:26:32 PM »
Fr. Slusser, Elijah's famine lasted three and a half years; it was Joseph's that lasted seven.
Fix it before some other nitpicker catches you!
Thanks, Mike! But there are no nitpickers here . . . .

Peace,
Michael
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BrotherBoris

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Re: A Collision at Nain
« Reply #13 on: June 09, 2013, 05:06:01 PM »
This is an interesting discussion of funeral practices.

Most of the Lutheran funerals I have been to here in South Carolina have been ECLA funerals.  They have been straight out of LBW and uses its order for the Burial of the Dead.  I actually like that service very much, with its emphasis on the baptism of the deceased and its stress on the resurrection.  I have not seen much eulogizing of the dead down here, other than a few personal remarks that the pastor might make before the funeral service starts.

I have not been to any LCMS, WELS, or other Lutheran funerals here or anywhere else.

In the Orthodox Church, we don't have normally have any funeral sermons, although I suppose a priest could preach one if he wanted to.   There is no requirement for it.  When someone dies, we do the following:

1.  Serve the First Panikhída (Memorial Service) at the place of death (usually at the hospital with just the priest and the family members present).  This is done in the hospital room itself immediately after death before the body is taken to the morgue.  It is a short service.

2. Serve the Second Panikhida (Memorial Service):  This is usually done in the evening at the funeral home, after family, relatives and friends have come to pay their respect to the deceased.  The church choir will usually come to sing at the Panikida at this service.  It is also a rather short service. 

3. Serve the Third Panikhida (Memorial Service):  This takes place in the nave of the parish church and takes place in the morning, sometime before noon.  The Psalter is chanted over the deceased as soon as the body is brought into the church.  Often, but not always, if the body is brought over the night before, people may volunteer to keep vigil at the coffin and take turns reading the Psalter. (That is really kind of optional and it is not required, but is a custom many people like to do to show their respect to the deceased.)    Then the actual funeral service begins at the time appointed and it takes the form of a Matins service, with an Epistle and a Gospel Reading added.  At the end of the service the priest approaches the coffin (which was open for the entire service) and offers a prayer of absolution for the sins of the deceased.  Then the people are invited to come forward and give the deceased the Last Kiss. (Again, if someone isn't comfortable with it, they aren't forced to.)  Then the lid is put on the coffin, and it is carried out to the hearse.

When the hearse arrives at the place of burial it is carried out and carried to the grave while "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal" is sung. The priest says a brief prayer, the coffin is lowered into the grave, and all present cast dirt on it.  Then they fill up the grave with dirt while everyone stands there. When they are finished the priest says "This tomb is sealed until the Second Coming of our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ."   

Then people usually gather somewhere and enjoy a memorial meal in memory of the deceased.

There really is no tradition of a "Requiem Mass" in Orthodoxy.  If it is desired to celebrate the Divine Liturgy, it takes place in the Church on the morning of the funeral and it precedes the Third Panikhida service.  Usually, though, it is omitted and it is in no way required.



Chuck

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Re: A Collision at Nain
« Reply #14 on: June 09, 2013, 07:06:13 PM »
There really is no tradition of a "Requiem Mass" in Orthodoxy.  If it is desired to celebrate the Divine Liturgy, it takes place in the Church on the morning of the funeral and it precedes the Third Panikhida service.  Usually, though, it is omitted and it is in no way required.
Could you answer a question for me, Brother Boris?


A couple years ago, a Greek Orthodox priest in San Francisco asked me to consult with his church on evangelism and outreach as, of course, the congregation was getting older and school and church attendance declining.


In the course of conversations with him and his leadership, I suggested a mid-week service or adding a service on Sunday morning might make it easier for some to attend. He indicated that was not possible as they could only have one service at one altar as the eucharist expressed the unity of the church.


As much as I might admire the theological significance, your post seems to indicate more that one eucharist a week is possible. Was this priest only indicating a Greek "thing" that varies among the Orthodox, or am I misunderstanding?
Chuck Ruthroff

I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it. —George Bernard Shaw