Today I attended a funeral of a family member that we rarely see, along with gobs of out of town family we rarely see. The deceased was quite a character - in many ways, larger than life - so there were lots of stories about his life and a lot of humor. It was incredibly well attended but rather odd. This very well may be the first funeral I've attended where the person was a non-christian and the pastor presiding over it didn't pretend like he was.
It was just odd. First, the pastor acknowledged he didn't know the deceased and had only met a few times. I wonder if he really truly knew the family, either. He read from Ecclesiastes, that familiar passage of "for everything... there is a season"... and he tried to offer hope, peace and comfort but it just felt hollow. The hope he offered, that he pointed to in this difficult time seemed to fall flat, lifeless.
And though later I realized my duty to show grace to this pastor, acknowledging how difficult it must be to preside over a non-christian's funeral you have little contact with, and what you do have comes at the very end of his life, my first thought was more aghast.
I grew up in a church with a youth pastor that would always talk about that "God shaped vacuum/hole that only God could fill." It became completely engrained. So, to hear the pastor talk of our sadness with R gone and this "R sized and R shaped hole" in our lives made me nearly cry foul! For misusing Augustine and make this hole something a person could fill or take away.
His other points were fine, but perhaps I am jaded. I though the "Live without Regrets" thing was solid but familiar. You hear it all the time.
And finally, his last point was that R is not gone (and to this I expected to hear a bit about the afterlife and heaven and maybe the Gospel) R's not gone, because he lives in all of us. Again, to me, it just isn't comforting enough.
But like I said, it must be difficult to be a pastor. I wonder if this guy was bound by certain requests of this non-believing family... how to keep it encouraging and hopeful, yet truthful, without mentioning the Cross or Christ?
I tweeted about it today and my conclusion was that without Christ, the only hope a person can point to is in the good of humanity. A friend of mine tweeted back that he always presents the gospel and that we are all facing the same just God.
It is interesting to think on, as all this brings up so much. Without Christ, truly, what hope do we have? What hope can we offer others?