And one of the Pharisees was asking Him that He would eat with him. And He entered into the house of the Pharisee, and reclined at table. And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she found out that He was reclining at table in the house of the Pharisee, brought an alabaster flask of perfumed ointment, and she stood beside His feet behind Him, weeping; and she began to wet His feet with tears, and was wiping them off with the hairs of her head; and she was kissing His feet ardently and anointing them with the perfumed ointment. Now when the Pharisee who invited Him saw it, he spoke within himself, saying, “This One, if He were a prophet, would know who and of what sort the woman is who toucheth Him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to thee.” And he saith, “Teacher, say it.” “There were two debtors to a certain creditor: the one was owing five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. But when they had nothing to pay back the debt, he showed himself gracious to both. Say which of them then will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose that he, to whom he showed himself the more gracious.” And He said to him, “Rightly thou didst judge.” And He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Seest thou this woman? I entered into thy house; water thou gavest Me not for My feet, but she with tears did wet My feet, and with the hairs of her head wiped them off. A kiss thou gavest Me not, but she from the time that I entered did not cease from ardently kissing My feet. With oil thou didst not anoint My head, but she anointed My feet with perfumed ointment. For which reason I say to thee, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” And He said to her, “Thy sins have been forgiven.” And those reclining at table with Him began to say among themselves, “Who is this Who even forgiveth sin?” And He said to the woman, “Thy faith hath saved thee; go thy way in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50, The Orthodox New Testament, © 2004 Holy Apostles Convent)
I don’t know why, but I’ve been thinking about my funeral this morning. Don’t misunderstand, I have no intimations that my death will be coming soon. Indeed, I specifically asked our guardian angels this morning, as I always do when I pray in the mornings, to protect me and my household from an unexpected death. And it’s not because I’m feeling morose or sad or blue. As my friend Tripp can attest: I’m in a glorious mood today and vociferously demonstrated it as a passenger on the Tripp Hudgins Theological Short Bus. (See, Tripp, I was able to work that into a post!) No, I’m just thinking about my funeral. So here’s what I want.
First of all, I hope to die in the Orthodox Church. Thus, I want my funeral to conform to the Orthodox service in all ways that are necessary and in whatever ways are appropriate to my status (as Orthodox or non-Orthodox) when I die. I want my funeral held in my home Orthodox parish (right now, All Saints Orthodox Church in Chicago), unless that would not be suitable, in which case any other appropriate location would suit me just fine, though it should be a church if possible. I would, in any case, like the Psalter prayed over my body prior to my burial.
At some suitable time, at the gravesite service if possible, I would like my family and friends to sing my favorite hymns over my body; namely, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” (enough verses of each to convey the full meanings of the hymns) and the Nunc Dimittis. I would also like read the Gospel passage with which I have always most identified, Luke 7:36-50.
With regard to the expenses surrounding my funeral, I first defer to the needs of my family and friends to express their grief and hope. But compatible with that I would prefer that the least expense possible be spent. If it is compatible with the law, a simple pine box with a simple cross on the lid is perfectly suitable for my body. It will make no difference in terms of the Resurrection. In any case, the least expense that is compatible with the law should be spent.
Ultimately, I would like to be buried next to my wife, so whatever conditions that necessitates should prevail. However, if at all possible, I would like to be buried in the cemetery in Augusta, Kansas. The soil of that place is as much a part of me as anything, and I wouldn’t mind keeping the connection till Christ comes. But if it is not possible to be buried there, Haverhill cemetery near Haverhill, Kansas (east of Augusta) is down the road from one of the places I used to live, and that would be suitable as well.
If anyone is moved to give a memorial offering in my name, they can do so to their local church’s budget for provision of food, shelter and clothing to the poor.
I would that my family and their needs be always remembered, and that prayers for me be offered till Christ comes.
No eulogy. Preach the Gospel.
In all things everything must be done as is fitting for the glory of our Lord.
From Philip Yancey’s “Global Suspense“:
Jesus’ final words at the end of Revelation are “I am coming soon,” followed by an urgent, echoing prayer, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” That prayer remains unanswered in an era of history perilously suspended between his first appearance, as a baby in a manger, and his second, as the one with blazing eyes described in one of Revelation’s many flash-forwards.
In the last days, said Peter, some will scoff at the prospects: “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” Peter himself believed that “the end of all things is near.” After two millennia of waiting, scoffers rule the day.
In a German prison camp in World War II, unbeknownst to the guards, the Americans built a makeshift radio. One day news came that the German high command had surrendered, ending the war–a fact that, because of a communications breakdown, the German guards did not yet know. As word spread, a loud celebration broke out.
For three days, the prisoners were hardly recognizable. They sang, waved at guards, laughed at the German shepherd dogs, and shared jokes over meals. On the fourth day, they awoke to find that all the Germans had fled, leaving the gates unlocked. The time of waiting had come to an end.
And here is the question I ask myself: As we Christians face contemporary crises, why do we respond with such fear and anxiety? Why don’t we, like the Allied prisoners, act on the Good News we say we believe? What is faith, after all, but believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse?