The Wrong Funeral

The Wrong Funeral

When I pastored in Nashville, I became friends with the owner of a local funeral home. Several families in our congregation had used this funeral home and the funeral director had appreciated the care I had given people during the service. He asked me if I would be willing to serve families who had no pastor, and I said yes. If John Wesley was right, the world is our parish.

From time to time he would call me, give me the details, and I would meet with the family and plan the service. It placed me in close proximity to human pain, and I often had the opportunity to begin a relationship that later led to faith.

One day he called with an emergency. A man had died, a substitute pastor had been secured, the funeral had been planned, and the sub had called with an emergency of his own.

Could I rush over in the next 15 minutes and preach the sermon? I could. Grabbing a Bible and a suit coat, I headed to the funeral home and was met at the back door by the funeral director.

He effused the obituary to me as we walked quickly down the hall to the room where mourners had already gathered. My mind was working overtime thinking how to merge brand new obituary detail into an old generic funeral sermon. At least I had one piped in hymn tune to sit through as I caught my breath.

Just as the tune ended and I was rising to make my way to the pulpit, I heard a loud, “Pssst” from the wings behind the curtain.

I turned to see the red face of the funeral director waving me toward him. I looked toward the waiting congregation and mouthed an “Excuse me for a minute.”

The funeral director grabbed my elbow, pulling me behind the curtain and down the hallway. As I stumbled behind, I heard him say, “Wrong body.” I almost preached the wrong person’s funeral.

This in a good reason to go to church. Then the person who preaches your funeral sermon might actually know you.

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