Exiles Forum

Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland

A task which demands great sensitivity

EACH week an member of the local clergy will be sharing a thought for the week. This week the Rev. David Knox, Harmony Hill Presbyterian

 IN the course of my work I have the special opportunity to conduct many funerals.

It is a task which demands great sensitivity. I also attend funerals of relatives and friends where I am simply a part of the congregation, mourning and showing my respect.

Very recently I attended the funerals of two family members on the same day. A Presbyterian minister conducted the first, the second a Church of Ireland Rector.

Both services were beautifully done - simple, dignified, positive and hopeful.

Both ministers spoke well of those who had died. They were good people who had spent most of their lives in the service of others.

Christian values had clearly influenced them. They left a legacy of compassion and values behind them. Yet neither of my relatives had been strongly committed to the public observance of Christian faith. They were good people for whom church was not especially relevant.

This of course implies no judgement on the personal and private Christian faith.

These matters are properly loft to God. But it reminded d me that there are an increasing number of people who are seeking Christian burial for family members who do not seem to have definitely sorted out their relationship with Jesus Christ.

It causes families real anguish if they do not know that mum or dad, brother or sister has made their peace with God.

After all, when people know they are not getting any better, usually they will sort out their affairs and make their wishes clear and their will.

Even more important is the need to establish and strengthen trust in Jesus Christ. The comfort relatives receive knowing that their loved ones are loved and forgiven by Jesus Christ is immediate.

The vague faith that is common to many people is helpful to no one. What is helpful is for people to rely upon such simple certainties as 'Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so'. Let me recommend that we all take time to sort out what we really believe.

Many churches run basic courses - Alpha, Christianity Explored etc. which are open to all seekers. Through them many have discussed a faith strong enough to face life and face death.

A good funeral isn't just one that is well conducted. It is one for which the person who has died is prepared, is well prepared!