The Easter sermon is traditionally defined by Good Friday, and the hope and promise offered by Christ’s resurrection. However, clergy seldom seem to focus their lectures on Easter Saturday and the despair of Mary and Jesus’ followers. In a sense, the same is true for many clergy who officiate at a funeral. Who hasn’t attended a funeral where the minister started with an acknowledgment of the death and then provided reassurance about the deceased. What clergy do not seem to appreciate is that the deceased’s family is often focused on their own individual losses and need help just making it through Saturday.

While some theologians criticize the death care industry for directing the funeral ritual from the Christian burial to personalization, others are striving to understand the needs of surviving family members. This need is as old as the Easter story.

Personalization is not for everyone. But the ‘value’ of the Christian burial no longer resonates for many individuals, and perhaps it is because the purpose of the ritual is not adequately communicated by clergy. While cremation continues to confound some clergy, it’s popularity requires new thought by funeral directors and ministers alike.

Paul E. Irion’s book The Funeral: Vestige Or Value? provides a valuable resource to understanding the value of the Christian burial. Though the book is more than forty years old, it remains relevant today. In the upcoming weeks I plan to read Mr. Irion’s book on Cremation in the hope it provides insight for both clergy and funeral directors alike.