In my last parish, the pastor and I shared some gems in the Scriptures that seemed fitting for funerals, but weren’t in the Lectionary. The book of Sirach seems an especially fertile field for such possibilities.
I hesitate a bit to offer this suggestion. It seems too much like a eulogy, and we perhaps get enough of those. But it is in the Bible’s wisdom literature:
Now will I praise those godly people, our ancestors …
… whose virtues have not been forgotten;
Their wealth remains in their families,
their heritage with their descendants;
Through God’s covenant with them
their family endures, their posterity, for their sake.
And for all time their progeny will endure,
their glory will never be blotted out;
Their bodies are peacefully laid away,
but their name lives on and on.
At gatherings their wisdom is retold,
and the assembly proclaims their praise.
The author begins an extended section (chapters 44 through 50) praising the great ancestors of the people of Israel. But many good people are honestly revered as heads of extended families, and the description given aligns well with the memory of a beloved elder.
Truly, we remember their virtues, and we acknowledge that they are part of forming children, grandchildren, and others in a certain virtuous life. The “wealth” spoken of above may be material riches. But it could easily be interpreted as the wealth of God’s blessings on a family that has been well-tutored and loved by a patriarch or matriarch.
A passage like this is a comfort to family members in mourning. This is not a bad thing. Is there a danger that this passage might be utilized and the deceased isn’t really honorable? I suppose the reading of this passage would end up being a rather sad joke in that instance.
Personally, if I had a choice between this passage and a eulogy, I think I would take the testimony of Ben Sira every time. What do you think?