A reading like this will get people’s attention:
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy
and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains
but do not have love,
I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own,
and if I hand my body over so that I may boast
but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, is not pompous,
it is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered,
it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
As with weddings, I see three possible meta-themes for Scripture readings at funerals. They can be about the deceased (or for a wedding, the couple). They can be about the community, mourners or guests. Or they can be about God.
Category one, people see something of themselves in the qualities listed or in the story told. For the funeral, do these words about living a life of love ring true for the departed person? Maybe we get into eulogy territory here. But perhaps better in the Scriptures than delivered with sugar after Communion.
Category two, mourners loved the deceased. This death, perhaps, has been very hard. Will that quality of love produce the inner strength we might need to survive a great loss? Will we continue on despite loss because our love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.” This is the notion that I find most appealing in this reading.
Category three, this reading tells us something of God. God values love above all else. Love in action: the practicum of the Christian life, and the expression of something perhaps more valuable than orthodoxy: orthopraxis, the right practice of the Christian life.
Do you think this reading works for a funeral? I certainly do.