My parish’s bereavement team hosts an annual liturgy and dinner for people who are mourning the loss of a loved one or friend. One of the readings they use strikes me as appropriate for a funeral. This is not one of the Lectionary choices, but it seems similar in tone to the hopeful readings from the book of Revelation, such as this frequent choice.
See, I am creating new heavens
and a new earth;
The former things shall not be remembered
nor come to mind.
Instead, shout for joy and be glad forever
in what I am creating.
Indeed, I am creating Jerusalem to be a joy
and its people to be a delight;
I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and exult in my people.
No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there,
or the sound of crying.
Pairing this reading with Revelation 21 seems to be redundant. But it strikes me that if a family and pastoral minister like the image of a future without weeping and mourning yoked with a selection from Saint Paul or John, this prophetic passage seems tailor made. I would not be surprised to see it included in a future Lectionary edition for use with Masses of the Dead.
The notion that God will allow our present trials to pass away and will establish something new is an essential element of Christian hope. And people at a funeral often need to hear that hope.
When a death results from a senseless accident or unfathomable human choice, mourners might take comfort in the promise that things will not always be as they are now. As a counterweight to modern pessimism, I think the message of a new existence can be preached with careful optimism.
We hear little enough of God’s delight and joy in people. Remember: this will be part of our afterlife experience. When trials and death and judgment have passed, the prophet suggests the final reign of God will be so delightful that mortal troubles will fade from memory.
Even on just a simple bad day, that is a comfort.